FAQ

Production complex

What kind of a bioproducts production complex is being planned and of what size?

Depending on the product and raw material, the production capacity of VKG’s bioproducts production complex will be 330,000 to 500,000 tonnes a year, which is a third less than that of the wood refinery plant planned in Tartu. The complex would use the flexible KRAFT technology, which is the best available technique (BAT) for the chemical processing of wood pulp and uses both coniferous and non-coniferous wood. It also allows producing dissolving pulp – a novel and environmentally friendly material used on the textile industry – as well as tall oil and renewable energy. In terms of efficiency, building a larger production complex would doubtlessly be more profitable, but we considered the reduction of the volume of the complex a necessary compromise.

What will the bioproducts production complex produce?

As raw materials, the production complex will produce dissolving pulp, pulp, tall oil and renewable energy, bio-fertilisers and growth promoters. In producing dissolving pulp, both the production volume and the need for raw materials are approximately 25% below the maximum capacity.

As raw materials, the production complex will produce dissolving pulp, pulp, tall oil and renewable energy, bio-fertilisers and growth promoters. In producing dissolving pulp, both the production volume and the need for raw materials are approximately 25% below the maximum capacity. As end products, the complex will produce raw material for the textile industry, for instance for the production of viscose fabric. The development of the bioproducts complex will also open the possibility to produce both biofuels and special chemistry product groups: plasticisers, binding agents, phenols, polyesters, hydrogels, antioxidants, etc.

As a bonus, the establishment of the production complex would according to preliminary estimates increase the generation of renewable energy in Estonia by 730 GWh a year, of which a half would be released to the free market. Green heating energy would be used for supplying district heating to the cities of Kohtla-Järve and Jõhvi.

The bioproducts complex will use the old-fashioned kraft technology – why will it not use something more innovative?

The kraft or sulphate technology is currently the best possible technique for adding value to wood. The same technology is used by the newest Scandinavian bioproduct plants, such as the Äänekoski plant in Finland and the Östrand plant in Sweden as well as the plant currently being built at Kemi in Finland. The kraft technology allows using both coniferous and non-coniferous wood as raw material. Such plants also have auxiliary facilities: the production of wood chips, the production of renewable electricity and heat, the reproduction of chemicals, the separation of tall oil, etc. For the production of dissolving pulp or pulp that has a very high alpha-cellulose content, we shall add a few additional processing stages to the technique.

Will VKG’s bioproducts complex differ from the plant planned to be established in Tartu in 2017 and how?

There are several differences. Firstly, we are applying for the initiation of a local government special spatial plan, not a national plan. Our aim is to work in cooperation with the local government and community.
Secondly, VKG’s bioproducts production complex will be a third smaller and therefore both the need for raw material and the environmental impact will also be smaller. There is also a difference in the use of water: we plan to use water pumped for the Ojamaa Mine for production and the complex will need 12.5 million m3 of it a year. The purified water will be discharged into the Gulf of Finland via a planned water treatment plant and the existing collector.

The flexible production complex will allow using both coniferous and non-coniferous wood as raw material. The product range of VKG’s complex would be broader (particularly on account of dissolving pulp) and the development of the production cycle would make it possible to produce tens of different products  from chemicals to plasticisers.

The production complex would be located in an industrial region which partly already has the necessary infrastructure and logistics.

You decided to use a local government special spatial plan. Why and how does it differ from a national special spatial plan?

A local government special spatial plan is today the only correct way of planning pursuant to law, as it ensures the engagement of the local community in the best way. A local government special plan prescribes the need to analyse at least two alternative locations for the production complex in the territory of one local government. We have decided to apply for the initiation of a special plan in the territory of the rural municipality of Lüganuse, as we see potentially suitable locations there for the production complex.

What is the time schedule of establishing the bioproducts production complex?

The local government planning process or the special plan process, in the first stage of which the preliminary choice of location will be analysed and decided and then all the environmental impacts will be assessed, will take at least 3 years. The local communities can also express their opinion and have a say in this process. The investment decision will be made after the completion of the previous stages, the determination of results and the completion of studies conducted in parallel, in order to obtain assurance for all the necessary inputs for the investment. The production complex could start operating in 2026 at the earliest.

What effect will this have on Ida-Viru County? On the entire Estonian economy and export?

The establishment of a modern bioproducts production facility will provide conditions for the development of material technologies (or a respective cluster) based on renewable resources, thereby reducing the environmental impact of products. We consider it important to locally add value to pulpwood which is currently exported as round timber.

Besides core products, the planned production complex will also allow us to produce 730 GWh of renewable electricity a year (+37.5% of Estonia’s renewable energy  in 2020) and supply green heating energy to the cities of Kohtla-Järve and Jõhvi.

For Estonia, wood-based products are one of the most important groups of goods that level the foreign trade balance. The export of wood products exceeds import by nearly 3 times and the foreign trade balance has throughout time been strongly positive. In 2020, the foreign trade balance of wood products was +1.5 billion euros to export, with the export of wood products having decreased by 6.9% compared to 2019. The new bioproducts production complex would increase Estonia’s export by approximately 250 million euros.

In addition to diversifying the economy of Ida-Viru County, we shall create 250 new jobs, as well as a total of at least 1,000 jobs in the value chain of the production complex.

What kind of jobs will the bioproducts production complex have?

The new production complex will create 250 direct jobs, including plant operators, technologists, energy specialists, chemists, lab staff, and personnel to provide support services. For the smooth operation of the complex, maintenance teams are needed for the management of mechanics, electricity, mechatronics, automation and IT.

Which studies have you conducted and which studies are you still planning to order?

