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Metsä Spring leads €2M investment in Boreal Bioproducts for forest byproduct expansion

#Metsä Spring leads €2M investment in Boreal Bioproducts for forest byproduct expansion

30 Oct 2023 — Montinutra, specializing in transforming forest industry side streams into natural biochemicals, has announced the successful closure of a €2 million (US$2.1 million) pre-A funding round. The investment, led by Metsä Spring, the corporate venture unit of Metsä Group, along with a syndicate of private investors, is predicted to propel the company’s international expansion and advance the development of its industrial demo production plant. 

In conjunction with this milestone, Montinutra has officially rebranded itself as Boreal Bioproducts.

Founded in 2018, Boreal Bioproducts has developed an “environmentally friendly” process that converts forest industry side streams such as sawdust, bark and plywood processing residues into high-value, natural biochemicals. 

These alternatives are poised to replace fossil-based chemicals in various industries, including cosmetics and chemicals. With the new funding, the company says it is on its way to achieving €100 million (US$105 million) in annual revenue by 2035, with the demo plant expected to be operational by 2026.

“Forest industry side streams — such as sawdust, bark or plywood processing residues — are currently hugely undervalued as raw materials and are often burned for heat and energy. Traditionally, the focus has also been on the utilization of cellulose from wood, but the possibility of utilizing the rest of the wood, namely hemicellulose and lignin, which make up over 50% of wood content, has been limited,” says Jaakko Pajunen, managing director at Montinutra.

“We enable the broader utilization of hemicellulose and lignin extracts by developing biochemicals out of them. This is how we turn these previously underused side streams into mainstream materials and increase the value of the raw material in multiples.”

Montinutra's bio-based feedstock derived from forest side streamsBoreal Bioproducts extraction process has been optimized aiming at the production of a hemicellulose-rich fraction consisting mainly of galactoglucomannans from Norway spruce sawdust.Bio-based alternatives
The biochemicals developed by Montinutra have a wide range of applications in industries such as cosmetics, chemicals and materials, including industrial binders, barrier coatings, dispersants and personal care products. The offerings are said to be natural, vegan, non-GMO and biodegradable, aligning with the growing demand for eco-friendly and ethical products.

For instance, in the global adhesive market, Boreal Bioproducts lignin and phenolic products such as SpruceGlue are being developed as natural replacements for formaldehyde-based adhesives, known to cause chronic irritation. 

The company is planning and pre-engineering its “first-of-a-kind” demo plant, scheduled for commissioning in 2026, with a proposed location at Metsä Group’s sawmill in Vilppula, Finland. 

Katariina Kemppainen, senior vice president of group R&D at Metsä Group, emphasized the importance of responsible resource utilization, stating: “Solutions that use natural resources responsibly and reduce carbon emissions are much needed, not just for reaching global emission reduction targets, but also for helping different industries in their transformations from fossil-based to bio-based materials.”Montinutra's manufacturing plantMontinutra has rebranded itself as Boreal Bioproducts.

Non-chemical production
The production process employed by the company is based on pressurized hot water extraction without the use of any chemicals. Energy and water are efficiently recovered, reducing the environmental impact of production. 

“The CO2 footprint of the Boreal Bioproducts is small compared to similar fossil-based chemicals. Typical chemicals, such as styrene-butadiene or acrylics used in binder applications, have a fossil CO2 footprint of up to 5,600 kg CO2e per ton,” the company details. “With the respective footprint of Boreal Bioproducts below 150 kg CO2e per ton, emission reductions can be achieved when introduced as raw materials to bio-based binders.”

Additionally, the company shares that the extraction technology is industrially scalable and adaptable to various feedstocks, providing a stable and secure supply of sustainable raw materials. This solution aligns with the global shift toward bio-based alternatives and positions Boreal Bioproducts as a player in the transition to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly industrial landscape.

“With the planned industrial-sized plant, we utilize bioenergy with a closed recovery loop for heat and water, making it environmentally sustainable and operationally efficient. Our technology platform is based on a non-chemically modifying extraction process, minimizing the environmental footprint and maximizing the handprint by replacing fossils with renewable bioproducts,” Boreal Bioproducts states.

By Radhika Sikaria

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