The past spring has shown the importance of energy self-sufficiency and diversified energy sources. The company Suomen Lantakaasu (literally: Finnish Manure Gas), a joint venture of the energy company St1 and the food and nutrition company Valio, is currently planning the production of 125 GWh of liquefied biogas per year in the Northern Savonia Region. That amount alone suffices to replace approximately 12 million liters (3.2 million US gallons) of diesel, but the company is planning to ultimately produce 1 TWh per year.

The dire events on the global stage this spring brought into focus the issues of energy self-sufficiency and the diversification of energy sources. As to the extent of the set of available energy sources, the situation in Finland is relatively good. We are not markedly dependent on any single source of imported of energy and, considering all of Europe, we are quite advanced in the development of renewable energies.

Naturally, the various sectors differ from one another to a great extent. While Finland used to import as much as 20% of the power it consumed, the current wind power projects and the starting of the third reactor at the Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant in December (fingers crossed) will alone suffice to ensure our self-sufficiency in electricity. Today, however, Finland uses less zero-emission energy for producing heat than it does for producing electricity.

There remains much to do, particularly so in traffic. The use of alternative propulsion power is growing, but in the overall picture, it is still minor. We import the fossil fuels we need, and of those imports, over a third (34%) comes from Russia (2021). As to natural gas and crude oil, in practice, we have been almost totally dependent on our eastern neighbor: 92% of the natural gas and 67% of the crude oil we use come from Russia.

The goal of self-sufficiency is pan-European, because over a half of the energy consumed in the European Union is imported, and in that, the role of Russia is robust. In addition, in some places, the spectrum of energy sources is significantly narrower. In Central Europe, a particularly critical issue is that of natural gas, because the entire heating sector has relied on imports from Russia. The need for clean gas, produced nearby, is considerable.

The disengagement from Russian energy and raw materials is evident outside the energy sector as well. There has been harm done particularly for the European food industry, all the way to its roots. In addition to energy, Russia is an important producer of fertilizers. Besides the production and sales of raw materials such as potassium, ammonia and refined urea, which are used for fertilizers, the production processes of fertilizers are largely based on natural gas obtained from Russia. When raw materials become scarce and the price of natural gas goes up, the food production costs also go up. We see that there is a clear need for clean fertilizers produced nearby.

The 1 TWh biogas production planned by Suomen Lantakaasu, the joint venture of the energy company St1 and the food and nutrition company Valio, has a great opportunity to solve recognized challenges. The production of manure-based biogas introduces into the market both renewable European fuel and recycled fertilizers. At the same time, primary producers obtain benefits through the impact of the manure nutrients on the crops, the reduction in the need for strong commercial fertilizers, and the new logistical chain.

 At the moment, the company is in the process of designing its first production facility, one that has provided me with the honor of taking part in the designing process. The facility in Pohjois-Savo will be one of the largest biogas plants in Europe and clearly the largest in Finland. It will produce approximately 125 GWh of liquefied biogas per year. By reproducing the facility 8–10 times in Finland, Suomen Lantakaasu alone could cover one quarter of the added biogas desired by Finland in its roadmap for fossil-free transport for 2030.

The possibilities for success are excellent. The company is using a hybrid business model to tackle two issues: first, managing the dispersed feed of the agricultural materials, which has for now slowed down biogas production, and second, combining all the expertise in the entire value chain, from the primary production of raw materials to the production and distribution of energy. In the hybrid model, in addition to the raw manure and other sidestreams from agriculture and the food industry, pressurized biogas is transported to the plant for liquefication from smaller satellite plants operating closer to the source of the raw material.

This plant will make it possible to utilize in a large scale the 15 million tons of unused raw material in our country, the manure from primary production. Finnish food will not only fill our stomachs but it will also provide solutions for self-sufficiency in energy and fertilizers, helping us implement our fossil-free roadmap.

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