Visions of Tomorrow – Engineered Today
NAYA Life Sciences

Energy efficiency in cleanrooms – Dangers of overdesign or under-design

Authors Gligor Mukaetov, Zarko Kostovski, Goran Serafimov
Posted on

Since the global energy crisis hit, companies in pharmaceutical manufacturing started improving their energy efficiency to contribute to the economy as well as to their budget. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are typically the biggest energy consumers in pharmaceutical facilities, and design is the best stage at which to influence them.


The energy efficiency of the system typically takes a backseat to the functionality of the system in the world of cleanrooms. These are controlled environments where particle concentration and its generation are the main criteria for performing sensitive pharma operations, in which good manufacturing practices (GMP) must be followed.

Increasing energy efficiency is crucial for both top-line growth and cost reductions. For it to be more successful, significant internal organizational cultural changes are required that demonstrate a desire to act on environmental issues.

The biggest energy-saving potential is usually found in HVAC

HVAC can be a crucial component that influences a facility’s ability to provide safe and effective products when contamination control is desired. For most of these manufacturing plants, HVAC is typically the largest consumer of energy.

Many factors need to be considered when designing low-energy HVAC systems for pharmaceutical facilities, especially regarding maintaining a clean and safe operational environment. Environmental control systems that are properly planned, constructed, installed, configured, maintained, and operated can assist in ensuring the quality of goods produced at a facility. This increases dependability and lowers a facility’s upfront and ongoing operating expenses.

The importance of design

It is hard and expensive to change a design during or after construction, and there is more impact on capital cost and schedule. As the design develops, input from all interested parties should be considered to avoid later changes.

Several goals are achieved through the process of assessing drawings and specifications, as a design progresses from concept to issued-for-construction status:

  • Confirm that a design adheres to accepted tradition and practice
  • Ensure that the concepts proposed are meeting user expectations
  • Make sure a design reduces the risk to product quality or process safety
  • Ensure that a design is reliable and that it performs as expected
  • Validate that the hazards have been identified and considered while also ensuring that the suggested design is cost-effective.

A cost model helps to estimate the need for energy

An HVAC system’s life-cycle cost is typically significantly higher than its initial cost. Hence, the overall cost is a key consideration when selecting HVAC systems.

It is customary to assess various design possibilities using techniques such as net present value or the rate of return. Engineers that aim for the most robust design regardless of cost frequently lack familiarity with these ideas. However, the layout of a manufacturing facility must be developed around the needs of that facility. Hence, separating “must” goals from “want” goals requires work, because each department must reassess its operations in relation to what is necessary for successful operations.

When working on the design, a cost model helps to determine the facility’s final maintenance, consumables, and energy needs. Net present value and investment rate of return are common components of systems. Early on in a project, the cost model should serve as the benchmark for evaluating judgments about life-cycle costs, and it can be utilized to contest choices regarding user requirements.

Things to consider in design

The basis for all consumption estimations is the number of air changes per hour. If this is overdesigned, the air-handling units will have larger flows than necessary, necessitating larger fans and more cooling or heating loads. On the other hand, under-design would compromise the system’s usability and dependability, which are critical factors in any facility where contamination control is required.

Furthermore, when designing the HVAC system of ductwork or pipework, it is not just important to ensure that all ducts reach their location, it is also important how they get there. Every elbow, bend, reducer, and transition contribute to a higher static pressure drop, which increases the capacity of the fans, which in turn consumes more energy.

As the technology is modernizing, good designers are considering implementing modern technologies in the design, to contribute to energy efficiency. Proper design tools (CADMATIC, REVIT, AUTO CAD MEP) help to superpose all the systems in the project, and to ensure that the best distribution routes for the energy in the system are considered.

Automation helps especially in complex systems

Better automation of the facility can provide fine-tuning of the system, which will reduce unnecessary consumption. Some clients do not trust it, but the rule of thumb is that the more complex the system, the better the control of energy efficiency.

If the project has less than 24/7 working time, the building monitoring system can be programmed during the downtime to operate with minimal capacity. This ECO mode can be used on weekends or evenings when the process is not running. If the HVAC system is designed so that the amount of fresh air entering can be controlled through the building monitoring system, this can be a great asset at times when the outside air is within the required parameters.

The air-flow strategy used in the building layout, along with the analysis of the physical flows within the facility, is a key factor to consider. It is preferable to keep similarly classified areas physically close to one another as much as possible, so that they can be connected to the same air-handling system. Duct runs, energy distribution costs, and air system complexity will all be reduced as a result.

