Visions of Tomorrow – Engineered Today

Green Ammonia – the needed solution to combat climate change?

Author Heidi Käkelä
Posted on

Russia’s attack war against Ukraine has spurred developments in the European energy mix that took most of us by surprise. Therefore, the need to move forward with the plans for a green hydrogen-based economy is now more crucial than ever. Green ammonia is among the best solutions for a speedy transition to the carbon-neutral Europe. It is economically feasible and its combustion contributes directly to carbon-neutrality targets. The most promising future destinations for ammonia include its use as marine fuel.


It is touted as the solution to cutting emissions from shipping. It is said to be one of the only scalable fuels able to achieve the reduction targets of the Paris Agreement. It is set to be built on a multiple hundred megawatt scale in Oman, Australia, Portugal and India. It is not hydrogen – but it could well be.

At the face of it, ammonia is a relatively strange alternative for climate-friendly technology. In the European Union, 35 metric megatons of GHG emissions stem from the fertilizer industry, where the production of ammonia accounts for the vast majority, approximately 30 Mt. Most of these emissions are due to the production of gray hydrogen through Steam Methane Reformation (SMR), which is an essential part of the Haber-Bosch process, the foremost method of ammonia production globally.

The global average emission factor for ammonia production is around 2,6 tons of CO2 per ton NH3  making it one of the more emission-intensive chemical production processes today. Since approximately 1,8 percent or 500 million metric tons of the world’s total CO2 emissions are caused by ammonia production, the reductions attained through greening the process are not insignificant. They might be a central way to make large parts of the world economy carbon neutral.

From gray to green ammonia

The easiest way to make ammonia green is to plug the conventional technology for its production, the Haber-Bosch process, into a source of green hydrogen, which cuts away the GHG emissions from its production process completely. As the production process for the hydrogen determines the environmental friendliness of the ammonia production process, the color spectrum used to denote potential technologies is the same: gray, blue, turquoise, yellow, pink and green.

Blue and turquoise hydrogen production are carbon-neutral applications of the Haber-Bosch reaction, particularly the SMR process, by which the hydrogen needed for ammonia synthesis is separated from natural gas and the carbon is reacted with oxygen to form carbon dioxide. Yellow, pink and green hydrogen, on the other hand, rely on electrolysis to produce hydrogen with the help of an electrified membrane. While yellow hydrogen is made with electricity from the grid and pink hydrogen is made with the help of nuclear energy, green hydrogen is produced with renewable energy, making it emission-free.


The most promising future destinations for ammonia include its use as marine fuel, which would allow for significant and rapid emission reductions in a field of strategic importance and high emission-intensity.

Ammonia is used widely in industrial applications around the world

Ammonia is used for a number of important applications world-wide, although perhaps none so important than the production of fertilizers. Ammonia, nitric acid, phosphorus, calcium nitrate and potassium are among the most important additive sources of plant nutrition today, forming an array that has allowed for gains in agricultural yields supporting human culture and society as we know it. Beyond them, ammonia has a variety of other important uses in applications such as a refrigerant, a key ingredient in many plastics and dyes, as well as in NOx emission control through the SCR process.

The most promising future destinations for ammonia include its use as marine fuel, which would allow for significant and rapid emission reductions in yet another field of strategic importance and high emission-intensity, since marine shipping today accounts for 3 percent of the world’s GHG emissions. Although much remains to be done, ships and engines are being both retrofitted and redesigned globally to contend with the 2018 pledge of the IMO and the shipping community to reduce shipping GHG emissions by 50 percent by 2050.

Solutions planned to be implemented before mid-2020’s include both fully ammonia-powered engines and LNG engines retrofitted for ammonia use, which will grow the demand for ammonia in a global market further. One example is the concept developed by Elomatic (ARLFV), which allows the LNG-fueled vessel to be converted to ammonia-powered at a minimum cost once green ammonia is available.

Market analysts have predicted that the value of the ammonia market is set to grow from nigh on USD 72 billion in 2021 to over 110 billion by 2028, spurred particularly by population growth in East Asia. In the future, green ammonia may be used even more broadly.


Figure: World population with and without synthetic nitrogen fertilizers

World population with and without synthetic nitrogen fertilizers

Green ammonia allows a rapid transition into a hydrogen economy

Green ammonia has, at least in the short and medium run, benefits that make it a good companion to hydrogen. Perhaps the most obvious of these is its economic feasibility. While the winnings from emission cutbacks accrue from transforming the hydrogen production process, hydrogen itself is notoriously difficult to store for long periods. As the world’s smallest molecule, it permeates tanks and pipelines at the rapid rate of approximately 1 percent/day. These features in the composition of the hydrogen molecule make it necessary for produced hydrogen to have a carrier in order to be feasible for global supply chains. Today, the most central suggestions for these carriers are synthetic methane and liquid fuels, produced from captured carbon dioxide, and green ammonia.

The benefits of green ammonia vis-à-vis its competitors are, on the one hand, its relatively quick ability to reach price parity with gray ammonia and, on the other hand, its lack of carbon. The price of ammonia is strongly tied to the availability of affordable natural gas, which has been subject to a volley of shocks since 2020, including two prolonged winters, one destructive hurricane season, high competition for LNG in Asia and sub-par electricity generation from hydropower in Europe and the US – in addition to the uncertainties posed by the global pandemic. A volatile and high market price and a steadily tightening regulation against the use of methane as an alternative to other fossil fuels are, at least presently, allowing green ammonia to bridge the gap to its fossil alternative sooner.

Perhaps more importantly, however, ammonia is a wholly carbon-free alternative for both a fuel and a hydrogen carrier, which allows its combustion to contribute directly to carbon-neutrality targets that fix many of the parameters of business today and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. It is perhaps no wonder that many of the largest green hydrogen projects on a global scale already include capacities for ammonia conversion, such as the 600 MW project by Meridian Energy in New Zealand, Yara’s multiple projects in Norway and the H2 Magallanes project in southern Chile.


Due to both the price and the scarcity of natural gas, global interest in green ammonia abounds and attracts cooperation between companies in the European Union.

The Nordics have a lot to offer to green ammonia production

Although Finland has not published a separate hydrogen strategy, opting instead to include hydrogen as a part of its overall energy strategy, there are many advantages to basing hydrogen and ammonia production domestically. Some of these are obvious, such as the highly competitive price of electricity, the strong electricity infrastructure, and the ambitious goals for wind power production capacity, which will chase 5000 MW by the end of 2022, and 10 000 MW by 2025. Others are more idiosyncratic, such as the option to recover waste heat from the electrolysis process to be injected into Finland’s sprawling district heating networks or the ready availability of clean water.

The capacity of Finland, and of other northern European states, to drastically reduce the emissions and consequently the economic risks of ammonia production also has impacts on the security of supply in Europe. Hydrogen and ammonia production in the European states has relied strongly on the availability of Russian natural gas, which has long been an energy security issue and has, since February 2022, become the sign of an era of world politics headed steadily for obsolescence. The European Union and its member states must now restructure their ammonia demand to contend either with a hopefully less volatile supply of methane from China, India or the US – or they must concentrate on new, domestic production that is better shielded from international crises altogether.

Global interest has arisen

Due to both the price and the scarcity of natural gas, global interest in green ammonia abounds and attracts cooperation between companies in the European Union, as well. A number of significant investments are being planned in combining hydrogen and ammonia production, such as the ACE Terminal project, whose plans were recently announced for Rotterdam port by a Dutch consortium.

The terminal will be central to the port’s efforts to offer a large-scale hydrogen network at Maasvlakte, including green and blue hydrogen and ammonia availability from companies such as Uniper, Horisont Energi and Chariot – tying together projects on two continents at the center of Europe. Concentrating the trading of ammonia in Europe at Rotterdam will be a clear step in the direction of establishing open markets.

The window for joining in this development is wide open for Finland and for the other Nordic states, and it will likely allow us to transition to a carbon-neutral economy sooner than other synthetic fuels will. Boosting the creation of a hydrogen-based economy through ammonia comes recommended not only by its financial benefits, but also by the very real concerns over the security of supply exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.

Smelly old ammonia may be a strange recruit in the fight against global climate catastrophe, but it is a readily available one – and we could stand to win some time.

