Circular economy and cascading use in Borregaard’s biorefinery

In a circular economy, the aim is to make the best possible use of society’s resources for as long as possible, simply explained by the 3 R’s: Reduce, Re-use and Recycle.

This can be done through the high utilisation of raw materials, reducing waste, emissions and the use of energy, as well as by reusing and recycling products. One of the basic principles is eco-design; to view waste as a resource and design products in a way that ensures that materials can be recovered more efficiently.

The efficient utilisation of sidestreams and cascading use are cornerstones of a circular economy. In this context, cascading means that the sidestream from one process is used as feedstock for the next.

Borregaard’s biorefinery is an extraordinary cascading operation where wood, which consists of fibres, lignin and sugar, is turned into cellulose before the sidestream from this operation is utilised for a variety of other valuable products.

The sidestream is first used in the production of bioethanol before the sidestream from the ethanol operation is converted into lignin-based biopolymers. Parts of the lignin are also used in the production of biovanillin and parts of the cellulose are converted into cellulose fibrils.

Some sidestreams from production are also sold to other industries, which in turn use them as raw materials in their production. Knot pulp, which is removed from the cellulose and utilised for packaging materials and bark for soil conditioning, are examples of utilisation of such sidestreams. The sidestreams that can’t be utilised for products are converted into biogas or biofuel used for energy in the production processes.

Borregaard’s most important raw material, Norway spruce, is harvested from certified forests. Our focus is on sourcing wood from nearby forests by sustainable transportation, in which health and safety, emissions and costs are considered. In this way, Borregaard, both internally and together with external suppliers and customers, is part of an intricate and well-established cascading system for bio-based products, intermediate products and sidestreams.

In other words, our biorefinery is built on the principles of both cascading and circular use.


High raw materials utilisation

In Norwegian forest-based industries, the whole log of wood is utilised for products. The main driver for harvesting trees in Norway is wooden construction material. The most valuable part of the tree is used to make construction materials.

One third of the wood entering the sawmill becomes residuals in the form of chips and sawdust. The remaining part of the tree and the residual wood chips from the sawmills are raw materials for Borregaard’s sustainable, high value products. Borregaard utilises 94% of the purchased wood, of which 82% turns into commercial products, 10% is used for internal energy and 2% is sold as bioenergy.


The figure shows the increase in value creation in NOK per solid cubic meter wood from Borregaard’s biorefinery in Sarpsborg. Value creation is defined as the value of products sold from the biorefinery minus the cost of materials, services and depreciation.


Reduced use of input factors

Because of the high utilisation of wood for products at the biorefinery in Norway, there is a limited quantity of residual biomass and biogas available for energy. Therefore, Borregaard obtains heat energy from additional sources like renewable electricity, recovery of heat energy from production processes, energy from the incineration of sorted household waste and natural gas.

Our continuous efforts to increase Borregaard’s energy efficiency, as well as streamlining production, decreases the input factors per tonne of product produced. In this way, the CO2 footprint of our products is constantly reduced, while the value creation from the resources is increased.

The residual energy from Borregaard’s production processes is the main source of energy for the district heating plant in Sarpsborg, replacing oil heating.


The figure shows the increase in value creation per tonne of scope 1 and scope 2 CO2 emissions from the operations in the Borregaard Group. Value creation is defined as the value of products sold (revenues) minus the cost of materials, services and depreciation.