Energy consumption depends on the HVAC system

Once-through air systems provide the most acceptable form of preventing cross-contamination. Without any mixing or recirculation, the air leaving the supplied room or space is fully vented to the outside of the building. Therefore, potential contaminants from one space are not transferred to another through the return side of the air-handling system.

This strategy necessitates a lot of energy expenditure. However, a once-through system is recommended in locations where potent processes are handled and where the product is directly exposed to the environment.

Recirculated air systems increase the energy savings in the facility. This type of system circulates conditioned air into the room before returning it to the air-handling unit, where some of it is combined with fresh air and reconditioned, while the remainder is vented outside of the building. When using air recirculation technology, care should be taken to prevent the contaminated air from one location from contaminating the supply air for another.

Installing a heat recovery unit may be considered as a typical method in all HVAC systems in some parts of the world. Despite the high cost of the initial investment, this strategy offers effective energy savings. Some companies use constant recirculation of fluid through heat recovery units. However, at some time when the outside conditions are ideal, the design must ensure that the three-way valve may not transfer the additional loads.

There are several options for air drying

The best solution should be chosen based on the energy consumption or budget when determining how to dry the air required for process control.

  1. Cooling and drying. Relative humidity is typically achieved by cooling the air as much as feasible, then heating it to the desired room temperature to meet design requirements. This can be done with a water system.
  2. Dehumidifiers with silica gel. Drying a portion of the recirculated air to a very low relative humidity level before combining it with the remaining air. It is necessary to determine whether this design is suited to delivering greater energy efficiency throughout the design calculation.
  3. Devices for dehumidification. Despite being the most expensive solution and providing the best control over low humidity, these units use the most energy, as they dehumidify all the air that has been prepared for the cleanrooms. Even when steam or electricity can be used, a significant amount is still needed.

The significance of training

Personnel involved in the manufacture and testing of GMP facilities must be sufficiently knowledgeable and trained for their role. At a minimum, personnel must understand the fundamental principles of GMP operations, as well as the critical documents specific to their area of work. For more important operations, employees may need to demonstrate operational skills, and operators may need to undergo formal qualification tests.

Training is a crucial component in developing skills, competence, and a high work performance culture, all of which are necessary to enhance maintenance performance. Lower operational energy costs could also come from properly implementing some well-known maintenance procedures, such as preventative maintenance and predictive maintenance.

Gligor Mukaetov

Eng. Manager, NAYA Life Sciences

Gligor has over 10 years of strong and diverse technical background in engineering and mechanical design. He has designed, supervised, and led projects on developing innovative solutions for many industry stakeholders.

Zarko Kostovski

Head of Design team, NAYA Life Sciences

Zarko has comprehensive knowledge and experience in projects where contamination control is considered as an issue. He has been involved in every phase of NAYA’s cleanroom projects.

Goran Serafimov

Designer, NAYA Life Sciences

Goran is part of NAYA LS’s Mechanical engineering team. He’s a versatile member of the group, HVAC designer with focus on the practices, methods, materials, and equipment used in installation and exploitation of HVAC systems for the cleanroom projects.

Intelligent Engineering

Next post


Green ammonia from Finland – a synergy of water, wind and land

Kirjoittanut By Jussi Ylinen

A derivative of green hydrogen produced from renewable energy, green ammonia has the potential to become a new source of energy and revenue for the Finnish national economy. It allows the country to break its...

Read more » Lue lisää »

Green ammonia from Finland – a synergy of water, wind and land

Author Jussi Ylinen
Posted on

A derivative of green hydrogen produced from renewable energy, green ammonia has the potential to become a new source of energy and revenue for the Finnish national economy. It allows the country to break its dependence on natural gas imports and provides self-sufficiency to secure agricultural production, power vessels in the future or to be a carrier of green hydrogen. Finland has the ideal mix of resources to produce green ammonia for both its own domestic use and for global distribution.

Throughout history, Finns have used their resourcefulness to survive some of the harshest circumstances. When life looked bleak, they turned to nature for sources of inspiration, sustenance and energy.

Only a few years ago, Finland was known mostly as a country living from the forests with its world-class pulp and paper manufacturing, machinery and wood-based products. Now facing climate change and the energy crisis, Finland is ready to leap ahead in another sector – producing green ammonia for its own self-sufficiency and to share with other markets globally.

The most critical resource needed is electricity from a renewable source

Finland has been lavishly endowed with all the natural resources it takes to produce carbon-free green ammonia that can be further used mainly as the essential ingredient in fertilizers, marine vessel fuel or a hydrogen carrier. The most important one is electricity from a renewable source.