Heidi Käkelä

M.A. Anthropology
(B.Eng. Energy Technology)

Heidi is an environmental anthropologist and energy engineer. Before dunking her foot into STEM, she worked as a researcher studying community responses and disaster reconstruction in the Caribbean, Australia Pacific and Asia, and as an educator in Finland. She is part of Elomatic’s International Finance Institutions (IFI) team, which provides engineering expertise for large international development projects, particularly in Central and East Asia as well as Ukraine. She also goes spelunking in EU regulations and funding.

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How secure is our energy supply?

Author Anssi Nevalainen
Posted on

As we struggle to find our way out of fossil-based fuels, the need for sustainable electricity grows day by day. But there are still challenges in low-carbon energy production, particularly with energy distribution and high investment costs. The cyclical nature of renewable energy sources also calls for new solutions such as power-to-x technologies. Before making an expensive investment, it is wise to explore other options for reducing energy usage and timely balancing of the electrical grid. The potential for energy and material efficiency should not be overlooked.


De-carbonization and net-positivity of energy production have been in the spotlight as cornerstones of sustainable development for a long time now. To reach global goals, significant measures must be taken at the roots of energy production. In other words, commonly used fossil fuels must be replaced with sustainable renewable energy sources at a swift pace. But this is not an easy task – usage of low-carbon energy production has its own problems, such as energy distribution and high investment costs further down the road.

Sustainable development goals must be pursued from the consumption side as well. In a nutshell, this would mean that if primary energy usage can be lowered comprehensively and timely consumption better rationalized, the need for sustainable or fossil-based energy is lower.

As part of de-carbonization, I must also mention material efficiency in this context. Material efficiency, such as the efficient use of raw materials, has the same goal of achieving sustainable development. The more efficient the usage of (especially virgin) material, the less energy is used and the lower the burden caused on the environment in the whole value chain.

In pursuit of the sustainable future, enterprises gain savings and improve their competitiveness in the global marketplace. Especially in the current global economy, the energy-intensive manufacturing industry faces significant challenges. For the same reasons, material costs are rising; after all, processing of raw materials is highly energy-intensive in many fields. Together these costs make it difficult to predict cost structures and may reduce the profitability of enterprises in the extreme.

Finland’s energy security will improve with the use of wind power

The total energy consumption in Finland was 1,277,041 GJ in 2021, of which 30% was fossil fuels. There are no coal, oil, or natural gas reservoirs inside Finnish borders, so all the fossil fuels must be imported from outside. Approximately half of the energy used in Finland was imported, and about 60% of imports came from Russia.

In addition, nuclear fuel is being imported, so its supply is not fully secured – although current fuel supply can last for several months or even a year, and more can be bought from many OECD countries. Furthermore, profitable Russian wood has been widely used in Finnish energy production, but it is said that it would not be a problem in terms of energy security, even if imports came to a complete halt.

Completely self-sufficient energy sources are biomass (wood and biogas), hydro, wind, and solar. The capacity of hydro power cannot be increased, but the production of wind power in particular will increase in the future. Solar power is currently very minor in the whole picture, but technological advances may increase interest and growth in the future.


Table: Energy sources in Finland
Energy Source Energy


Percentage [%]
Wood 355,404 28%
Hydro 56,410 4%
Wind 28,577 2%
Other renewables 62,085 5%
Oil 267,428 21%
Coal 70,363 6%
Natural gas 74,586 6%
Other fossil fuels 11,440 1%
Peat 43,116 3%
Nuclear 243,864 19%
Electricity import 54,377 4%
Other sources 9,391 1%
Total Usage 1,277,041 100%

Sustainable electricity is the way to the sustainable future

In general, if the production and use of electricity are in balance in the electrical grid, the grid functions smoothly. The growing capacity of renewable energy production tends to complicate this because of the cyclical nature of renewable power sources. Wind power is available only in the right wind conditions and solar power accumulates during the daylight hours. Wood-based fuels and nuclear are good for base load production but the latter in particular is poor for power regulating. Hydro can be used as a power regulator, but the existing capacity is not even close to the required capability.

Thus, as the amount of wind and solar power will grow in the future, the challenges of grid power balance management are getting harder. Fingrid has accumulated the light fuel oil-based power regulating capacity of over 900 MW, and even today some of this capacity is needed for the grid power balance management and sometimes to overcome larger failures.

Hopefully, these problems can be solved in the future with different energy accumulation technologies. Currently electricity can be stored in batteries, for example, but the price of large-scale battery storages is high, and they need significant amounts of rare metals. For the battery technology to be the answer for the energy storage problems, we need new technological advancements in the field.

There are also many kinds of power-to-x technologies such as water reservoirs, pressurized air, mechanical solutions and hydrogen, to name a few. These technologies use surplus electricity and convert its form for later use. Also, heat pumps are getting more and more attention, and even old tech such as electric boilers can be used for energy reservoir if it is used for heating water during surplus times. Common to all these technologies is the need for electricity to get the work done.

Energy and material audits are a good way to improve energy efficiency

All the energy conversion, storing and new tech for the sustainable future has investment costs and restrictions involved, so before investing in expensive technologies, it is wise to explore other options for reducing energy usage and timely balancing of the electrical grid to minimize future costs. To reach these goals, it is worth considering the possibilities offered by energy and material efficiency.

To find all the saving potentials, energy and material efficiency should be refined by the local personnel continuously. However, it is known that you can be blind in your everyday environment. There might also be known potentials but not enough time and personnel to report them for the decision making. In this case, it might be worthwhile to hire an external consultant who sees things from a different perspective and has time to calculate savings, investment costs, and pay-back times for the saving potentials found.

Energy audits have a long history, while material audits are relatively new. It could be beneficial for the company to begin their sustainable future from an energy audit and continue development with a material audit to find synergy between them.

Energy audits can be done in several ways:

  • Voluntary site surveys (consultancy commission)
  • A site survey for mandatory energy audit of large enterprises
  • Energy audits by Motiva, for example. Energy audits for industry or process industry, or a new precision audit model

Material audits follow the MFCA method (Material Flow Cost Accounting) described in standard (ISO14051). They can be done by a consultant following guidelines made by Motiva and subsidized by Business Finland. This material audit model scales up from one production line to a factory scale focusing on material, energy, manpower, and other costs throughout the process. The factory personnel are then involved in finding the best solutions to the saving potentials found, and at the end of the audit, changes can start to happen.

Demand-side management is an important part of secured energy supply

Demand-side management is another way of reducing energy usage and timely balancing of the electrical grid. It means shifting electricity consumption from hours of high demand and price to a more affordable time, or temporarily adjusting consumption for power balance management.

In Finland, the balancing markets for demand-side management and electricity reservoirs are maintained by Fingrid together with other Nordic transmission system operators. They offer financial compensation for the participating supplier on the market. Basically, anyone can be a supplier if they meet the technical requirements, marketplace requirements, and Fingrid’s supplier code of conduct.

A large operator can be a sole provider for the market, and smaller supplies (for example small manufacturing and domestic users) can be gathered to form a larger reservoir by a Balancing Service Provider like electricity suppliers. Balancing service providers and reserve product can be found on Fingrid’s website.

Increasing demand-side management not only benefits suppliers financially but also alleviates future investment needs for the sustainable electrical infrastructure, as it cuts down peak demand, utilizes surplus electricity, and lowers electricity prices overall.

Anssi Nevalainen

Senior Design Engineer
B.Eng. of Process Engineering

Anssi has been working on energy and material efficiency for several years. Anssi’s passion is focused on finding the best solutions for energy and material savings for the sustainable future, and he has strong and ever-growing expertise in his field of industrial efficiency.

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The end of combustion – a happy ending?

Author Sebastian Kankkonen
Posted on

We have many reasons to change our energy consumption behavior and replace fossil fuels. However, even alternative energy sources have their drawbacks. Hydrogen is a hot topic, but its large-scale production and storage pose challenges. That is why we must also consider the potential for energy savings. By optimizing any industrial process to be more efficient, it is possible to save both energy and costs.


For several centuries, centralized energy production has relied heavily on combustion alone. The heating of households has been done by means of combustion for thousands of years. One turning point for the combustion that we can remember was the oil crisis in the early 1970’s when the world realized that the resources are not infinite, and the oil price soared.

