Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way
WEB MAGAZINE - November 2018
Global markets help boost Nordic climate innovations
Carbon capture the Icelandic way
Sustainable transport was the vision of the Icelandic company, Carbon Recycling International (CRI), when it started producing methanol in a lab twelve years ago. Their patented emissions-to-liquid method enables them to capture CO2 from industrial waste gas, eliminating a source of greenhouse gas emissions while producing methanol sustainably. In 2012, it opened its first production plant for green methanol in Iceland.
Methanol is used in many industrial chemicals and as fuel for vehicles and marine applications. Currently, methanol is mainly produced from coal or natural gas, emitting large amounts of CO2 in the process.
“Our technology has the opposite effect – reducing harmful emissions from existing industries, and the production is pollution-free. Green methanol used as a fuel also reduces emissions from the transportation sector,” explains Sindri Sindrason, CEO at CRI.
CRI already has a presence in the European market through exports. The company now has China in its sights, the biggest consumer of methanol globally, and with growing demand.
A feasibility study co-financed by the Nordic Project Fund, Nopef, has enabled CRI to evaluate the market and potential regions in China, to familiarise itself with methanol pricing policies, local experts and methanol production sites.
Sindri appreciates the financial support so far. “Financial support is vital in the growth phase. By helping small companies compete in energy and fuel markets, instead of using public money, governments can also reduce the uncertainty private investors are facing. Policies should show commitment to long-term objectives and present a transparent, stable regulatory framework that encourages private investors to take on the risk of innovation and market entry.”
Circular economy at its best
Capturing emissions from organic waste biogas also contributes to CO2-neutral energy production. Biogas production facilities often use a mix of animal and green manure, as nitrogen-rich waste can inhibit the process. A big rise in the price of maize, an important ingredient in the mix, has made production more expensive.
To solve this, Ductor Corp from Finland has developed and patented a microbiological technology that prevents ammonia inhibition in the production phase and enables the use of organic waste with a high nitrogen content. Instead of a mix, the raw material can therefore consist of 100% chicken manure, providing a cost-efficient way to produce biogas. It can also produce organic fertilisers as a by-product of the process.
For some time, Ductor Corp has been conducting activities in some European countries, such as Germany, where biogas producers are using the company’s innovative technology. The next step is to conquer the US market, the biggest producer of poultry for the food industry, where inexpensive raw material will be widely available. It has already established a subsidiary and started deliveries to a completely new biogas facility in North Carolina.
“Our concept enables the whole production cycle, from sourcing raw material to providing energy and fertilisers, to be located in the same region, thereby helping local economies. Overall, the operational costs will decrease, so government subsidies can be reduced. These clear benefits make it easier to enter new markets,” says Ari Ketola, CEO at Ductor Corp.
Ductor’s technology can be applied to existing and new biogas plants, and is easy to operate.
“This is circular economy at its best: high-emission organic waste is turned into clean energy for vehicles and green fertilisers for the food industry in a cost-effective way.”
Off-grid solar power systems for Africa
In a remote area in southern Sudan, a solar power plant supplies electricity to the public facilities of a refugee camp. Two Norwegians, who used to work on sustainable investments here for international organisations, noticed that the power supply relied heavily on diesel generators running at full speed 24/7. The long-term running costs were high, not to mention the negative impact on the environment. They decided to do something about it and founded Kube Energy AS.
The company’s aim is to provide off-grid electricity to remote camps in a sustainable and cost-effective way. It conducted a feasibility study funded by Nopef. The study examined potential clients, energy requirements, a pipeline for the new technology, and the environmental impact of the installation and operation of the new system. A due diligence evaluation of the value chain was equally important, to ensure sustainability throughout the process.
Kube Energy is a young company, but its knowledge of the conditions and operating environment in the target country and ability to create a solution from existing technology made this project feasible. Its first power plant was up and running within a year of starting the project.
Now, the company’s Managing Director Mads Uhlin Hansen is looking towards new horizons:
“Currently, we work with multinational organisations and have expanded to other African countries with them, but we also hope to get local governments and large energy companies on board. The first project has shown huge benefits, not only in big cost savings for the client but also in emission reductions from the power generation of up to 90 per cent.”
Nordic project funding an important link in the chain
CRI, Ductor Corp and Kube Energy are just three of more than 3,000 Nordic companies that have received co-financing from Nopef. Through Nopef, companies can get funding for their planning work when evaluating growth opportunities outside the European Union. This has significantly increased the companies’ chances to introduce their green solutions and to grow on the new market. The projects will often also create export and growth opportunities for the companies’ own subcontractors in the Nordic region.
“We want to lower the threshold for these small and medium-sized companies to go all the way. Many already have proven solutions, but expansion also requires investment and risk taking. Detailed studies of the market and potential business development are therefore important,” explains Mikael Reims, Head of Nopef at NEFCO.
All three companies believe more risk capital is needed early in the growth phase. Mads Hansen sees a gap in the offer: “Mega-solutions seem to attract finance more easily. There are still many areas where small-scale solutions would be much better, and would only require a few million euros of investment to get started. There is potential here for Nordic financing instruments.”
Nopef is a project fund financed by the Nordic Council of Ministers and administered by the Nordic Environment Finance Corporation, NEFCO. The aim of the fund is to facilitate the implementation of green and smart Nordic solutions on global markets. Read more at www.nopef.com.
Photo 1: Scott Webb / Unsplash
Photo 2: Johannes Jansson / norden.org