Finland is currently in the process of building up its offshore and onshore wind power production in the region of North Ostrobothnia, thanks to the region’s excellent wind conditions. Today, there are approximately 80 wind power projects at different planning and permitting stages in this area alone – with strong connections for transmitting electricity to the national grid.

Onshore wind in Finland has been experiencing explosive growth in 2022, driving the green energy transition. In the coming years, wind power will more than double from the current 3.8 GW to 9 GW. By 2027, wind power will have even surpassed the amount of nuclear power produced in the country.

Finland also has plenty of water – another essential natural raw material for producing green hydrogen and green ammonia – and sufficient land for ports from which ships can be loaded and unloaded. From a logistics point of view, the country can be considered an island – fully dependent on exports and imports. Yet, that same reason makes Finland’s use of shipping a key security factor for its national welfare.

Three growing ammonia markets

First, ammonia (NH3) is used for agricultural food production. Ammonia has always had an essential role in the agricultural industry in the production of fertilizers. It releases nitrogen as a nutrient for plants, crops and lawns. At the moment, 80% of all ammonia is used to produce fertilizer.

Second, ammonia is expected to soon be used as marine fuel for deep-sea vessels, cargo ships and tankers. This may happen faster than expected since Elomatic has already designed several ammonia-fueled ships destined for Japan. Such a green ammonia application also enables Finland to break away from its island-like status and become independent in the production of marine energy.

Third is to use ammonia as a hydrogen carrier. Combining hydrogen with nitrogen forms ammonia, which unlike hydrogen can be efficiently transported in large volumes over long distances, after which it can be returned to hydrogen gas again. For example, Central Europe has arranged to buy ammonia from Canada and the United States for this purpose.

Ammonia can also be used to produce industrial urea products, manufacture textile dyes and recover carbon dioxide. Forecasts in market demand for existing and new ammonia will double or even triple in the next few years. Fertilizer demand is estimated to grow fastest, but marine fuel demand will also grow roughly twofold. Demand for ammonia as an energy carrier is estimated to increase at a similar pace.


Finland’s abundance of clean water, favorable wind power conditions and an ambitious roadmap to build twice the total capacity of the country’s current electricity production make it eligible to spearhead the green hydrogen economy.

Zero CO2 emissions – the great advantage of green ammonia

Surprisingly as it sounds, fetid ammonia is considered to be one of the fastest routes to a carbon-neutral Europe. Green ammonia is also the closest to compete pricewise with any synthetic fuel.

Grey ammonia production is based on natural gas, while future green ammonia production eliminates methane completely. The only inputs needed for ammonia synthesis are water and green electricity for electrolysis. And the only emission is excess heat, oxygen and clean water. Electrolyzing water dissociates H2O molecules into hydrogen and oxygen. Once nitrogen is added to green hydrogen, it can then be converted into green ammonia, which is ready for further processing.

Green ammonia, like green hydrogen, emits no CO2 in its production process. It is capable of storing energy economically for long periods without any energy losses. Its stored energy can be transported over long distances without significant losses. It is far cheaper to store than hydrogen and takes up about half the space.

Self-sufficiency for Finland

Finland now has the opportunity to proactively build a market for hydrogen as a raw material that can be further refined to create a Finnish gross domestic product. This is the start to a sustainable green transition that will increase the national economy and create new jobs.

The idea that Finland no longer needs to import ammonia from abroad but can instead produce sufficient amounts of ammonia from its own green resources is a promising opportunity to improve the reliability of food production.

The vision is to shift the industry from the countries that currently export natural gas, like Russia, China, the US and India, to countries where green electricity is available, so that green hydrogen or its derivative green ammonia can be produced from it. And Finland has what it takes for such a transition.

Putting potential electricity production capacity to good use

With Finland’s renewable energy resources and abundance of water, producing green hydrogen is one application that is worthwhile to pursue. The process of making green hydrogen needs a lot of electricity and can be flexibly operated within Finland’s strong and stable electricity market. In that sense, the most efficient is to situate production close to the wind power farms.

Areas such as North Ostrobothnia or the Åland Islands at the entrance to the Gulf of Bothnia in the Baltic Sea are interesting for hydrogen production where they can also take advantage of the natural cyclicality of wind power generation. Thus, hydrogen production increases when more wind blows and especially when the electricity is not needed elsewhere.

Finland’s advantages also include predictable regulations. To limit safety risks, a closed process is used to produce both green hydrogen and green ammonia. Environmental safety authorities in Finland issue permits, supervise operations and collaborate closely to ensure that green ammonia will be a safe and reliable source of carbon-free energy for the future.