There are several reasons to reconsider our energy use

Oil, along with other fossil fuels such as coal and gas, have been the cornerstone of energy production and transportation for all of us. Several mechanisms have been making us all rethink and change our energy consumption behavior.

Firstly, the cost mechanism with rising fuel prices made us start saving energy which decreased combustion. Then later, environmental regulations became more stringent and further decreased combustion of especially solid fuels. The advances in combustion technology have luckily compensated much.

In recent months, political unrest and the war in Ukraine have made us think about where the combustibles are coming from, and sanctions could be imposed to further decrease combustion of fossil fuels.

We do have several alternatives

Some of our alternatives have more obvious downsides than others. The combustion of biomass is still considered to be approvable; the coal cycle of wood-based fuels just circulates faster. Still, we do have other pollutants to the air than CO2, but they could to a certain degree be reduced by emission control equipment such as scrubbers and filters.

Nuclear energy is a source without CO2 emissions and does not generate emissions to the air. However, various events and technical design flaws have shown us in the past that nuclear energy is not a problem-free solution. The latest nuclear power plants have much more intense safety protocols to prevent nuclear catastrophes from occurring.

Alternative energy sources also have their downsides

Renewables, like water, solar or wind power, are emission-free energy sources. Even they have downsides, since they do affect nature by causing obstacles or barriers for other animals like fish or birds.

Geothermal projects have in general been an environmentally friendly way of producing energy. On a larger scale, they have reportedly generated unrest of the bedrock. Heat pumps are not generating energy from nothing either. Both are a source of heat energy but are also consuming electrical energy of higher exergy.

The challenges of hydrogen are related to production scales and storage

Hydrogen is a very hot topic today. If you are starting to see the pattern of my article you might expect me to start talking about the Zeppelin Hindenburg now. You are wrong. The challenge with hydrogen lies with the large-scale production and storage facilities.

Traditionally hydrogen production and consumption have been smaller scale applications and have been operating without problems for more than a century. There is no sense in producing hydrogen from other viable energy sources just for the sake of hydrogen production. We need to see the big picture.

There is a unique solution for each process

The one alternative left is the most obvious one. Saving energy. By optimizing any industrial process to be more efficient, we can save energy and save costs. In some cases, we can generate heat and recover it in an efficient way.

There is no quick fix, nor is there a single solution. Every client has their unique processes and challenges, and our task at Elomatic is to understand our client and to give them the solution that is the best for them.

Only then can we justify our existence. And maybe save the planet as well.

Sebastian Kankkonen

M.Sc. (Energy Technology)

Sebastian Kankkonen graduated from Helsinki University of Technology in 1997. Throughout his career he has worked with forest industry, process industry and energy projects in particular with combusting of a broad range of fuels including process design, modelling and procurement of equipment. Sebastian joined Elomatic in 2010 and works now as a Leading Expert focusing on sales.

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WAAM printing by ANDRITZ Savonlinna Works Oy

Fast developing 3D printing is one solution to component shortage

Authors Teemu Launis, Martti Tryyki
Posted on

3D printing as technology is young and relatively unknown, which is why it isn’t yet fully utilized. The method is, however, developing at a fast pace and should not be ignored, even in the light of component shortage. The biggest challenge we see is that the potential of the method is not yet sufficiently understood. At its best, 3D printing can reform your entire business, when you can print products and spare parts fast and near the user.

Mass production of 3D prints is already an everyday thing. However, the technology is hampered by the lack of standardization and different manufacturing process compared to traditional manufacturing methods. The biggest challenge for the widespread usage of 3D printing is that people don’t quite understand what kind of possibilities the manufacturing method can offer.

When you can print objects easily and take the product lifecycle into account from the design stage, your entire business will revolutionize – All of a sudden, you can manufacture locally the parts that used to be transported from further away. Additionally, the maintenance and delivery of spare parts becomes faster, and they can even be carried out on site. And this will naturally affect your whole business logic.

3D printing makes objects lighter and brings savings

One of the great things about 3D printing is that it gives you the freedom to determine the exact location of the material used. This saves material compared to machining or casting, as you can optimize the 3D printable parts to best suit the application. The method also makes it possible to combine multiple parts into a single object. This reduces the need for assembly and the number of items.

The more you simulate the object and understand the potential of the manufacturing process, the more you reduce material consumption and the more cost-effective manufacturing becomes. The key is to make use of the possibilities that 3D printing can provide you in designing.

Best of all, when the object becomes lighter, it usually brings savings to your customer as well. For example, the lighter you can make the boom of a forestry machine, the less energy it takes to move it. Alternatively, they can use this saved energy to increase capacity. It is also easier to control the movements of a lightweight structure.

Towards more energy efficient solutions

3D printing also allows the optimization of objects that have internal flow systems. This is very useful, for example, in designing cooling and heating, when you can optimize heat transfer by using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD).

Additionally, you can manufacture even more challenging objects. For example, you can create holes and channels inside an object that cannot be made by drilling or casting. By first defining the interfaces, the required materials, and their mechanical properties, you can then print the optimized object.

Batch production of 3D printing is also suitable for small parts, which can be produced in dozens or even hundreds in a single run. However, the object must always be designed for printing, the same way you design an object to be casted.

Even large objects can be printed

In Finland, a project called DREAMS, led by DIMECC, was launched this spring. Its object is to create an open material database for 3D metal printing. The database will make up for the lack of industry standards and facilitate the use of 3D printing for the most demanding applications. The DREAMS project is financed by Business Finland and it is part of the FAME ecosystem.

The project involves a large number of Finnish research institutes and companies. Elomatic is also participating in the development of WAAM printing (Wire and Arc Additive Manufacturing). In WAAM printing, a robot welds structures layer by layer. This way it is possible to print even large metal objects, and the size is not a restraint unlike when printing with an AM machine. The method can even be used to manufacture rocket fuel tanks!

3D printing methods can bring relief, especially in times of crisis when importing parts becomes a bottleneck: when it is enough that information is moving, objects can be quickly sub-manufactured domestically. Another advantage of WAAM printing is that the material used is welding wire, which is easier to import to Finland than, for example, steel sheets.

Want to know how to multiply the benefits of 3D printing? Learn how 3D scanning supports 3D printing >>

Teemu Launis

Vice President, Sales
Mechanical Engineering Services

Teemu Launis has worked in mechanical engineering projects in various positions from designer to project manager. He is one of Elomatic’s representatives in the Finnish Additive Manufacturing Ecosystem. In 2010, Teemu set up Elomatic’s Tampere office. He is currently working in sales of Elomatic’s mechanical engineering services.

Martti Tryyki

Design Manager, Mechanical Engineering

Martti Tryyki started his career in 2000 at the University of Oulu. In 2012, he seized the opportunity to work as Design Manager in Elomatic's Shanghai office, and two years later he continued his work in Finland. His main interests are tailor-made test machine projects, vast utilization of Elomatic’s R&D services, and development of the engineering skills of his group.

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Biogas is a climate friendly solution that Finland now needs

Author Teemu Turunen
Posted on

The war in Ukraine has led to a situation where we should be able to move away from Russian natural gas on short notice. Biogas is the quickest sustainable alternative, as its implementation does not require drastic changes to the existing infrastructure. Biogas is also an environmentally friendly solution: it can help reduce greenhouse gases, promote the circular economy, and close nutrient cycling loops. However, the availability of biogas is limited and investments are required in its production.

The war in Ukraine has driven Europe into an energy crisis, in which the availability of natural gas plays a key role in Central Europe. In some European countries, the share of Russian imported natural gas makes up nearly a sixth of the country’s total energy consumption, which makes it hard to move away from.

The situation in Finland is less critical, as the corresponding share here is less than three percent. Currently, roughly half of natural gas goes into the industrial sector and half into electricity and heat production, where it is possible to replace it with tanker-imported LNG, wood, coal, and peat.

However, it is important to remember the sustainability aspect: while replacing natural gas with another fossil fuel may be a temporary solution to an acute crisis, the direction must clearly be toward a more sustainable transition.

The situation is challenging for industrial undertakings

Moving away from natural gas may require significant technological investments from industrial undertakings, and these can be difficult to implement on short notice. One possible solution would be electrification, where the industrial processes that use natural gas would be replaced with processes that use electricity instead. In practical terms, this can be done with direct electrification using electric boilers or, for example, replacing industrial gas furnaces with electrical ones.