VKG has conducted preliminary environmental studies for analysing the idea and the Nordic consultation form AFRY has prepared a preliminary feasibility study. The Geological Survey of Estonia has analysed the impact of using mining water from the Ojamaa Mine on hydrogeology during and after the operation of the Ojamaa Mine. Hendrikson&Ko conducted a preliminary analysis of the possible locations as well as a preliminary study of environmental impact.

The local government will itself order a strategic assessment of environmental impact in the course of the special spatial plan process.

Location

You wish to start a special spatial plan in the rural municipality of Lüganuse – why there?

A local government special spatial plan is today the only correct way of planning pursuant to law, as it ensures the engagement of the local community in the best way. A local government special plan prescribes the need to analyse at least two alternative locations for the bioproducts production complex in the territory of one local government.

Are you considering or have you considered other local governments in Ida-Viru County?

We have also explored the areas of other local governments in Ida-Viru County, but have not found a suitable location by today.

Resource needs

What will the raw material need of the production complex be? Where will the wood come from?

Under its current Forestry Development Plan, Estonia exports 2.5 to 3.0 million m3 of pulpwood and wood chips, i.e. raw material suitable for bioproduction. A part of pulpwood is also used for generating energy. We believe that it would be more efficient and economically beneficial to add value to this resource locally at a bioproducts production complex.

Depending on the type of products and raw material, the raw material need of the production complex would be 2.0 to 2.3 million m3 of wood a year, which is a third less than that of the wood refinery plant planned in Tartu. The production complex will use a flexible technology which allows using both coniferous and non-coniferous wood. The production of dissolving pulp will allow us to optimise the use of resources – the more we produce dissolving pulp from non-coniferous wood, the lower the need for raw wood.

We plan to acquire wood from Estonia and, if necessary, from Latvia and Lithuania. This will increase transport costs to a certain degree, but the railway branching located in the territory of the future production complex will allow us to prefer railway transport to road transport in obtaining material from South-Estonia and North-Latvia.

VKG itself is not a forest owner or a wood supplier and does not participate in the preparation of the Forestry Development Plan. We shall be competing on common grounds and on the same terms with the consumers of low-quality wood of Estonia, Latvia and Scandinavia in accordance with the applicable law. The fact that our project takes into account criteria for the sustainable use of the forest is a possible advantage. We wish to valorise pulpwood in the volume allowed by the Estonian Forestry Development Plan.

How will the production complex influence forest felling volumes in Estonia?

We would be using low-quality pulpwood that is already coming from forest felling and is being burnt and exported, adding value to it locally and within the limits of the Estonian Forestry Development Plan. The future felling volumes are determined in the currently prepared Estonian Forestry Development Plan in the preparation of which VKG does not participate in and has never participated in. We plan to cover the lacking wood resource from imported raw material. Material suitable for the bioproducts complex, i.e. pulpwood is currently largely exported, as no value is added to it locally.

Impact on the environment

The bioproducts production complex plans to pump the necessary water from the Ojamaa Mine. How much water will the production complex need and what effect will this have on the mine and the surrounding area?

The planned production complex will need up to 25 m3 of water per a tonne of finished product, i.e. up to 12.5 million m3 of water a year. The permit for special use of water allows pumping 31.5 million m3 of mining water a year from the Ojamaa Mine. Today, VKG is pumping the average of 22 million m3 of water from the Ojamaa Mine a year, i.e. the water need of the bioproducts production complex will make up only about 50% of the current use of water.

We have conducted an analysis of the quality of the Ojamaa mining water and the impact of the water pumped out of the Ojamaa Mine on the natural water systems of the region.

Where will you take water from when the Ojamaa Mine is closed?

Pursuant to the permit for special use of water, water can also be pumped from the mine after it is closed down, but we are considering the use of sea water as an alternative in the production complex. Using sea water in a wood processing complex means the prior desalination of water, which requires us to invest in additional equipment.

What effect will the establishment of the complex have on the nature in Ida-Viru County, the local swamps and bogs?

According to the preliminary analysis, the effect will essentially be non-existent, but all the possible environmental impacts will be assessed in more detail in the course of the environmental impact assessment.

What requirements must the purified waste water meet and how will it influence the quality of sea water?

The process water used at the bioproducts production complex will be purified to the level of purity established in the BAT. The purified water will then be discharged to the Gulf of Finland via a planned water treatment plant and the existing collector.

A wood refinery plant 3 times bigger is currently being built at Kemi in Finland and that plant will also discharge its purified used process water into the Baltic Sea. A wood refinery plant 2.5 times bigger recently launched at Äänekoski in Finland is discharging its purified process waters into an inland waterbody similarly to the majority of similar Scandinavian production facilities.

What kind of waste will the production complex generate?

The modern production of bioproducts is essentially waste-free. We plan to use the generated wood bark as fuel in the production complex or sell it to energy producers. We plan to sell the generated sawdust to the producers of woodchip board or use it in producing energy.

There are various solutions for the use of the wood bark generated in preparing the raw material and the bio-mud generated in cleaning the process water. As one option, the bark and the mud will be gasified and the resulting biogas will be used as fuel in the process or sold to other consumers.

The ash generated in the incineration equipment can for instance be used as fertiliser.

Which and how many odour nuisances will the launch of the bioproducts production complex entail?

The planned production complex will meet the environmental requirements applicable in Estonia and the European Union, and the Best Available Techniques (BAT). In addition to the BAT standards, the air emissions of the new production complex will also comply with national limits on conjunction with other local industrial enterprises. As an additional measure, the enterprise will perform constant monitoring which will bring transparency and, if necessary, allows for an operative response in optimising production modes.

In ordinary operation, the odour nuisance will be limited to the production territory. A closed production cycle will allow us to avoid odour nuisances in the case of emergency downtime. Emissions will be captured and burnt in a boiler.