As long as green hydrogen has good potential to replace natural gas applications, it is perfect timing for Finland to create a hydrogen market of its own.

Global green ammonia opportunities ahead

Finland’s green ammonia market can easily be made available to all other countries that need additional green ammonia resources. Most of the EU is already very familiar with the benefits of green ammonia. The EU aims to wean its demand off Russian natural gas and make the switch to green hydrogen, where the ammonia serves as its transport carrier between continents. So, why not consider green ammonia from Finland?

As ships power the Finnish market, they are ready to go. Offshore wind farm cables will come to shore close to production facilities and shipping ports. When the country’s first green ammonia facilities are ready in approximately four years, green ammonia can be shipped abroad.

Green ammonia can just as easily be shipped from the port of Naantali to Helsinki as it can across the Atlantic or to almost any other port, since shipping costs are a minor share of the total costs.

Start for two-way potential

 To tackle climate change, break away from dependence on Russian natural gas and offer something of value to other countries globally, Finns can take pride of looking at their own natural resources as a starting point.

Finland’s abundance of clean water, favorable wind power conditions and an ambitious roadmap to build twice the total capacity of the country’s current electricity production make it eligible to spearhead the green hydrogen economy. Its further refining potential can bring huge benefits to Finland’s national economy, while simultaneously enables the country to spread the advantages of the green hydrogen economy to other regions.

 Soon, the results of Finland’s natural resource synergies will be ready to roll out to the world.

Jussi Ylinen

Master of Science (Tech.), CEO of Green North Energy

Jussi has been working in the energy sector for more than 15 years, specializing in the electricity market. He is a true builder of new carbon-neutral business and projects: he leads the development of Elomatic’s subsidiary Green North Energy, which aims accelerate the green transition with green hydrogen fuels and chemicals. Jussi’s expertise includes asset and investment portfolio management.

Intelligent Engineering

Latest post


Energy efficiency in cleanrooms – Dangers of overdesign or under-design

Kirjoittanut By Goran Serafimov

Since the global energy crisis hit, companies in pharmaceutical manufacturing started improving their energy efficiency to contribute to the economy as well as to their budget. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are typically...

Read more » Lue lisää »

Energy crisis or growing pains?

Author Lari Heinonen
Posted on

The options for solving the energy crisis have been known for a long time – now the actual solving of the issues should take priority. In Finland, the forest industry produces a large portion of the renewable energy, but also uses a lot of energy just the same. Our special characteristics also include our district heating network that enables the large-scale distribution of heat from different sources. We need investments in things such as promotion of the circular economy and storing of energy.


In the last few months, the headlines have been dominated by the energy crisis. However, according to one definition, a crisis is a new situation or turning point encountered by a human or organization wherein the learned problem-solving skills may not work anymore. In the big picture, the situation in the energy market does not really correspond to this definition of a crisis.

The system built on fossil fuels is, despite everything, approaching the end of its life. The inevitable progress has just been forced to leap forward, which naturally causes more sudden growing pains than a controlled change would. However, the direction of the long-term development is not changing.

A clear consensus of needs and means has prevailed for a long time

Naturally, the price of energy is an issue for many households, companies and communities, to put it mildly. But the proposed solutions, such as investment in energy and resource efficiency and renewable energy, have been known to us for at least a decade. Ensuring our survival does not require doing anything new or surprising.

The private persons, communities, companies and states that have taken action in a frontloading manner may escape the crisis completely. The seed of a much more severe crisis lies in the continuous use of fossil fuels.

Finland has strived for a quick change

The path of the EU and Finland towards carbon neutrality has been presented in both the general roadmap of the EU and the roadmap of Finland. The EU strives to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, whereas the objectives of Finland are considerably more ambitious: our country wants to be carbon neutral by 2035. Countries such as Japan and China have also presented their own targets.

In any scenario, achieving these targets would have required actions that would be painful to at least some parties. Now we have a taste of the things to come, because we have had to take action in one fell swoop. The list of necessary actions remains massively long, and implementing the plans will not be easy.


The energy system of Finland is affected by whether the forest industry will start utilizing its side streams for purposes other than energy production, which will require compensatory energy production.

Long-term roadmaps often include perspective issues

When a target is set far enough into the future, there is no need to take unpleasant action in the current parliamentary term – in other words, now. The carbon neutrality of Finland or even the EU will not solve the global climate issues, if the additional production demanded by growth and the emissions related to it are outsourced. The bond between economic growth, consumption, and energy consumption is yet to be severed, which is part of the problem.