In some cases, it is also possible to use indirect electrification, where heat pumps and electrical resistance used for priming play a central role.

The easiest way to replace natural gas is by using biogas. This way, the changes to the existing infrastructure are small. However, in our acute situation, the availability of biogas is limited and investments are required in its production. Let’s take a closer look into what these investments could be in Finland’s case.

Biogas projects require public support

In our current situation, various elements are required to support biogas projects, one of which is the act on promoting the use of renewable energy sources in transport that entered into force in 2022. In the legislation, biogas becomes part of the must-carry obligation with set limitations.

At the time of writing this text, a change in the legislation has been proposed, where increasing the share of the must-carry obligation is postponed. It is important to note that this proposal does not seek to change the additional obligation for advanced biofuels and biogas. This is a good direction, and we hope the round of statements sees the approval of the proposal as is.

The state should support biogas projects also through other means, such as by clarifying and harmonizing subsidies for operators. This would make it easier for smaller operators to plan projects and implement cooperation projects with multiple operators collaborating. Various benefit-based financial instruments where the price of the subsidy is tied to the environmental gain from the project would make it easier to get projects started.

Tax-related decisions also play a role

Tax-related decisions play their part with regard to the profitability of projects and the market development. From the perspective of biogas, the excise tax and electricity tax are relevant.

At the start of 2022, the legislation made biogas a fuel subject to the excise tax, with the exception of biogas used for heating, which was classified as sustainable. Producers of biogas need to have a sustainability system approved by the Energy Authority in place in order for the gas to be classified as sustainable and therefore tax-free. In other cases, gas is subject to the full excise tax for biogas, also when used for heating.

With regard to the electricity tax, the industrial production of recycled materials and processing afford operators with energy tax subsidy, as in practice electricity used by these factories belongs in the electricity tax class II. As for biogas, the interpretation remains somewhat unclear, but the lower tax class naturally affects the profitability of the factories.

Tools of direction need to account for predictability

We also need to remember that, at some point, the limited production of biogas may need to be directed where its use produces the greatest benefit and most significant environmental effects. We need to carefully consider these direction tools and communicate in a predictable manner to help operators adapt to the changing situation.

In general, all the direction tools of the state need to account for predictability. This way, there is no need for the operators to hesitate to drive their projects forward. In addition, the state should attempt to streamline the permit process and clarify the financing and subsidy concepts.

The attractiveness of the biogas sector should be promoted

As investing in clean solutions is seen as a central risk management tool in the financing market, the circular economy and the production projects for renewable energy sources are currently highly interesting as potential investments. This development can be expected to be highlighted especially with regard to biogas, as it can be used to influence various areas of sustainability: reducing greenhouse gases, promoting the circular economy and closing nutrient cycling loops.

However, it is important to remember investors inspect opportunities from a holistic perspective in relation to other potential investments. Therefore, we should seek to promote the attractiveness of the biogas industry as a potential investment.

The Finnish biogas market is still developing

In 2020, the production of bio methane in Finland was approximately 110 GWh, and the production of biogas was approximately 768 GWh (total sum corresponds to roughly 3.5 percent of natural gas use in Finland). At the time, there were around 79 reactor plants. In addition, bio methane was processed in 21 plants.

It is worth noting that the market sees the sector divided between one strong operator in Gasum and heterogenous smaller operators, with a focus on promoting individual projects. This division may in part reduce the interest of investors toward projects in the sector.

Especially with regard to smaller projects, the technological risks and business risks are highlighted, which is reflected in financing for the projects.

The environmental perspective of biogas should be emphasized

State action has its own significance in promoting financing opportunities, but the development of the biogas industry’s visibility and image is just as important. Farm-scale opportunities have yet to come up in any large capacity in the public debate.

In Finland, the image has been influenced by past technology producers’ technical and financial challenges, which have ultimately resulted in bankruptcy and several unfinished factory projects. However, new players have entered the sector and the number of ongoing projects has increased.

Now would be the opportune moment to develop the public image of the sector as, in the industrial sector, many operators would like to utilize biogas as part of the process of moving away from natural gas. On the other hand, securing the viability and security of supply in the agricultural sector have become ever more important themes following the war in Ukraine. Therefore, the environmental perspective of biogas should be further emphasized in the public debate.

Cooperation will play a key role in the future

The technological side of the sector has been characterized by relatively small operators whose limited resources have not easily allowed for the development of scalable technologies. For this reason, there is clearly room for technological suppliers in the sector who can implement large-scale projects.

On its part, technological development is limited by the lack of competence both on the side of project operators and the authorities. It is worth noting that the production of biogas requires interdisciplinary competence. For example, the heterogeneity of raw materials has affected technological reproducibility and scalability.

In a typical project, competence is required from biology, design, and logistics to financing and profitability. For this reason, it is especially important to “projectify” the whole as part of more extensive ecosystems and cooperation networks.

The roe of the biogas sector as part of the energy system

What is the role of the biogas sector in the future? It is hard to give a definitive answer, but it is my belief that in the short term it will be a significant operator regarding the move away from fossil fuels. According to different scenarios, the need for biogas was estimated at 4–11 TWh before the war in Ukraine, and the ongoing crisis works to speed up this development.

Following the resolution of the acute situation, the focus will presumably move more on the expansion of the use of biogas and mapping new ways to use it. The security of supply perspective will be one that will promote the expansion of the use of biogas and will pave the way for more versatile use of gases both in transport and the industrial sector.

I believe that, in the future, we will be using synthetic methane, bio methane, biogas and hydrogen, which will also open new doors for other electricity-based fuels and solutions in the hydrogen economy.

Learn how to improve the profitability of biogas projects >>

Teemu Turunen

Phil. Lic. (Env. Science)

Teemu Turunen has extensive experience in energy and process consulting in several industries. He currently works as Business Development Director in the energy and process business area. His focus is to lead the development of sustainable solutions for future needs.

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How to improve the profitability of biogas projects?

Author Teemu Turunen
Posted on

In order to improve the profitability of biogas projects, it is important to develop the entire production value chain. The end product should meet an adequate degree of refinement, and a market should be found for the process side products. Increasing the size of a project usually improves overall profitability, in addition to which the location of the factory plays a significant role. It is important to note that most of the ways to affect the profitability of operations can only be utilized at the design stage.

The profitability aspect of biogas projects has proven to be challenging despite various forms of support having been available. Developing the entire value chain plays a key role in promoting the profitability of projects. In practice, this means development with regard to both raw materials and end products.

Developing the end product market plays a central role: the end product should meet an adequate degree of refinement based on the need, and a market should be found for the process side products, such as digested sludge.

For instance, at the farm scale, the leftovers from the digestion of manure-based biogas can be processed into recycled fertilizer, which could be used to replace manure in the fields. The benefits of recycled fertilizer are smaller rates of phosphorus washouts in the waters as well as the type of nitrogen, which plants can more effectively use.

The current problem is that spreading manure directly in the field is more profitable for the farmer, as the recycled fertilizer market is still developing. The development of the market calls for clearer legislation, new research, and active operators in the market.

Factory location and project size play a key role

The profitability of biogas projects is greatly influenced by the location of the factory, which contributes both to the profitability of the raw materials and the end product logistics. A suitable industrial-scale user of biogas who commits to purchasing the end products of the factory in the area can also positively affect the convenience of the location.

Both with regard to small- and large-scale production, increasing the size of the project usually improves profitability on the whole. In practical terms, at the smaller scale, this means joint projects between several farms, and at the larger scale, the involvement of notable industrial operators in the projects.

The food sector in particular has been active with projects as of late. For example, Valio has started developing a carbon-neutral milk chain in cooperation with its producers. The involvement of industrial-scale operators usually also increases the interest of investors toward the projects.

The project should be developed with a focus on the value chain

Projects can involve, for example

  • an industrial enterprise, who supplies the raw material
  • a consultant / design expert
  • a biogas plant operator
  • an operator who purchases the main product and
  • a possible operator who processes the side products.

In this case, the project is developed with a focus on the value chain, which makes it possible to demonstrate the benefits more comprehensively.

One possible developmental direction is for individual projects to be compiled as part of a more extensive project portfolio at as early a stage as possible. Such a model would call for an operator who would focus on the subject, be responsible for the development of the project, construction, or maintenance as well as the coordination of financing. The operator could possibly also take the role of owner.

