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Low carbon roadmap for the Finnish sawmill industry
The sawmill industry produces timber and manufactured products of domestic origin and timber was Finland’s sixth most exported product in 2019. The industry enables emission reduction through substitution of emission intensive products and providing biomass for energy from sawmill by-products. The uniqueness of sawmill industry lies in the almost closed material circulation and high self-sufficiency in energy. Regardless, the industry aims at halving its carbon footprint by 2035 compared to current emissions.
Current and target state
In 2019 the sawmill industry’s emissions from cradle-to-gate are 0.42 MtCO2, of which 0.14 Mt CO2 (3%) are generated on plant premises. This means that the current annual carbon footprint per m3 of sawn timber is 35 kg CO2 where 12 kg CO2 are from the sawmill itself. Key contributors of the industry carbon footprint are forest management and logging. Within the plant premises, most emissions originate in work machinery, drying and sawing. In the low-carbon scenario targets a reduction of 82% of the total emission by 2040.
Currently sawmill industry processes need 3230 GWh/a of heat energy which is generated using the by-products (sawdust and bark). If emission reduction measures are implemented, the heat consumption will drop to 2500 GWh/a by 2040. Additionally, the industry consumes 768 GWh of electricity whereas in the low-carbon scenario it is reduced to 624 GWh.
The carbon footprint of the Finnish Sawmills Association can be reduced by over 80 per cent by investing in resource efficient production equipment and low-carbon transport solutions.
The sawmill industry’s carbon footprint reduction will mostly depend on the development of emissions from logistics and machines. Machines can be electrified while the heavy transport and logging is estimated to remain fossil-fuel-based in the near future. However, increasing the biocomponent ratio of the diesel used by machinery is one possibility to decrease emissions.
Other solutions include the decarbonisation of electricity and new technologies. There is an urgent need to update sawmill machinery that could that reduce energy consumption while increasing the output. In addition, new energy efficient kilns are required.
Needs and requirements
According to the industry, the technological modernisation investments must be accelerated with an investment programme which would include investment subsidies, specific investment subsidies for modernising basic production equipment, and government loan guarantees.
Future and positive impacts
The sawmill industry exports 75% of its manufactured products, and therefore, the climate benefits are spread globally. Currently produced sawn goods (12-13 million cubic meters) are estimated to store 9 Mt CO2 of CO2 annually. Wood construction is also made possible by the sawmill industry. Moreover, the sawmills promote cross-sectoral circular economy, for instance by selling woodchips to the chemical industry.
Did you know that...?
• The sawmill industry is responsible for about 2% of Finland’s GDP.
• 75% of the industry products are exported