In addition to achieving zero-emission energy production, another essential task is building a circular economy that is both extensive and energy efficient. The benefits and disadvantages of the circular economy are largely determined through the energy consumption of the cycle processes and the disadvantages of the related energy production. Transparent and comprehensive lifecycle reporting must be developed to verify these factors and, of course, the benefits of a circular economy.

Finland currently utilizes wood-based biomass extensively

Every country and economic community has its own characteristics related to its regional energy systems. The special characteristics of Finland include the large amount of wood-based biomass it has in relation to its population, its forest industry that uses the biomass efficiently, and its district heating network to which I will return later.

The biomass reserves of Finland make the large-scale production of wood-based renewable energy possible. Of course, in political decision-making the degree of renewability depends on the agreed approaches and definitions. Biomass will possibly be defined in the EU region as renewable energy, which is an issue for the system in Finland.

Impact of forest industry is evident in both production and consumption

At the moment, the forest industry produces a considerable portion of the renewable energy in Finland, but the industry also uses a lot of energy. The forest industry participates in things such as frequency management and the reserve market, and is thus an essential operator in the Finnish energy system.

The processes and logistics that enable the efficient utilization of forest biomass have found their current forms through centuries of development. The forest industry has, throughout its history, survived many upheavals, such as the end of tar use and the crash in the demand for magazine paper. It will also survive the current crisis, and it will not only survive; it will be part of the fossil-free solution.

Side streams will continue to have a key role

At the moment, the energy production of the forest industry is largely based on burning unutilized side streams, such as lignin. Therefore, the energy system of Finland is affected by whether the forest industry will start utilizing its side streams for purposes other than energy production, which will require compensatory energy production. For example, the demand for heat pump solutions that are based on the utilization of waste heat might increase. In the future, we may see solutions such as small nuclear power reactors to generate heat.

The interest in utilizing side streams in the manufacture of physical products may come, for example, through EU regulation or as new innovations and products of a better level of added value become viable options. This will make using biomass for energy less appealing.

However, it is unrealistic to assume that the burning of side streams would cease completely, at least in the near future. The products or markets in which these raw materials could be utilized do not exist on a large enough scale.


The introduction of the circular economy must be accelerated as part of sustainable economic growth. The investments to be made in it will bear fruit in the future.

District heating network increases flexibility of energy system

The more urban Finland becomes, the larger is the part of the Finnish population living in an area covered by the district heating network. The district heating network enables the large-scale distribution and utilization of heat from multiple sources. The already utilized sources of waste heat include

  • waste heat of industry
  • heat from wastewater
  • waste heat of data centers.

The district heating network also enables things such as the production and distribution of geothermal energy, which is practical in comparison to individual geothermal wells. The benefits of a good network also include an increasingly flexible energy system, when energy can be stored cost-effectively on a large scale.

Storing of energy is worth the effort

Preparing for the increasing need to store energy is a smart move. As long as the production profile of the industrial plant allows, effort should be made to store energy or to direct the use to occur at night. Cheap electricity can also be stored in heat accumulators and discharged as process steam, for example.

The optimized storing and flexible use of energy require a good understanding of the future consumption in relation to the price of energy, now and in the following hours or days. The prediction of short-term consumption requires the process to have reliable energy indicators, and, furthermore, the data produced must be adjusted and utilized in energy price data and forecasts.

“Zero waste” thinking is also required

The introduction of the circular economy must be accelerated as part of sustainable economic growth. The investments to be made in it will bear fruit in the future, similar to the way the investments made in renewable energy and energy efficiency in the past are now being rewarded.

The lifecycle calculations striving to verify the benefits, such as carbon footprint analyses and carbon handprint analyses, will become mandatory, because the consumers and financiers know to demand them. This is why companies should immediately develop their calculation and reporting methods. The entity related to energy and material flows must be rethought, which will challenge the benefit and disadvantage assessments and business models and make them more complex.


Perinteinen energiajärjestelmä
A traditional energy system


Uudelleen ajateltu energiajärjestelmä
A re-thinked energy system

Introduction of unimplemented energy efficiency actions

On reflection, the solution to the present problems is to take the same actions that were supposed to be taken before the crisis. It is crucial to utilize the opportunities to optimize energy use so that the specific energy consumption required by the growth is as small as possible, leading to the investments in carbon neutral energy production remaining similarly as light as possible.

As someone who has spent almost their entire career working with energy efficiency, I know that the world is lamentably full of energy efficiency actions that are clearly recommended but still unimplemented. It is certain that our current standard of well-being could also be achieved at reduced energy consumption.