Thereby, individual projects would gain access to the operator’s competence, which in turn would speed up the start of the projects and reduce the financial risk as a result.

Profitability is largely determined in the planning phase

On one hand, the profitability of the projects can be influenced through technological development and, on the other hand, by seeking to account for the use of the factory already in the planning phase. Biogas plant technology is constantly developing, and as efficient and scalable technologies become available on the market, the profitability of the projects is improved both through decreased investment costs and more efficient operations.

It is important to note that most of the ways to affect the profitability of operations can only be utilized at the design stage. Due to this, it is important to sufficiently make use of available or external expertise in the planning phase.

Are you planning to launch a biogas project? Contact our experts >>

Teemu Turunen

Phil. Lic. (Env. Science)

Teemu Turunen has extensive experience in energy and process consulting in several industries. He currently works as Business Development Director in the energy and process business area. His focus is to lead the development of sustainable solutions for future needs.

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Ammonia fuel for carbon-free shipping?

Author Mika Vuorinen
Posted on

The maritime industry often ranks high when comparing global greenhouse gas emitters. But when measured by tonnage of transported goods, the benefit of the global shipping industry becomes even more apparent. Energy demands on the maritime sector require a bunker fuel to store energy for long periods of time in order to move the vessel and sustain the people onboard. Alternative fuels are one method to decrease the reliance on fossil fuels and to cut emissions. Low-carbon fuels can motivate growth and bring new opportunities to the maritime industry ranging from shipyards to component manufacturing, bringing a green transition to the business.

The industry’s development is not waiting for new technologies to make a breakthrough on the energy utilization front. Fuel cells, solid-state batteries and small modular nuclear reactors will have a major impact once the technologies have been proven reliable, but in the meantime the transition away

from fossil fuels is already taking place at an accelerating pace and the preparations for future implementation have already started. To fully utilize a vessel over its lifetime, a newbuild ship in the 2020s should be designed to allow a simple transition to adapt to more energy efficient technologies and evolving regulations. The initial step towards the goal here is to concentrate on the energy carrier on board the vessel, beyond natural gas.

In June 2021, I wrote an article discussing the necessary steps towards the utilization of hydrogen as a bunker fuel and the lifecycle emissions of hydrogen production. To recap, hydrogen as an energy carrier for maritime use is the first step towards a carbon-free maritime sector. An economically viable leap towards a hydrogen-economy requires production of hydrogen from purely renewable energy sources and rapid transition from natural gas-based grey hydrogen and carbon capture-proposed blue hydrogen to green hydrogen. Relying on grey and blue hydrogen as the main source of hydrogen will affect the end-goal and can lead to a higher environmental load than the utilization of the initial source-fuel. Hydrogen gas and liquid are especially challenging to store, and alternative ways to store hydrogen are being actively sought.

The pivotal role of green hydrogen in the transition away from fossil fuels is in finding a sustainable way to store and transport it. Discussions today on which fuel will become the dominant energy carrier in the maritime sector varies between different fuels, and subjectively the prime candidates are ammonia and methanol. Both chemicals have well established infrastructure and transportation chains, as well as multiple uses as fuels. But most importantly, both have a relatively simple synthetic production method from hydrogen. We may have to wait for a balance between these two to form over a decade or two, and meanwhile we will have to follow the debate between different camps promoting their own favorites and agendas. For this article I will be investigating ammonia, even though it comes a few years behind methanol regulation and in sense of maturity. But here I am all about reaching zero carbon emissions.


Ammonia fuel is taking a further step toward physical hydrogen storage and toward converting the hydrogen to ammonia, NH3, which in itself contains no carbon. As an energy carrier, ammonia is easier to store and more energy-dense than hydrogen, allowing more possibilities for maritime utilization. The annual production capacity of ammonia is close to 175 million tons, and new many ammonia plants have been planned and announced for the near future. All this ammonia is reserved for agricultural needs and the planned increase will serve the same purpose.

The current production method follows the Haber-Bosch process, which is the origin of the industrial production of ammonia and present fertilizers. Generally, the Haber-Bosch process takes methane from natural gas and nitrogen from the air, and with high temperatures and energy produces synthesis gas, which is further refined to separate hydrogen. The hydrogen and nitrogen produced are used to synthesize ammonia gas. The composition of ammonia, NH3, is one of its major perks as it does not contain any carbon. The result of its simplified combustion reaction is water and dinitrogen, N2. However, incomplete burning might result in N2O emissions, which is a nasty greenhouse gas and the amount needs to be next to nothing for viable ammonia burning process. For possible NOX emissions and NH3 slip, a catalysator unit (SCR) should be considered.

An alternative method to produce ammonia starts from hydrogen and the storage of that hydrogen as ammonia for later use. The method of processing dinitrogen from the air into ammonia electrochemically is already being developed by multiple parties, and with these parties the efficiency of this step seems to be the key to reaching a similar level of viability as the Haber-Bosch process. The key for ammonia replacing fossil fuels as a carbon-free alternative is the realization of hydrogen production through sustainable energy sources. Well-to-wake emissions from ammonia produced by the current method are even higher than burning the initial natural gas.

Haber Bosch Process To Synthesize Ammonia Simplified
Figure 1: Haber-Bosch process to synthesize ammonia simplified.


The storage of energy as ammonia is not the first step towards sustainable hydrogen production, but from a maritime point of view, the availability of a stable, easily liquefied bunker fuel is welcome. Ammonia is liquefied at favorable conditions of 10 bars at room temperature or at -33°C at atmospheric pressure. In its liquefied form, anhydrous ammonia energy density is still low in comparison to fuel oil, weighting almost 1.5 times more and claiming over 3.5 times the volume, but it is stable and ready to be stored for long periods of time. The most appealing aspect of ammonia as a fuel option is the zero-carbon aspect of the emissions. Zero-carbon emissions for ammonia as fuel in reality is only the simplified version, as there is more to ammonia fuel utilization.

Ammonia burns like wet wood. The poor flammability of ammonia in maritime use leads to the need for a pilot fuel, typically diesel, which unfortunately shatters the image of ammonia as a carbon-free fuel. The pilot fuel will first be the readily available diesel oil, but also bio-diesels, LNG and even hydrogen make good candidates. With low-speed two-stroke engines where ammonia intake is optimized, there will remain a need for a more flammable substance to ignite the fuel. With medium- and high-speed engines the pilot fuel alone is not enough, and a blend with another fuel for improved ignition properties is required. Under certain circumstances this might become beneficial if a more unstable fuel is blended with ammonia, reducing the risk of explosion and fire.

The second challenge on ammonia storage comes from its toxicity. Unlike other low-flashpoint fuels, ammonia gas is not that explosive but is rather toxic, starting from discomfort and irritation to long lasting and life-threatening effects at very low concentrations in air. To prevent contact with the crew, ammonia is classified similarly with low-flashpoint fuel gasses and requires similar caution in storage and handling. Most importantly, what is needed is detectors, ventilation and double walling and isolation on equipment processing ammonia.

Thirdly, as a weak base ammonia is a corrosive substance, leading to the need for special storage equipment. This means the avoidance of copper and nickel and to the need of special stainless steel. Luckily, storing ammonia is possible for half of current C-type tanks on the market. The issue repeats with fuel handling equipment, piping, pumps and seals which will cause limits to the system design. Handled with proper care as liquefied gas, ammonia has potential to be the fuel of the future, ensuring the availability of sustainable ammonia.

Engine manufacturers are carrying out ongoing progress on ammonia engine development and report a market-ready engine for 2024. These engines from manufacturers such as MAN, WinDG and Wärtsilä have invested in bringing a series of ammonia burning dual fuel engines for vessels of various purposes. The system setup between each manufacturer is unique even though the options on fuel supply and exhaust have the same elements. The main issues to solve are pure combustion to prevent N2O and NOX compounds and to optimize the ignition for different engine sets. All parties agree on the upcoming transition in bunker fuels starting from the 2020s.

Fuel transition forecast, DNV GL, Maritime Forecast 2050 (edited).
Figure 2: Fuel transition forecast, DNV GL, Maritime Forecast 2050 (edited).


