Worldwide Largest Bio-Ethanol Plant started by Green Austrocel

Project Description

AustroCel recently completed the world’s largest wood-based bioethanol plant. The €40 million production plant for advanced bio-ethanol fuel uses brown liquor, a by-product from the Sulphite Pulp Mill in Hallein, Austria, and has annual capacity of up to 35 million litres. Austrian oil company OMV blends the material into petrol, helping reduce CO2 emissions in the transport sector by up to 50,000 tons a year. This project was commenced following the launch of the REDII Directive in 2018, requiring fuel companies to add a certain portion of advanced biofuel to their products. Our majority stakeholder, the financial investor TowerBrook, and other private investors have supported the development of bio-ethanol from the very beginning, in 2018. The project was further supported by the Austrian central government and the Land of Salzburg, which granted about €3 million of subsidies.

Project Purpose

The main reason for this project is to derive the maximum resource efficiency from our main raw material, spruce wood (residual wood from sawmills). Brown liquor is a waste residual from our pulp production and would normally be incinerated, so by producing bio-ethanol, we add significant value to this residual side stream (+10% revenues), meaning we have improved our global competitiveness in the dissolving pulp industry. Moreover, we have finally reached our strategic objective of being a true bio-refinery, creating the Green AustroCel.

Project Evaluation

The bio-ethanol project was started up in late 2020, and is currently producing high-quality advanced biofuel at a rate of 25 million litres per annum (full capacity 35 million litres). The first deliveries have been made to OMV and successfully blended into petrol. The project was completed on time despite COVID, and within the budget. The payback for this strategic project is five years, which could be shortened as capacity can still be increased. A further benefit is that the concept of manufacturing bio-ethanol from brown liquor might also be used by other pulp mills in Europe which have similar production processes as AustroCel.

Joerg Harbring

CEO

What were the main arguments that convinced your
stakeholders to approve the investment into this bioethanol
plant?

CEO Joerg Harbring:
Our experts developed a very detailed and sound
technical concept over the last couple of years. The REDII
Directive in 2018 also helped a lot, and in the end we
were able to agree on a long-term off-take contract with
OMV. Therefore, financing was not an issue anymore.

What is unique about your project?
Project Manager Franz Dieterich:
We are talking about the world’s largest bio-ethanol
plant based on wood. The fermentation process for
the sulphite brown liquor is the trickiest part. Our R&D
experts developed a tailor-made yeast for this kind of
environment. We make use of a cellulosic residual stream
of our Pulp Mill, meaning we don’t need to bring in raw
material from external suppliers. In addition, all transport
of ethanol is done by rail.

Main features:

CO2 Emissions saved (tCO2)
Up to 50,000 tonnes annually

Investment
€40 Million

Partnerships
Austrian oil company OMV