Sustainability – Are forests still green gold?

12 tammikuun, 2021

Forests are the green gold of Finland. We have heard this mantra ad nauseam. And it’s hard to believe during declining demand of paper and as factories are being closed. But all hope is not yet lost.

Currently over 50 % waste

Wood as a material has a lot more to offer than just paper and cardboard. Traditional pulp & paper industry only uses cellulose as its raw material which comprises only 30–50 % of a tree. The rest of the materials are considered as waste. Actually, the main output of a pulp mill is carbon dioxide, not paper pulp. 

More ingredients than just cellulose

As we all remember from school, trees consist of cellulose (30–50 %), hemicellulose (20–35 %), lignin (20–30 %), resin and minerals. All these materials can (and hopefully will) be used to create sustainable substitutes for current alternatives. Even the carbon dioxide from the facilities can be used to make fuels as I mentioned in my earlier blog

Many possible uses

Cellulose as such is soon used to replace resource intensive cotton in the clothing industry. Hemicellulose can be used to replace plastic films in packages or used as an emulsifier (mixes water and oil together) in food and cosmetic industries. Lignin has uses in paints and glues and it can replace polymers in carbon fiber. Resin’s antibacterial properties interest medicine in this pandemic-ridden world. 

More than a material

So, wood has a lot more to offer than just lumber and paper. By investing in R&D, forests remain as the green gold of Finland. And they are more than just raw material for the industry. Forests have intrinsic value as such, preserve biodiversity and offer experiences for people. They are a second home to at least some of us. We at TT Gaskets consider it as one of our homes by offering Smarter Sealing for a Safer Future to the forest industry.

P2X – Can you create something from nothing?

2 marraskuun, 2020

You have probably heard the phrase “you can’t create something from nothing”. It’s a catchy phrase and holds truth in most cases. Critically thinking, you seldom are in a situation where you don’t have anything. At least on land you have air to breathe and that’s where the catch is. 

Things magically appearing out of thin air

Air is much more than just “air” and you can actually make things appear out of thin air, if you know what’s hidden in the nothingness. As scientists around the world are trying to find alternatives for fossil fuels, one promising solution is to create them from scratch. This hocus-pocus trick is called Power-to-X or concisely P2X¹.

Electricity and simple compounds into use

P2X means creating a usable end product (X) from power (P) and simple source materials. Preferably, the power should be created sustainably, e.g. via solar, wind or hydro power, as creating X with fossil fuels is not profitable from the perspective of mankind’s survival. The simple source materials include carbon dioxide (CO₂) and nitrogen (N₂) captured from the atmosphere (or straight from an emission source) and hydrogen (H₂) separated from water by electrolysis²

”Traditional” made sustainably

The source materials are then processed to create f.e. methane (CH₄), methanol (CH₃OH), dimethyl ether (C₂H₆O) and ammonia (NH₃). These can be used as fuels as such or processed further into “traditional” fuels including gasoline, diesel and kerosine. They can also be used for chemical industry thus creating plastics, fertilizers etc. sustainably. 

Solving problems efficiently

P2X technology also solves the issue of renewable energy that jokers always point out. If there’s no wind or sunshine, energy can be used from the fuel created during overproduction. This would allow regulating power to the power grid without expensive batteries. A cost-effective method for storing excess energy would also make renewable energy more compelling. 

Power-to-X seems to be a gift that keeps on giving. It would allow transition from fossil fuel transportation to renewable painless, as current internal combustion engines can be run with the P2X fuels. To give a perspective how effective this technology is, the annual CO₂ emissions of the Finnish forest industry can be turned into fuels that cover the annual consumption of Finnish road traffic³.

Key technology for energy transition

No wonder that P2X is one of the key technologies in the transition towards sustainable economy. Of course, it requires a lot of electricity, but the price of renewable energy is constantly dropping. R&D is still in progress, but the results in small scale have been promising. Hopefully in a decade or so we have the first refineries creating sustainable fuels with P2X technology in large scale. And we at TT Gaskets would have the opportunity to provide these pioneer facilities Smarter Sealing for a Safer Future. 

Sustainability – Has the pandemic taught us anything?

4 syyskuun, 2020

Among all this hassle with the pandemic, we have had time to think about what’s important and what could be done differently. Reduced need for commuting and working remotely has given us more free time ¹. Facilities and businesses around the world have been closed due to health reasons ². Radical decline in air traffic has caused the popular tourist attractions to be abandoned ³. And the list goes on.

Fragile economy and reduced emissions

Of course, this has not been a good thing for individuals who have lost their jobs (or lives/health for that matter) or for companies who have gone bankrupt. But in a larger scale, this has shown the fragility of our economy and that our actions can make a difference in a global scale. During the peak lockdown a couple of months ago, the daily global CO₂ emissions were reduced by 17 % . Although this change was not permanent, and the emissions are likely to grow back, it showed us how large an impact we have on our planet. 

Magical resources

And to go even further, this lockdown leads us to think how we can ensure resources for our local economy in the future, if our global suppliers are out of the equation. Before the lockdown we were nearly blind to the fact that stuff doesn’t just magically appear in our warehouses. Someone actually manufactures it, and it requires resources such as energy, raw materials and elbow grease. If these aren’t available, stuff can’t be done, no matter how many emails we send to them.

Closing the loop

One essential way to ensure resources for the future is to take care of materials we have available, not to consider them as junk after a while. Recycling is important of course, but things should be stepped up to create a circular economy model, where materials cycle in a closed loop as long as possible. Instead of our current linear model, where products are mostly landfilled after use, the products are either renewed or recycled to create new products.

Giving example

Doing a major change like this isn’t easy but taking small steps towards the goal of a more sustainable and stable future is beneficial. We at TT Gaskets are also concerned of the environment and are planning to start a sustainable development program that can be taken into action in other companies as well. The actions include for example investing in solar energy, enhancing material use and recycling as well as finding biobased alternatives for fossil materials. First steps towards a greener, smarter and safer future has already been taken, and we hope that you join us in this journey.

solar, energy, sustainability, green, economy
Solar energy is key in our sustainability program.