Lari Heinonen

Senior Manager, Energy Consulting

Lari works as a head of Elomatic’s Energy Consulting function leading the world-class energy experts, process specialists and project managers. Lari has 15 years’ experience in industry and technology supplier, mainly in the energy efficiency field. He’ve had responsibilities in R&D, solution sales, project management as well as leading the expert teams.

Intelligent Engineering

Latest post


Energy efficiency in cleanrooms – Dangers of overdesign or under-design

Kirjoittanut By Goran Serafimov

Since the global energy crisis hit, companies in pharmaceutical manufacturing started improving their energy efficiency to contribute to the economy as well as to their budget. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are typically...

Read more » Lue lisää »

Can carbon neutrality be achieved in food production?

Author Riina Brade
Posted on

In response to climate change, we must quickly decrease the amounts of fossil fuel and food production greenhouse emissions, while simultaneously promoting the sequestration of carbon dioxide in ecosystems. The development of biotechnology, automatic control systems and artificial intelligence accelerate the transition to more sustainable primary production of food when fields and productive livestock can be replaced with, for example, microbes and bioreactors. However, we also need approaches with a more immediate impact. Investments in renewable energy play a key role.


The climate has already warmed an average of 1.1 degrees Celsius since the pre-industrial era, and the temperature is still climbing year after year. Carbon dioxide has been calculated to have caused two thirds of the warming until now. In addition to warming, the entire climate system is undergoing changes and extreme weather is becoming more common: some places receive too much rain, while others suffer increasingly from drought. According to the Finnish Meteorological Institute, rain affects food production capacity and people’s living conditions more than the temperature alone: by 2100, the amount of rain will have increased a good 30% during winter in Finland and about 10% during the summer, when compared to the current day.

Globally, the greenhouse gas emissions of the food production systems of agriculture have increased by about a third over the last 20 years. Emissions are primarily a result of plant and animal production increase to meet the needs of a growing population, which in turn increases the use of fertilizers (nitrogen), the amounts of manure and pastures, the use of fuels in domestic animal production, and the production of gases from the digestive processes of ruminants.

Finland’s greenhouse gas emissions have started to decrease in accordance with targets, although they vary a little from year to year. The food industry in Finland causes relatively few direct emissions, as the biggest sources of emissions are made up of indirect sources – from primary production and energy production. The agriculture sector’s share of Finland’s total greenhouse gas emissions has been about 10–14% over the last few years.


Carbon Footprint Of Food Products
Carbon footprint of food products in Finland (Source: ETL)

Sustainable food production value chains are based on renewable energy

Different countries have mapped out different kinds of strategic paths for achieving carbon neutrality, but due to the diversity and dependencies of systems, reducing carbon emissions to a net zero remains challenging. In addition to radical changing in our eating habits and food waste amounts, we also need innovative new technologies and solutions based on multidisciplinary research.

One of the most important and efficient ways of achieving carbon neutrality is to make use of clean energy from renewable energy sources, such as solar, wind, and hydropower. All in all, new innovative technologies – which are designed to speed up the transition to carbon neutrality in different sectors – offer solutions for the restoration of forests and seas, the protection of ecosystems, carbon-neutral industrial production, and sustainable food production. This increases the sequestration of carbon in the soil as well as reduces carbon emissions.

Food production must be optimized in order to increase production efficiency and to reduce carbon emissions. This can be achieved through, among other things, new technologies developed for more sustainable production of fertilizers, solutions for precision agriculture, improved feeding, and the creation of carbon-neutral food production systems.

In addition to minimizing emissions and increasing efficiency, technologies and methods for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through industrial means, and sequestering carbon in soil and marine ecosystems (sequestration) are vital. Out of these developing NETs, that is, negative emissions technologies, the ones currently showing the most potential are bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), biochar (PyCCS, pyrogenic carbon capture and storage) and direct air carbon capture and storage (DACCS). In Finland, BECCS and biochar offer the most potential for negative emissions.

Reducing harm from farming with new technologies

Optimizing the use of fertilizers and water on arable land can significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions in crop farming systems with the help of digital, drone, and sensor technologies. In addition, new synthetic nitrogen fertilizers which release nutrients in a slow and controlled manner are being developed, as are new varieties which use nitrogen more effectively and have characteristics which inhibit emissions. As part of the solution, the production of biomass must be increased through the means of forestry, cultivation of meadows and carbon farming, among others. In addition, carbon dioxide must overall be removed and sequestered from the atmosphere through various methods and stored back in soil and marine ecosystems.

