Mobile Navigation


View Comments

UPM to invest €550 million in Leuna biorefinery construction

| By Mary Bailey

UPM Biochemicals, a group company of UPM Group (Helsinki Finland), together with Saxony-Anhalt’s Prime Minister Dr. Reiner Haseloff, UPM Executive Vice President Technology Jyrki Ovaska and InfraLeuna Managing Director Dr. Christof Güntherden, celebrated the groundbreaking for the construction of a globally unique biorefinery in Leuna, Germany.€

Beginning in 2022, biochemicals will be extracted from sustainably grown hardwood at the new site in Leuna. These make it possible to significantly reduce both the consumption of fossil raw materials and CO2 emissions for a variety of applications, including textiles, plastics, rubber, cosmetics and medicines. The innovative biorefinery has already been named The Bio Act of the Year 2020 by the World BioEconomy Forum. UPM is taking the next step in developing its own business from pure paper-and-pulp production to a provider of bioeconomy solutions based on sustainably produced wood from regional forests.

Saxony-Anhalt’s Prime Minister Dr. Reiner Haseloff praises the company’s sustained commitment to the Leuna location: “Saxony-Anhalt is increasingly developing into a state of future technologies. The investment makes a significant contribution to this. The construction of the biorefinery is a key investment for Leuna and Saxony-Anhalt. I thank the company for choosing Saxony-Anhalt. With its well-developed infrastructure, Leuna offers an attractive environment that is hard to imagine better. ”UPM is investing a total of €550 million  in the construction of the biorefinery. The annual production capacity of the plant will be 220,000 tons.

This investment is a significant innovation step, especially for UPM itself, as UPM Executive Vice President Technology Jyrki Ovaska emphasizes: “Our main aim is to create innovations for a future without fossil fuels. The investment in the biorefinery therefore marks a milestone in our corporate transformation that is far from over. But it is also a milestone for our innovation work. The technologies were developed by UPM – partly together with partners – and are now being brought to industrial maturity in Leuna. ”However, it is also important for Ovaska to emphasize that the switch from fossil fuels to sustainable raw materials is only one step on the way to a responsible one Circular economy is done: “Particularly in the field of plastics, it must continue to be about avoiding unnecessary packaging and ensuring that the valuable materials end up in the recycling cycle and not in the environment.”

Many efforts on the way to a fully circular economy start with the reuse and recycling of the materials. However, it was rarely about the starting product. The processes in the biorefinery close this gap. Wood from sustainably managed forests is processed into biochemicals, which can then be used as raw materials for the production of responsible plastics.  “For the production of the raw materials, we use certified beech wood from forest management in the region and we can even use parts of the tree that cannot otherwise be used, as well as residues from sawmills. In this way, we promote sustainable forest management and give forest owners an economic perspective for the conversion of coniferous forests into climate-stable mixed forests,” explains Dr. Michael Duetsch, Vice President, UPM Biochemicals Business. “In the biorefinery, the wood is then processed further into biochemicals, which can be used to make clothes, car tires, furniture and PET bottles, and which fit perfectly into all existing reuse and recycling systems. This is a big step towards moving from fossil fuels to renewable resources. “

InfraLeuna, operator of the infrastructure facilities at the chemical site in Leuna, is investing more than 100 million euros in the infrastructure to supply the new biorefinery. “UPM’s choice of Leuna underlines our leading position in competition. Now completely new perspectives are opening up for the further development of chemistry at our Leuna location, ”explains InfraLeuna Managing Director Dr. Christof Günther. Prime Minister Dr. Reiner Haseloff is also pleased with the development of the region: “The state of Saxony-Anhalt has kept its promise to support the Central German district with future technologies.”

The state of Saxony-Anhalt is actively supporting UPM’s investment project, among other things by providing subsidies totaling almost 20 million euros. Prime Minister Dr. Reiner Haseloff and Economics Minister Prof. Dr. Armin Willingmann handed over the grant notification today on the occasion of the groundbreaking ceremony. “The UPM project is all about the further development of the Leuna chemical site that we are driving forward. With the settlement of the biorefinery, we are expanding the biotechnology competence cluster and opening up new future prospects for the location. With clever economic development, we are setting the course to develop Saxony-Anhalt into the state of future technologies ”, says Prof. Dr. Willingmann.