February 6th, 2014

Swedish forests: a future source of oil

Research concludes that raw materials from Swedish pine forests can be used to substitute oil-based products, such as plastics and vehicle fuels.

Recent research published as part of a Doctoral thesis by Ingegerd Backlund, researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Umeå, concludes that many oil-based products could actually be manufactured from forest raw materials. Examples of substances that can be manufactured with forest raw materials include plastics, vehicle fuels, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. The forest raw materials for such products can conveniently be harvested from dense Swedish lodgepole pine forests, with much less environmental impact than harvesting fossil fuels.

The research has shown that it is possible to extract tons of biobased waxes, fats, resins and other substances from a single hectare of pine forest. For lodgepole pine, 20 percent of the substances in the tree can be extracted, and the pine needles can be used to extract raw materials for the pharmaceuticals industry. Between 2 and 3 tons of useful raw materials can be extracted from a single hectare of 30 year-old forest. The remaining biomass can be either combusted as fuel to generate energy, or be sent to a paper pulp mill for processing, to ensure there is no waste.

Gävleborg is Sweden’s most forested region with 79 percent of its area covered by forest. The region has a long history of environmentally sound forest management and is home to very high quality timber. Pine oil is already manufactured in Gävleborg from local forests.

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Read more about Gävleborg's Forest Industry