Ammonia-ready vessels prepared for conversion are becoming increasingly more common as a basis for new vessels, rapidly capturing the share of LNG-powered vessels. As LNG will still be dominant alternative fuel for newbuilt ships, ammonia is a very interesting environmentally friendly option without the extra emissions from methane slip, to which LNG is prone to. Conversion to an ammonia will require drydocking and replacement on the fuel supply system and engine, and possibly tanks. Room for ammonia tanks is almost double from LNG equivalent, which is a major design aspect that potentially reduces the cargo capacity on a vessel. With innovative design and engineering, there are many options to adjust the fuel tanks inside and outside the vessel so the extra space requirement onboard will be negated and a new generation of ships may surface.

Aside from being used for agriculture, the availability of ammonia for fuel has the same issue as hydrogen: awaiting a green hydrogen supply to make it feasible fuel option. Regardless, the upcoming regulations in the international maritime field on lowering emissions are driving the development of shipping towards less emissions. Even with the current method of providing ammonia being less beneficial in well-to-wake emissions in comparison to natural gas and oil, the engineering today will pave the way for rapid progress towards vessels emitting even less greenhouse gasses. The days of carbon-free shipping are within our reach, and the industry is prepared.

Mika Vuorinen

Senior Design Engineer
(M.Sc. Mechanical Engineering)

Mika’s background is naval architecture
from University studies and
has 2 years of experience in project
work. His thesis covers hydrogen
economy and fuel cells in maritime
industry and has been working with
energy and machinery solutions for
ship conceptual projects with implication
of industry standard and
novel technologies. Mika has also
experience in ship general arrangement
and port operations. He has
worked as part of marine Life Cycle
solutions unit in Espoo since 2019.

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Ship simulation in rough seas

Author Teppo Aro
Posted on

The Elomatic technical analysis team has been developing and testing the methods for ship hydrodynamics simulation in rough seas.

The ships sail most of the time in wave conditions which differ from the specified promised speed test conditions. The calm sea conditions are closer to reality for very big ships, as typical wave conditions and their impact remain relatively small. However, for a ship scale with a length of 100m and under, the wave impact on ship behavior becomes more essential. To design ships of that length and meet real conditions with as high performance as possible, the computational dynamics should be used as much as for calm sea conditions.

Nowadays the ship hull form is usually optimized with Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) in calm water simulations. CFD optimization allow a huge number of alternatives to be simulated and tested during the process. These results are then factored into the other requirements to meet optimal solution for the ship design.

Estimating hull performance is an important part of the ship hull design process for any vessel type. It influences all design disciplines, so figuring out the main hull shape early on in the concept design stage is crucial. Ship design is highly interconnected, so changes in space reservations for ship functions can cause changes to hull main particulars, which in turn affect to the power requirements and so on.

Once the hull shape is optimized with CFD and other design work has been started, model tests are performed for the hull. Usually these contain all of the necessary tests to fully evaluate the hull. Hull performances are tested in calm water as well as in some of the most demanding sea conditions to check that the ship has met the requirements for motion, slamming and rolling. Based on these results, in practice only a few minor adjustments are available for hull modifications, as late changes to the design increase the cost and delay the schedule easily.

Development project

The development project included several stages starting from the literature study and test cases with simplified geometry, ending with a comparison of model scale measurements and simulations in rough sea conditions. In between, different sizes of vessels were tested and simulated in demanding circumstances to find the vessel size impact on the simulation results or behavior of the simulation models.

Floatable steel island

Elomatic’s innovation for a floatable island was chosen for the initial simulations. The island is located in shallow water with a fixed position, allowing a good starting point for rough seas calculations.

The simulation model was selected to serve our development work done for the islands, to get wave loads in realistic sea conditions.

Our calculation team’s main target was getting the simulation process to work decently and of course to get realistic wave conditions simulated and structure loads analyzed for the island in this case.

The visualizations derived from the simulation results match expectation well, supporting the impression that the model should be working as intended. The details detected in the animation made in post-processing show even small splashing observed in the figure captured from the animation. The island drag forces generated by the waves were in good agreement with literature values for a cylindrical obstacle. These are quite rough estimates, but they do show that the results are in the ballpark of what is expected.

Waves Hitting The Floatable Steel Island
Waves Hitting The Floatable Steel Island.

Model scale measurements vs full scale simulations and sea trial

Simulations were carried out for a 200-meter-long sea faring vessel. The vessel chosen is Superfast III (she has a sister ship, Superfast IV) which is a Ro-Pax-type vessel completed in 1998 in a Turku shipyard. A full hull model and Napa models were available for the simulation model, and MARIN’s model test reports for maneuvering, seakeeping and calm water were available to use for comparison as well as the observations from the sea trial (Published in Meyer Turku’s hydrodynamics training course 2016/ R. Hämäläinen). The vessel was simulated in both regular and irregular waves, with fore waves in both cases and two oblique directions in the regular waves.

The vessel has a wave-damping afterbody, which was a new type of design during its production. This meant that the model testing did not have a close match for a reference vessel, which in turn lead to an overly conservative estimate for the vessel’s top speed. In sea trials and in use the vessel managed about 2 knots higher top speed than predicted by model tests, but the motions and stability were within the predictions.

Several different wave lengths were simulated in regular wave cases, with a few different methods. Modeling self-propulsion with an actuator disc was found to be most suitable way for accurate results considering the computational resources needed. The simulation results with actuator disc were very well aligned with the model tests in vessel motions. More simplified methods were also tested. According to the results from these, they could be useful in some rough estimation studies because of the quicker run-through time.

A few irregular wave simulations were run to estimate the power requirement in different sea conditions. The wave-added resistance matched that of the model test closely, but with the calm water result aligning more closely to the sea trial corrected values. This means that the simulations could predict the performance in several sea states more accurately than the model test.

Vessel size impact to simulations

Rough sea condition simulations were run for the 100m patrol vessel and the 20m patrol boat, but only in regular waves. The simulation method was selected after several tests completed for the alternatives existing. The most promising method satisfied the reliability of the simulation but also kept the calculation time reasonable. A structural model existed for the 20m patrol boat providing an opportunity to combine structural simulation with fluid dynamics. The fluid structure interaction (FSI) allows detecting the highest loads contributed by the rough sea conditions to the boat structure. In an FSI model, the loads from the CFD solution are transferred as boundary conditions into the structural analysis, in which they can be used to analyze the fatigue and vibrations of the structure over a specific wave condition. The simulation method was found to work nicely giving reasonable results, however at the moment we would need to get proper data from measurements in similar conditions to evaluate the outcome of FSI simulations.

Response Amplitude Operators Calculated For Superfast III With Different Methods In Heave Direction
Response Amplitude Operators Calculated For Superfast III With Different Methods In Heave Direction.
Response Amplitude Operators Calculated For Superfast III With Different Methods For Pitching Angle
Response Amplitude Operators Calculated For Superfast III With Different Methods For Pitching Angle.
Hull resistance in calm sea and a single sea condition, comparing the model test, simulation and sea trial corrected values.
Hull resistance in calm sea and a single sea condition, comparing the model test, simulation and sea trial corrected values.


The simulations for ship hull shape optimization in real sea conditions is not a common practice yet, as big ships usually behave in a similar way in calm seas as they do in most typical wave conditions. For ship sizes below 100m, the wave impact becomes more important when optimizing the ship hull, when the ship movement increases.

In this R&D project, we found methods to provide a computationally effective way for simulating under-100m ships in realistic sea conditions. The sea conditions have impacts on the requirements of the ship hull forms, providing wave-contributed structural loads from the CFD simulation to be used in FEM analysis.

The comparison of Superfast performing in different sea conditions were in relatively good agreement with model tests. The max speed detected in sea trials was underestimated in model tests, while simulation results at full scale did not differ much from the observed speed.

This work has provided Elomatic great insight into the ship wave simulations, and in the future we can offer an array of new simulation products for our customers.

With these new tools, we can design better performing ships in a more effective way, with increased accuracy from sea conditions included in the modeling.


Teppo Aro

M.Eng. (Marine Technology)

Teppo has 7 years’ experience of working in fluid dynamics consulting. Experienced in a wide range of different types of simulation projects, covering everything from in-cylinder simulations for combustion engines, waste water simulations to polymer extrusions. His main focus is in marine simulations with emphasis on hydrodynamics and performance. Teppo joined Process Flow Solution in 2014, which was acquired by Elomatic in 2017. He currently holds the position of Consulting Engineer in Technical Analysis team.

