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Forest based biofuels for Sustainable Arctic Marine Shipping

Research project The project aims to identify a sustainable biofuel from sludge of Swedish pulp and paper mills for Arctic marine shipping. This is be done by assessing the environmental impacts of biofuel production from sludge, analyze cost-benefits of switching from fossil fuels to forest based biofuels for shipping, and identify the social impacts of biofuel production for shipping in North Sweden. The results will provide support to decision makers in the shipping sector to adapt sustainable strategies.

The project is supported by Formas.

Project overview

Project period:

2021-01-01 2023-12-31

Participating departments and units at Umeå University

Department of Chemistry

Research area

Chemical sciences, Environmental sciences

External funding


Project description

Shipping transportation in Arctic is growing significantly, affecting climate change, causing marine and human health risks especially on indigenous peoples. This research addresses two societal challenges: Firstly, the usage of fossil fuels in shipping emits large amount of emissions to air (COx, SOx, black carbon) that impact climate change, aquatic and human life. Secondly, Swedish pulp and paper mills generate 380000 ton/year of sludge that can be an environmental problem if not handled properly, usage of biofuel seams an attractive solution, however, previous studies didn’t provide any firm conclusion on the potential impacts of marine biofuels for shipping, we will address this gap.

In this project, the research team will identify the preferable biofuel for Arctic marine shipping, produced from the waste of the Swedish pulp and paper industry. The purpose is to contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions from shipping, and their associated climate change impacts. Currently, international shipping transportation is one of the biggest contributors to air emissions, generating 3 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions, and forecasts predict a double increase from this sector by 2050. The associated impacts on local air pollution and climate change will increase as well; in particular, the Arctic is one of the global regions most affected, with effects on marine as well as human life.

Biofuels are attractive alternatives to fossil fuels since their usage causes less greenhouse gas emissions, they are already commercially available and can be used in existing engines. One potential source of energy for biofuel production is industrial waste. In Sweden, the pulp and paper industry generates approx. 380000 tons of sludge and 288 000 ton of ash annually. These wastes have the potential of being used for the production of “forest-based biofuel”. However, the production and usage of forest-based biofuels for marine shipping in Arctic has to be done in a sustainable way ensuring the preservation of the local environment, considering the impacts on marine life and health risks for local communities, especially indigenous peoples.

The research team will collaborate with a local biofuel production company to study how different forest-based biofuels can be produced locally, and understand how their production impacts the environment, the economy and the local society. Accordingly, the preferable forest -based biofuel will be suggested.

The project will be of interest to several stakeholders and end users as it will:

Use the waste from the pulp and paper industry as a valuable resource and convert it into an energy source.

Promote the utilization of biofuels for the marine shipping sector, which will contribute to reducing the GHG emissions and associated climate change impacts.

Highlight the social impacts on safe and healthy living conditions in local communities and indigenous people on Arctic.

Present the contribution to society’s economic development in form of new opportunities for local employment

Our results will form a basis for adaptation of strategies to achieve a sustainable Arctic and improve the life of marine and vulnerable individuals in Artic communities.

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External funding

Latest update: 2021-03-24