News / 3.6.2019

City Refinery developed in Vuosaari

Helen, Lassila & Tikanoja and VTT are pursuing a circular economy in their use of materials and energy.

The City Refinery aims to process difficult-to-recycle materials and biomass into high-grade products. This will boost the efficiency of recycling of materials in Helsinki. The City Refinery is a critical step towards mitigating climate change and shifting society from a throwaway mindset to a circular one.

There is an urgent need for circular economy systems in a world where raw materials and other resources can be reused and fossil production can be reduced. Recycling, forestry and agriculture continue to generate a great deal of material flows that cannot yet be utilised or reused adequately.

Helen, Lassila & Tikanoja and VTT plan to establish a new-generation City Refinery in Vuosaari over the next decade. The plant will process these materials into high-grade bio-based products and raw materials.

The refinery will make use of gasification technology to bind the carbon into new products. It also enables a research platform for future technology solutions, such as the use of carbon dioxide as raw material.

 “The City Refinery will take recycling and circular economy to a new level. The plant will produce raw materials, chemicals and nutrients through high-quality refining and thus enhance the circulation of materials,” says Jorma Mikkonen, Director of Corporate Relations and Responsibility at Lassila & Tikanoja.

Waste heat from the refining process is utilised

 The biorefinery process will also generate heat as a by-product. The City Refinery will recover and utilise heat by distributing it to the district heating network and for heating homes. That way the refinery will contribute to a more sustainable energy system while enhancing circularity at the same time.

“A circular economy is necessary in achieving climate goals. The City Refinery takes us towards an economy where carbon has a closed cycle and its incineration into energy will be a thing of the past. Helen also has strong expertise in utilising waste heat," says Maiju Westergren, Senior Vice President, Corporate Responsibility at Helen.

More partners are encouraged to join the project

 The City Refinery is designed to function as an operating environment for developing circular economy and bio-economy solutions on a cross-sector scale. For this reason, different types of stakeholders are invited to participate in the project.

“For the city to be able to take advantage of the refinery's full potential, we encourage partners with ideas on possible raw materials and end-products to be processed to join the project. The refinery will provide opportunities for companies that are seeking new globally competitive solutions and procedures,” says Jussi Manninen, VTT’s Executive Vice President of Solutions for Natural Resources and Environment Business Area.

Helen, Lassila & Tikanoja and VTT's ambition is to develop the City Refinery into an exportable solution that bolsters Finland's status as an expert in circularity. The production plant is currently in its demo phase before ramping up its capacity.  

The City Refinery in a nutshell

  • The City Refinery will refine waste and side streams generated in Helsinki into high-grade products.
  • Raw materials will include biomass from forestry and agriculture, as well as materials that are unsuitable for mechanical recycling.
  • The City Refinery will use gasification technology that binds the carbon contained in the raw materials in a closed cycle instead of releasing it into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.
  • The end products will provide raw materials such as fuels or renewable plastics for different industries.
  • The biorefinery process always generates heat as a by-product. The City Refinery will recover heat and utilise it by distributing it to the district heating network.
  • The production plant will generate 5 megawatts (MW) of power in the demo phase. The capacity is due to be increased in the future, with commercial-scale plant as the next step.