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iReality3D: Mobile scanning – digitizing industry

Authors Niko Kuosmanen, Samu Sundberg
Posted on

The service solution iReality3D produced with mobile scanning boosts the maintenance, communication, security and modification management of your production sites in an agile way. The visual digital twin solution is available to you wherever you are, as long as you have an internet connection.

The benefits of laser scanning in generating initial data for modification planning have been undeniable for years. As technologies evolve, greyscale scanning is becoming a thing of the past and the visual presentation of data is becoming increasingly important. Today, collecting 360° HDR panoramic photos during colour laser scanning is commonplace, and there are already many good solutions for using the data.

The challenge in many user environments is the sensible handling, sharing and huge file sizes of collected data. In large projects, there can be up to several terabytes of laser-scanned material, and the simultaneous processing of such a large amount of material between several parties in real time is very challenging. Materials are often accessed from external hard drives that are under the control of specific users, and the sharing of materials between different parties in a project is not always smooth.

Data sharing and user management can now be solved with a cloud-based SaaS service, Elomatic iReality3D, which takes into account several different uses and user needs.

The comprehensive service is based on mobile on-site scanning and processing the material into a ready-to-use cloud service application. User rights and different user categories for various parties are created in the secure service according to need. Users do not have to download or manage heavy files on their own computers, as the material is directly available via the cloud service through a web browser.

Software As A Service Elomatic IReality3D
Software as a service (SaaS) cloud solution provides easy access for users world-wide requiring only an internet connection.

The scanning material traditionally collected with plant scanners is mainly used as initial data for modification planning. The more agile mobile scanning and service platform enable a wider range of uses during the completion and use of the site. It is also possible to include material produced with other scanning methods, such as plant scanning or drone mapping, in the service.


The mobile scanning solutions utilise SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping)-based technology, which was originally developed in the robotics industry and used in self-propelled vehicles. In SLAM technology, the algorithms continuously utilise information from sensors that scan the environment to determine the location of the device and map the environment.

SLAM technology enables fast and accurate 3D data collection and is particularly well suited for mapping complex spaces. SLAM technology works particularly well in spaces with a wide variety of shapes and environmental features. Many measurement algorithms can become confused in fully open spaces where there are not enough identifiable objects or they are identical or too similar. A long, open tunnel, aisle, or an empty car park with dozens of symmetrical pillars can present slight challenges, which, however, are always solvable.

SLAM Technology Enables Fast And Accurate 3D Data Collection


Mobile laser scans are bound to local or general coordinates using known points measured with a tachymeter or coordinate points based on satellite measurements measured with a GNSS device. The use of these control points also ensures overall accuracy, so that errors do not recur and the data is not twisted or stretched incorrectly. Depending on the conditions, the accuracy of the point cloud produced by mobile scanning using control points is about 8–15mm. Correspondingly, mobile measuring has more error factors than a plant scanning performed with a fixed tripod, due to which the exact same accuracy cannot be achieved. However, there is a place for more traditional plant scanning, too.

The trump card of mobile scanning is the speed of the measurement event. The measurement speed achieved with mobile scanning is up to tenfold compared to that of traditional plant scanning. During scanning, 360° photos are also taken at the desired shooting frequency. Thanks to SLAM technology, an automated process places the 360° photos in their correct places, creating flawless maps for easy navigation. Thus, mobile scanning often outperforms more traditional 360° photography with its agility and automation, even if there is no need for 3D data.


In the interface, the user navigates in either 360° photo views or a 3D point cloud, assisted by floor map views and layer selectors. With the measuring tool, it is easy to measure distances, shapes and areas. In the application, POIs (Points Of Interest) can be created and categorised in feature groups to facilitate search functions. External information, such as images, videos, documents or even real-time data from IoT environments, can be linked to each POI. The application can be used on mobile devices, and route guidance is available. The user is able to download the 3D point cloud of the desired area directly from the service for use in third-party point cloud applications for modification planning or manufacturing analysis. The user management function allows to create different levels of user rights from administrator to content producer or viewer.


Since mobile scanning is a fairly quick procedure, it usually does not interfere with production. After the scanning, virtual factory visits are possible from anywhere at anytime, and they can be arranged for any desired party without anyone having to travel. The application can be used to organise user training for new employees or tours for various visitor groups in good conditions and in an comprehensible and safe way. The application can be used for installation phase audits, safety assessments or planning for future maintenance activities without an on-site visit. It can also be used to easily present, for example, production premises for sale with their dimensions or as a marketing and presentation application for new properties. Situational awareness is improved and the risk of misunderstandings is reduced, time is saved and travel expenses are reduced.

Industrial sites are always a safety risk for workers and, in particular, visitors, which is why the method is particularly well suited to sites where it is especially difficult to arrange safe visiting conditions and permits.

As mobile scanning is a rather agile measurement event, the method is also suitable for repeated measurements, e.g. for recording different intermediate stages of construction. In this way, things that are hidden during the construction process can be documented for future needs.

Thanks to the development of sensor technologies and agile server solutions, various scanning technologies have become more common and methods are being used more effectively to serve modification planning as well as the management of the site throughout its lifecycle all the way to training, security, communication and marketing.

Niko Kuosmanen

Operations Manager, Mobile Scanning B.Eng. (Surveying)

Niko Kuosmanen has worked on measurement solutions since 2007, at Elomatic since 2019. In addition to work, Niko is also completing a master’s degree in the field. Over the years, Niko has accumulated solid experience in engineering measurements, production plant measurements, ship measurements and infrastructure and construction projects. At Elomatic, Niko works as an expert in laser scanning and is responsible for the mobile scanning service.

Samu Sundberg

Director, Reality Capture Solutions B.Eng. (Machine Engineering)

Samu Sundberg has worked on various 3D scanning and design services at Elomatic since 1999, and is currently the Director of Reality Capture Solutions operations and service development.In addition to plant scanning, mobile scanning and part scanning services, the Reality Capture Solutions team provides drone measurement and photogrammetry services.

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Pathways to sustainable innovations

Authors Rami Raute, Pekka Koivukunnas
Posted on

Throughout the industrial history of mankind, we have created new innovations based on the techno-economic point of view or paradigm. In the early seventies, Club of Rome published a report called The Limits to Growth. Since then, it has been common knowledge in our societies and among industry and world leaders, that we have to find more sustainable ways of developing industrial innovations to guarantee a comfortable life for humans and other lifeforms on this planet, which as far as we know, is the only one able to support the kind of life we live today.

In this article, we describe some pathways to sustainable innovations and provide background for sustainable thinking in general.

The planetary boundaries of industrialization

The techno-economic paradigm has been one of the key drivers of industrial revolution which has been at the center of mankind’s actions for approximately 200 years. The model known as Kondratiev waves connects key industrial innovations and economic cycles together. These innovations have propelled economic wealth throughout the industrialized centuries.

The purpose of the Kondratiev wave model is not to depict environmental impacts. It was developed to represent the economic sustainability of western economies. It is worth taking into consideration, that most of the best industrial innovations remain in use for long periods of time once they have been adopted on a large scale (e.g., combustion engine, coal-based electricity, natural gas-based fertilizers etc.) However, looking at the wave model today and connecting the environmental impact information of key industrial technologies, we can see that the environment has paid a price for our development.

Kondratiev Waves
Figure 1: Kondratiev waves.

Later studies, that have connected human technological impacts to earth’s lifeforms and the systems that support them, have created the planetary boundaries model. Studies into the planetary boundaries model, such as those conducted at Stockholm University’s Resilience Center, show that human industrial actions are key reasons for environmental problems.

In light of this, it is clear that we should aim to make new innovations sustainable or at least more sustainable in relation to the planetary boundaries, and this should be the guiding principle of strategic thinking.

The Planetary Boundaries Model
Figure 2: The planetary boundaries model. Source: J. Lokrantz/Azote based on Steffen et al. 2015.

Sustainable revolution

What is sustainability”? Wikipedia defines it as follows: “Sustainability is the capacity to endure in a relatively ongoing way across various domains of life. In the 21st century, it refers generally to the capacity for Earth’s biosphere and human civilization to co-exist. Sustainability has also been described as “meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs” (Brundtland, 1987). For many, sustainability is defined through the interconnected domains of environment, economy and society. Sustainable development, for example, is often discussed through the domains of culture, tehnology, economics and politics.”

