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Synthetic fuels and biorefining


Fast pyrolysis for the production of bio oil is one of VTT’s key technologies in the field of sustainable energy production. A major part of our activities is related to process development with industrial partners. Our competence has evolved from the early 1980s through a continuous effort in exploring ways of integrating bioenergy conversion technologies to existing industries. We are also involved in several European and national projects, which are related to our key competence: developin and integrating bio oil production. Globally, we have a unique set of experimental facilities on a range of scales, from laboratory to Process Development Unit. We also have unique capabilities in characterising complex bio oils from a user perspective.


The search for renewable, sustainable energy carriers is emphasised during times of high oil prices. We recently experienced the fourth oil price crisis since the 1970s. The current challenge is to maintain the momentum for the development work, which has intensified greatly in the past few years due to the need to reduce CO2-emissions. Our aim is to be ready with our partners for the next increase in energy prices, equipped with better processes for various biomasses. We aim to use low quality, high ash biomasses, which traditionally are difficult to utilise.


Distributed bio oil production offers a solution to using biomass as fuel, as biomasses are sparse, with low heating value per area and scattered. Fast pyrolysis is feasible in relatively small capacities when integrated to a CHP boiler, and bio oil may be distributed to users beyond the production site. Bio fuel oil would be used initially in existing oil boilers. Once the logistics chain is proven, expansion of the system and other uses for bio oil (stationary power plants, feed for a large gasification – synfuel production plant, feed for upgrading to a conventional refinery, production of a few selected organic chemicals) will become possible. Bio oil production makes it possible to invest in second-generation biofuel production in a stage-wise manner, thus reducing risks involved.


Just like other liquid fuels, bio oil is easier to distribute and use than solid fuels, which it aims to replace. Scattered biomass resources may be converted to bio oil locally, and bio oil may be distributed to users. Controlling of bio oil to a boiler can be done with precision, and resulting combustion emissions are (often far) less than in firing solid biomass, including pellets.

Second generation transportation biofuel from bio oil is currently a laboratory-scale concept. However, the route offers potential advantages (logistics, relatively low capital costs, chemical by-products, no need to modify current refineries or distribution and utilisation systems).

References and merits

Fast pyrolysis has been an important research topic at VTT since the 1980s. Since the mid-1990s, we have been involved in several industrial fast pyrolysis pilot-projects in Europe. We are working with leading companies in making bio fuel oil production a commercial alternative. For more information about what we can offer in the field of synthetic fuels and biorefining, please contact us directly!

Additional information

Yrjö Solantausta
Chief Research Scientist
+358 20 722 5517

Anja Oasmaa
Senior Research Scientist
+358 20 722 5594

Matti Nieminen
Customer Manager
+358 20 722 6587