The manipulation of enteric fermentation in animal production is one of the key ways to reduce the methane emissions of ruminants. So-called methane inhibitors are being developed by affecting an animal’s metabolism through precise nutrients and more easily digestible kinds of feed. Also, new innovations and start-ups are popping up, such as Finnish Origin by Ocean. The company refines blue-green algae and bladderwrack into bio-based ingredient that is suitable, for example, for compound feed with significant lower animal emissions.

Manure processing practices could also significantly reduce indirect greenhouse gas emissions by optimizing the management of pastures and producing energy (biogas) and organic fertilizers at the farm, with low emission factors. According to the research of the Natural Resources Institute Finland (2020), among others, in the field use of recycled fertilizers, organic fertilizers have lower nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions when compared to the N2O emissions of mineral fertilizers.

One new technology is the vertical plant factory, that is, a vertical indoor cultivation system, which enables continuous food production throughout the year regardless of the season or weather. All environmental parameters, such as lighting level, temperature, humidity, and air composition, are controlled in a smart, closed system. New testing facilities verify the viability of mass production, and full-scale factories have been built for the commercial production of fruits, vegetables, and medicinal plants.

Vertical indoor cultivation systems can help achieve very high productivity and low greenhouse gas emissions with small changes in land use when compared to traditional production systems. The environmental impacts of operations can be minimized by using renewable energy to run the factory.


Biotechnological pilot and demo facilities are already being built, where nutrient protein will be produced with the help of microbes and even the direct capture of carbon dioxide from the air. One of the most famous projects is SolarFoods’ “Food without fields and food from thin air” project, which uses carbon dioxide as a raw material.

Transition to cellular agriculture leads to significant environmental benefits

There is demand for feeding a growing population with the help of innovative and low-emission technologies. The development of biotechnology, automatic control systems, and even artificial intelligence enables more sustainable primary production of food in a factory environment. This is cellular agriculture, where microbes and bioreactors replace fields and productive livestock.

According to the surveys of Boston Consulting Group, the transition to edible plant, microbe, and animal cell-based protein products instead of beef, pork, chicken, and egg alternatives will save more than one gigaton of CO2 equivalent by 2035, which is roughly equal to the annual emissions of Japan. In addition, there are potential savings in land use and water consumption: it is estimated that by 2035, they will equal the water consumption of London over a period of 40 years! This assumes that alternative proteins will represent an 11–22% share of the protein market in 2035, depending on the scenario.

Tempeh and tofu are traditional plant-based, meat-like proteins, which are made from soy, peas, and beans. During production, proteins are extracted and separated from the plants or fungus, which are then formulated and processed. The taste and structure of plant-based meat is improved through food additives and extrusion, as well as innovative technologies such as high-temperature shear cell technology and 3D printing.

Challenges in the further development of these protein products are caused by cultivar development with regards to taste and color, protein separation technologies, clear formulation, and expensive large-scale extrusion. There is also a need for efficiency when it comes to costs, as the prices of the products in question are nearly double that of traditional meat products.

Pioneers: nutrient protein can be produced from air

Bacteria, yeasts, molds, and single-celled algae also produce edible microbe-based proteins, as do certain aforementioned microbe populations, when proteins are fermented with cellular agriculture technology in a carbohydrate-rich solution. Depending on the method, the result is either a meat substitute – protein and biomass – or pure single-cell protein.

Quorn is one such microbe-based protein product, which was developed in England and has been commercially available since 1993. All in all, there is still plenty of development to be done with regards to these products. Their costs are three times that of traditional protein, particularly when it comes to the production of single-cell protein. Finding more cost-effective growth solutions and the development of separation technology are also highlighted in the further development of these protein products.

In addition, biotechnological pilot and demo facilities are already being built, where nutrient protein will be produced with the help of microbes and even the direct capture of carbon dioxide from the air. One of the most famous projects is SolarFoods’ “Food without fields and food from thin air” project, which uses carbon dioxide as a raw material. The microbe is isolated from the sediment of Western Finland’s seashore, which produces a soy protein-like powder for food products and nutrient supplements. All that is needed is electricity, carbon dioxide, and a source of nitrogen. According to the company, the pilot phase has shown that environmental impacts remain well under 10 per cent of that of traditionally produced plant or animal protein.

A third alternative source of protein is animal and crustacean cell-based protein products, which are produced by directly growing animal cells in a nutrient-rich solution in tanks. According to surveys by the Boston Consulting Group, the development of these alternative proteins will still take time in order for growing proteins to become efficient, as well as for the taste and structure to match traditionally produced alternatives in the volumes needed for global consumption.

