Sweden’s Chemrec, which is working on gasification technology to turn the byproduct from paper and pulp mills into biofuels and biochemicals, says it has raised $20 million to bring its technology to commercialization. The Series C round was led by Environmental Technologies Fund and included existing investors Silicon Valley venture firm VantagePoint Venture Partners and Volvo Technology Transfer, the investment arm of the Swedish automaker.
Pulp and paper mills produce a dark, inky byproduct known in the industry as “black liquor,” which is often burned in standard boilers to produce modest amounts of electricity and plant stream. Chemrec says its technology can turn the black liquor into syn gas and then into a biofuel or biochemical, and claims its process is more efficient than producing electricity via the traditional boiler system. Chemrec also says its technology is currently being used at two mills — Weyerhaeuser’s New Bern mill in North Carolina (see photo), and Chemrec’s own development plant in Pitea, Sweden. It also says it’s working with “leading” pulp and paper mills in the U.S. in Sweden to implement the technology commercially.
The black liquor can be turned into biofuels, biomaterials or electricity. But Volvo is interested in how black liquor can be made into bio dimethyl ether, or DME. Volvo is also working on developing 14 prototype trucks to run on DME. The Swedish Bioenergy Association told the UPI that if there was a DME plant at every paper mill in Sweden, enough biofuel could be made to replace a third of the country’s diesel fuel. Chemreq says DME from black liquor has one of the highest land use efficiencies of second-generation biofuels.