At our mills, we're on a continuous journey to reduce waste and maximise material and resource use at every opportunity. Discover how with biofuels, a growing source of renewable energy for Sappi worldwide.

What are biofuels?

Biofuels are any kind of fuel made from living things, or from the waste they produce, including:

  • Wood, wood chippings and straw
  • Pellets or liquids made from wood
  • Biogas (methane) from anaerobic waste water treatment
  • Ethanol, diesel or other liquid fuels (including used cooking oil) made by processing plant material

What is the difference between biomass and fossil fuel-derived energy?

Biomass-derived energy is fundamentally different from fossil fuel-derived energy because biomass recycles carbon, whereas fossil fuels introduce carbon that has previously been ‘locked away’ to the atmosphere. Biomass is deemed ‘carbon neutral’ – the carbon dioxide (CO2) generated during combustion is equivalent to that which was originally bound from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.

Are biofuels climate-friendly?

In principle, biofuels derived from plant-based sources are a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by replacing long carbon cycle fossil fuels which release greenhouse gases that had been locked away. Although the burning of biofuels also releases CO2, plants absorb (capture) a comparable volume of the gas from the atmosphere while growing, as part of the photosynthesis process.

Does Sappi plan to increase its use of biofuels?

Yes. The focus throughout the group is on promoting recycling and recovering materials. As the pulp and paper industry is highly capital intensive, it is difficult to change processes quickly. Nevertheless, we are moving towards replacing fossil fuels with biomass wherever economically viable.

In South Africa, we have commissioned a third-party service provider to assess the renewable energy options – both solar and wind – for Sappi’s mills with the aim of providing a zero-carbon emission generation source with the lowest tariff for each mill.

Our 1.5 Future Energy Technologies and Decarbonisation cluster is focused on exploring and developing novel technologies - including biofuels - for fuel shift and deep decarbonisation in terms of Scope 1 and 2 emissions. This aligns with our commitment to decarbonising our operations in the decades ahead to 2050 – with specific targets defined in our science-based targets.

The initial part of our decarbonisation journey will largely involve the deployment of known technology such as biomass boilers – but we cannot achieve net-zero with today’s technology. The cluster’s role is to identify, assess and champion new and emerging technologies which will be fundamental to meeting our net-zero aspirations. The cluster has a particular focus on scanning or developing the future and new technologies required to dramatically reduce energy requirements in pulp and papermaking processes and energy supplies.