Climate innovations in the paper industry: Prospects for decarbonisation

Research output: Book/ReportReport


The European pulp and paper industry (PPI) directly emits 31.9 Mton CO2 (2016) and indirectly 12.3 and 5 Mton CO2 from purchased electricity and transport respectively. It also accounts for 68 Mton of biogenic CO2 emissions. The PPI is a mature industry with overall stagnating market demand in the past ten years and relatively high levels of recycling. Forest countries like Sweden and Finland dominate the production of virgin fibres whereas paper production in other countries relies more on recycled fibre and purchased pulp.
Decarbonisation across all sectors is expected to increase the competition for biomass feedstock for fuel in heat and power production, biofuels for transport, bio-based materials and chemicals, and perhaps wood for construction. This development implies new interdependencies between the PPI and other sectors. Decarbonisation of the PPI itself can be achieved through energy efficiency, fuel switching and electrification (assuming decarbonised power). This decarbonisation is ongoing and carbon intensity has been steadily declining for decades.
Two other decarbonisation pathways are important to consider. One is the transition to biorefineries and a bioeconomy where several other products than pulp and paper are produced (including liquid fuels, lignin, textile fibres and bio-composites). The other is the transition to a closed-loop carbon society where biogenic CO2 becomes an important feedstock through carbon capture and use (CCU). For the biorefinery pathway the PPI must develop in new directions, operate in new markets, and form partnerships with other actors. So far, there is less of a clear direction for this pathway and it appears that low levels of collaboration between the chemical industry and the forestry industry constitute a barrier.
For the PPI, decarbonisation is an opportunity but increased competition for feedstock is also a threat. Feedstock scarcity in the EU as well as globally is a serious problem in scenarios where the heat, power and transport sectors use biomass for energy at scale. The limits to biomass may necessitate the use of biogenic CO2 (e.g., from chemical recovery boilers and waste incineration) as feedstock for the production of organic compounds (e.g., liquid fuels and plastics) in a fossil free society. This pathway is relatively unexplored but our preliminary analysis shows that biogenic CO2 is also a scarce resource unless demand for organic compounds, in particular liquid fuels, is reduced considerably. It requires large amounts of emissions-free electricity for hydrogen production and implies completely new value chains and collaborations between the forestry, energy and chemicals industries.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Engineering and Technology


  • pulp and paper industry, decarbonisation, biorefinery
Original languageEnglish
PublisherMiljö- och energisystem, LTH, Lunds universitet
Commissioning bodyEuropean Commission - Horizon 2020
Number of pages37
VolumeIMES/EESS report 110
ISBN (Electronic)978-91-86961-36-7
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

NameIMES/EESS report series

Total downloads

No data available

Related projects

Lars J Nilsson, Ekaterina Chertkovskaya, Fredrik N G Andersson, Fredric Bauer, Teis Hansen, Monica Keaney, Johannes Stripple, Ellen Palm, Roger Hildingsson, Lechtenböhmer Stefan, Harriet Bulkeley, Clemens Schneider, Katja Pietzner, Daniel Vallentin, Agni Kalfagianni, Simona Negro, Ernst Worell, Detlef van Vuuren, Andries Hof & Jacob Hasselbalch


Project: ResearchCollaboration with industry, Interdisciplinary research, International collaboration

View all (1)