Green Metallurgy: OPBIO's Wood-to-Biocarbon Revolution

OPBIOImage Source: WAI


OPBIO, funded by Regional Research, transforms wood waste into high-quality biocarbon for sustainable metallurgical industries. Led by WAI Environmental Solutions with SINTEF Energy Research and Eramet Norway, the project aims for large-scale biocarbon use in metal production, aligning with global decarbonization goals.


In a monumental stride toward sustainability, OPBIO, backed by Regional Research funds, spearheads the conversion of wood waste into premium biocarbon, crucial for sustainable metallurgical industries. WAI Environmental Solutions (WAI), in collaboration with SINTEF Energy Research and Eramet Norway, is at the forefront of this regional innovation initiative, aiming to reshape the landscape of biocarbon utilization in metal production.

The TOPBIO project within OPBIO is pivotal, focusing on innovative solutions for extensive biocarbon integration into metal production processes. Wood waste undergoes meticulous screening and pre-treatment in ensuring a supply of high-quality materials for biocarbon production. Densification processes enhance biocarbon's mechanical strength, reducing porosity and reactivity. SINTEF Energy Research systematically investigates biocarbon and biocarbon pellet conversion behaviors under industrial-relevant conditions.

WAI Environmental Solutions, a Norwegian technology company, emerges as a crucial player in securing a sustainable future by substituting fossil carbon with biocarbon for metallurgical industries. In an exclusive interview with Mr. Steinar Danielsen, CEO, and Dr. Gang Xin, CTO, WAI outlines its commitment to environmental improvement. The European steel industry's substantial CO2 emissions highlight the urgency for transformative solutions.

While conventional steel production heavily relies on blast furnaces (BFs) contributing over 8% of greenhouse gas emissions, WAI pioneers a shift by replacing fossil carbon with biocarbon. The company's technology produces high-quality biocarbon through a combination of pyrolysis and biocarbon formulation methods. This innovative process ensures a scalable, energy-efficient, and environmentally friendly alternative for the metallurgical industry.

WAI's endeavor aligns with historical practices, as the steel industry originally used charcoal (biocarbon) before transitioning to coal. Now, WAI seeks to reinstate the use of biocarbon, creating a circular approach. Wood-based feedstock, including sawdust, bark, and waste wood, stands as a potential source, with each tonne of biocarbon replacing 1.3 tonnes of fossil carbon, resulting in a substantial 3.3 tonnes of CO2 reduction.

The availability of feedstock plays a crucial role, and WAI navigates the market dynamics adeptly. Shifts in the renewable energy landscape, cascading principles in the EU's Renewable Energy Directive (RED III), and the need for material recycling drive WAI's business model. By setting up biocarbon production facilities in sawmills, WAI minimizes transportation and maximizes sustainability.

WAI's business model extends benefits beyond the steel industry, positively impacting the wood industry. The company proposes an integrated approach by co-locating biocarbon production within sawmills, significantly reducing truck traffic and enhancing overall efficiency. The secondary product, syngas, generated in the process, offers additional avenues for producing hot water, steam, and electricity, contributing to further sustainability.

As WAI plans the commissioning of a full-scale biocarbon plant in 2025, the company envisions a transformative impact on the steel industry. The diverse product range, including injection and charge biocarbon, caters to the evolving needs of metallurgical processes. WAI anticipates that its technology, once proven at full scale, will pave the way for global adoption through licensing models and collaborations with feedstock suppliers.


In conclusion, the OPBIO project, led by WAI Environmental Solutions, represents a beacon of hope for sustainable metallurgical industries. By converting wood waste into premium biocarbon, WAI addresses the pressing need for eco-friendly alternatives in steel production. The company's commitment to replacing fossil carbon aligns with global decarbonization goals, offering a viable solution for a greener and more sustainable future.

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