Finland’s UPM Biochemicals, a group copmany of UPM Group, has kick started the construction of its biochemicals facility in Leuna, Germany. The biorefinery investment of EUR550 million is a major milestone in UPM’s strategic transformation.
In Leuna, UPM will produce a range of 100% wood-based biochemicals that enable a switch from fossil-based products to sustainable alternatives in a number of end-uses such as plastics, textiles, cosmetics and industrial applications. Technology and process have been developed by UPM over the past ten years, mainly building on the company’s own innovation capabilities and selectively working with international partners.
The total annual capacity of the biorefinery will be 220,000 tonnes bio-monoethylene glycol (BioMEG) and lignin-based renewable functional fillers. In addition, the biorefinery will produce bio-monopropylene glycol (BioMPG) and industrial sugars made from sustainably harvested beechwood sourced regionally in Germany. MEG is used for the production of textiles, plastics, PET, packaging and industrial coolants while MPG is used in composites, pharma or cosmetics products. Renewable functional fillers are used e.g. in a variety of rubber applications such as tyres and sealings.
“Today marks a new era for UPM’s biomolecular businesses. The biorefinery in Leuna will be the nucleus for an entirely new and high-value growth business and opens totally new markets for UPM with large growth potential for the future,” says Jyrki Ovaska, Executive Vice President Technology at UPM. “Awareness of climate change has increased customer demand for sustainable alternatives to fossil-based products. UPM has committed to UN’s Global Compact’s Business Ambition for 1.5°C and constantly innovates more sustainable products from renewable raw materials. The biorefinery in Leuna opens new perspectives for UPM as well as the bio-economy as a whole,” Ovaska continues.
UPM’s wood-based products can be used to replace oil, gas or coal-based materials and they perform consistently in established production processes and the existing recycling infrastructure. They will significantly reduce the CO2 footprint of the end-use products. Furthermore, raw materials and other services for the biorefinery will be sourced in the region which enables local value creation and ensures compliance with high social and environmental standards.
The biorefinery will be built in Leuna, a renowned chemical site with more than 100 years of history, that has undergone significant transitions in the past.
UPM has already established the project office at the site and is now ready to start the construction phase of the project. The work has continued uninterrupted throughout the Covid-19 pandemic with high health and safety standards ensuring safe working conditions.