The definition of sustainability through the interconnected domains of the environment, economy and society is sometimes taken to mean that these three are of equal importance. In this article, we question this. The problem here is the same as with the techno-economic paradigm. It seems to decrease role of the environment or place it in a minor role in our decisions, while in reality its role is substantially bigger than that of the other two. We believe that the next wave of change, after the industrial revolution, will be a sustainable revolution.

Pathways to sustainability

When setting strategic targets to new innovations we have concluded that innovations have to be sustainable from the point of view of the environment now or in the near future, and this has to be a key target in development in accordance with, for example, the Paris agreement.

Currently, when it comes to sustainability, most companies choose to take no actions and make no changes in product design, even if sustainable materials are available. This is due to higher costs or other strategic reasons within the business. We believe that this is short-sighted.

As innovators, we used a method of brainstorming solutions based on simple phases or principles. Based on the idea that sustainability is the key driver of technology and product development, we created the following pathways towards sustainability:

  • Pathway 1/10. Wait for sustainable materials or create them. Wait until material, part and component suppliers have sustainable materials available and start using them. Or start developing them yourself.
  • Pathway 2/10. Aim for a more sustainable product. Start actions immediately and do everything possible right now. Use more sustainable materials, even if fully sustainable materials are not yet available, adapt product design to accommodate more sustainable materials.
  • Pathway 3/10. Aim for a fully sustainable product. Start developing a fully sustainable product, even if it leads to radical changes in product structure, performance etc.
  • Pathway 4/10. Look at the bigger picture. Accept unsustainable products in cases where the product helps to decrease the total emissions of some bigger system it is a part of.
  • Pathway 5/10. Discontinue unsustainable products. Stop producing unsustainable products.
  • Pathway 6/10. Favor handcrafting. Return to old technology, which often automatically leads to more sustainable production, for example, using manual powered tools instead of fossil fuel powered machines etc.
  • Pathway 7/10. Reduce and recycle. Use only recycled or side stream materials and reuse aborted components
  • Pathway 8/10. Produce more durable products. Extend product lifetime to transgenerational.
  • Pathway 9/10. Control your emissions. Minimize emissions and compensate for any remaining emissions.
  • Pathway 10/10. Aim for a more than sustainable product. Create a more than sustainable, carbon negative product, a carbon sink. Is this principle applicable to other emission types than carbon?

Even at first glance, some of these pathways are clearly more sustainable than others. We chose a few of them for closer inspection based on which ones might prove most fruitful.

We looked at the pathways from the point of view of future generations in world where sustainable development is already underway and tried to introduce some ways these pathways might be used as design principles.

Use of windmill blades (Pathway 7)

Thousands of used windmill blades are piling up in landfills annually, and no proper way for recycling them has been created so far. It is not difficult to see that those blades could easily be converted into wing sails. Use as a sail is less demanding for the blades, so they could still have a long service life ahead and produce vast amounts of renewable energy, replacing the use of fossil fuel. This type of wing sails could be used as auxiliary propulsion devices in various ships (tens of thousands of compatible ones exist) right away, compensating partially for the use of fossil fuel. Countless piles of old windmill blades exist out there. There is no reason why this couldn’t be done today.

Accepting unsustainability (Pathway 4)

This should be taken to mean that partial unsustainability is accepted, or unsustainability is allowed for a limited period of time. The principle is described in Buckminster Fuller’s Operation Manual for Spaceship Earth (1969). Fuller wrote that daily consumption should be based on renewables, and fossil fuel should be reserved for the exclusive function of getting new life supporting machinery built. One interpretation of Fuller’s ideas is, that he understood that the constant use of fossil fuel and non-renewable materials connected to pollution will inevitably lead to an ecological bankruptcy.

Creating the ideal product based on sustainable goals (Pathway 3)

According to the concept of ideality, an ideal [technical] system is one, where the function of the system gets fulfilled without the system itself. For example, holographic stickers are used as an antitheft device on product packages. Such a sticker consists of multiple polymer and metal materials and needs a specific machine for applying it on the package. The very same function can be fulfilled by embossing an optical grating directly on the package material itself. No material whatsoever is added to the system, and still the function is performed, actually better than by using stickers.

The meaning of paths

As you see, these principles have been combined in many ways and not used in their pure form. Or even explained only in theory. Is there a reason why these principles are rarely used? We have seen that complexity, and complex technical devices, is a product of the industrial revolution and one of the key elements that should be changed. Simple solutions may lay in the far history of the industrial age when complexity was not easily achieved and unfunctional products were rarely created. It may have to be accepted that some modern standards have to be decreased or replaced completely to get on a sustainable path.

Our solution to get human technologies to a sustainable path is quite simple. We have to keep increasing the level of sustainability of our products and technologies until they are fully sustainable. First from the point of view of the environment, and later on a wider scale taking into consideration the environment, society and economy.

Design for circular economy a solution for increased sustainability? (Pathway 1)

Päivi Kivikytö-Reponen & Marjaana Karhu, VTT

Keeping materials in use, retaining their value as high as possible, and avoiding material degradation and waste, are the key strategies of circular economy. However, currently, the average lifetime of many devices is relatively low, as the rapid technological development of devices leads to outdated solutions in a few years’ time. Still, e.g., the use of digital applications and digital devices continues to grow due to increasing amounts of content in digital format.

Furthermore, many materials used for digitalization and the required devices are challenging, such as critical, conflict and hazardous materials. Due to overcoming these challenges of electrical and electronics sector, the importance of design for circular economy is currently acknowledged. For example, from a sustainability perspective, the design phase may determine as much as 80% of the environmental impact of a product. (European Commission, 2014). Typically, circular design strategies cover ’narrowing’, ‘slowing’ and ‘closing’ the material loops. These are the strategies that can be the bases of business models in material, product and service design.

First of all, the materials should fit to circular systems, and therefore, it is essential to take into consideration and understand the whole lifecycle of the materials. It is sometimes forgotten that circular systems require both circular materials and circular products, therefore both circular material design and circular product design are important steps. However, there seems to be more literature about circular product design than circular material design concepts. The key product design concepts and terms of the ‘design for circular economy’ of have been reviewed by Hollander et al. (Hollander 2017) stating circular product design encompasses both design for product integrity and design for recycling. Product integrity covers longer lifetime strategies such as design for emotinal and physical durability, design for maintenance and upgrading and design for repair, design for refurbishment and design for remanufacturing (Hollander 2017).

We all have a role in sustainable development

In this article, we have introduced ways and methods that lead to the path of sustainable development. The keys to the future are in our hands when we are making decisions about future products and technologies.

Sustainability will be integrated into every decision that we make in the future, and you can start with small details or with deeper strategic thinking depending on your role.

Decisions that let nature recover and recapture human based carbon emissions and traces of human land use might even be free and happen without human involvement in some areas if we allow it. In other places, human intervention is needed in order to facilitate regeneration.

The wildest dreams of technological solutions to tackle climate change and revolutionize our daily life, such as inhabiting Mars, are interesting and exciting. But they beg the question whether they will be available readily enough to make a difference and tackle problems on a wider scale. Maybe the better solution would be to create pathway solutions that improve products and technologies and take us one step closer to achieving sustainability.

While many new technologies genuinely do work to create a cleaner, more sustainable future, we cannot let ourselves be so intoxicated with our unwavering believe in technology, that we close our eyes to the fact that more sustainable choices must be made now. What could you do to make your product more sustainable? And what’s stopping you?

Rami Raute

B.Sc , Mechanical Engineering - Rami Raute has worked in several Finnish consulting and industrial design companies. He has over 20 years’ experience in developing different products and concepts and leading product development projects. Rami started working at Elomatic in 2011 and currently holds the position of Product Development Manager at the Elomatic office in Espoo.

Pekka Koivukunnas

M.Sc. (Mechanical Engineering)

Pekka Koivukunnas graduated from the Lappeenranta University of Technology in 1985. Since his graduation he has worked in product development, as an innovation consultant, professional innovator, and entrepreneur. He also has experience of patenting and has over 100 patents registered in his name. In 2013 the Finnish Inventors National Federation awarded Pekka the prize of Innovator the Year. He currently works at the Elomatic office in Espoo.

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