Biovakka’s mission is to produce biogas, recycled nutrients, and transport fuel from underused organic raw materials, such as farm manure, sludge from the food industry, and biowaste from retailers and municipalities – using the best available technology.
Biovakka started up Finland’s first large-scale biogas plant at Vehmaa in 2004, which is capable of processing 120,000 t/a of organic raw material input from pig farmers in the surrounding area, together with byproducts from industry and municipalities. This has been followed by a second unit, based on municipal wastewater treatment sludge, in Turku. Further plants are on the drawing board.
Produced from biomass, biogas is an environmentally friendly, locally available, renewable source of energy that has the potential to make a valuable contribution to combating climate change, as it does not increase the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In addition to using biogas to generate electricity and heat and fertiliser, as it does at the moment, Biovakka is also planning to refine it into biomethane for use as a transport fuel.
Biovakka launched an initiative in 2009 with Gasum, which is responsible for Finland’s natural gas supply, to supply biomethane through the natural gas network. The plan is to bring the first plant of this type on stream at the beginning of 2011 and follow this with up to four further pipeline-linked units soon after.
As with Biovakka’s existing plants, the input for these will mainly come in the form of agricultural and industrial by-products and from municipal wastewater treatment plants. Following anaerobic digestion, the conversion of digestion residues into recycled nutrients, and desulphurisation, the resulting gas will be pressurised and fed into the natural gas network.
|The Topinoja plant in Turku, which runs on municipal treatment sludge, has made Biovakka Finland’s leading producer of biogas. Energy from the plant is supplied to the local grid.
Biovakka’s business model is based on developing a network of bioenergy plants that are both highly efficient from a technological point of view and profitable from a business one, in collaboration with the best experts in the field. A central plank in its philosophy is not to use any raw materials that could be used as food or any land suitable for food production.
Sales of green energy and recycled nutrients will provide Biovakka’s main revenue streams in the future. With two large facilities operational, the company is already Finland’s leading producer of biogas and self-sufficient in electricity and heat.
The recycled nutrients produced at its plants are well-suited for field cropping and improve the characteristics of the soil by returning humus and carbon, while reducing soil nutrient washout.
The end-product is odour-free and can be used as such, and comparisons with conventional fertilisers have seen it perform very well in terms of nutrient effectiveness. Perhaps its biggest advantage, however, is the fact that it can help reduce our dependence on declining phosphate resources and the energy-intensive methods used to produce artificial fertilisers.