Developing innovations for waste and packaging challenges as well

Solutions are also being created for the global waste problem. The thermochemical transformation of solid organic waste into porous biochar (300°C–900°C anaerobically) is part of circular economy and mitigating climate change, in addition to sequestering carbon. In soil improvement and composting use, biochar has been shown to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Biochar is a natural adsorbent which binds free carbon and nitrogen compounds to itself, as well as different kinds of impurities. In addition, biochar has been shown to slow down and prevent erosion and even reduce the formation of methane in ruminants as part of animal feed.

For an interesting case of current development investments, I highlight the production of products and raw materials of fossil origin using bio-based and renewable materials. For example, bacteria can use organic materials as a source of nutrients and change fatty acids, sugars, and proteins, among others, into different kinds of monomers and materials suitable for the production of biopolymers. These can be used as ingredients in food products, in packaging materials and, more broadly, in the industrial production of plastics, bio-based fuels, lubricants, medical equipment, and other valuable goods.


The starting point for success is cooperation with other operators, such as primary production, logistics, and the energy and construction industries.

Target of 75% reduction in greenhouse emissions

In the roadmap created by the Finnish Food and Drink Industries’ Federation and coordinated by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment in 2020, the readiness of the food production sector for carbon neutrality was mapped out. According to the surveys, Finland is well equipped to pursue carbon neutrality. National legislation, funding and incentive systems, and a high level of technology enable the majority of the viable technologies determined by the EU (BAT conclusions of the industrial emissions directive) to already be extensively in use in the businesses of the food industry, according to the roadmap work.

The roadmap’s survey of the current situation ensures a clear basis for systematic and long-term work to promote the climate measures of the food industry by 2035. The aim of the roadmap is thus to achieve a 75% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in proportion to sales at the industry level. In 2035, low-carbon solutions should be widely in use in the food production sector and climate impacts should be under control in the sector’s value chain.

What does this mean in practice? The starting point for success is cooperation with other operators, such as primary production, logistics, and the energy and construction industries. In this value chain, the role of the food industry is:

  1. to invest further in increasing energy efficiency (10–30% savings in energy consumption in several businesses are possible)
  2. to look into and implement switching the mode of production of delivered energy to an alternative with lower emissions and/or plan the electrification of operations
  3. to develop raw materials and packaging to reduce fossil emissions
  4. to reduce loss and waste and use the side streams of own operations and value chain more efficiently.

In order for these objectives and measures to be fulfilled, more open sharing of information in cooperation with other operators in the value chain is necessary for the identification of key impacts on a value chain and product basis. In addition, the availability of carbon-neutral energy, the development of technologies and expertise, and sufficient forms of support and funding from the government in a predictable operating environment must be ensured. This in turn enables the necessary investments in the sector for carbon neutrality.

Riina Brade

M.Sc , Chem Eng. & MBA

Ms Brade´s 20 years’ experience covers competences spanning production process development, R&D management, B2B sales, and circular economy content marketing. In addition, she possesses a lead auditor qualification in QEHS management systems utilized in strategic business development. Riina joined Elomatic at the beginning of 2012 as Manager for Process Industry Sales. Over the last years, she has achieved a firm footing within industrial investment and revamp management supported by sustainability assignments, key customer management and project supervisory tasks.

Intelligent Engineering

Latest post


Energy efficiency in cleanrooms – Dangers of overdesign or under-design

Kirjoittanut By Goran Serafimov

Since the global energy crisis hit, companies in pharmaceutical manufacturing started improving their energy efficiency to contribute to the economy as well as to their budget. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are typically...

Read more » Lue lisää »

Finding the full potential of CFD

Author Hannu Karema
Posted on

CFD, or Computational Fluid Dynamics, is a method that is often utilized only for the post-design phase, although it is very well suited for wider and efficient use throughout the design process. Optimal use of CFD analysis generally shortens projects’ lead times and improves product assessment. It also provides an excellent basis for preparing digital twins. In process modeling tasks, CFD is an excellent tool for studying the components, for example.


CFD is a branch of fluid mechanics that uses numerical analysis and data structures to analyze and solve problems that involve fluid flows. It uses computers to perform the calculations required to simulate the free-stream flow of liquids and gases, and their interaction with surfaces defined by boundary conditions.

The method is applied to a wide range of research and engineering problems in natural science and industry. The traditional, well-known fields are aerodynamics, aerospace analysis, marine engineering, weather simulation, environmental engineering, and industrial system and equipment design. However, CFD is not only a method of fluid flow, but all processes and equipment linked to flows through heat transfer, chemical and biological reactions or transport of particulate matter.

Therefore, CFD is suitable for many different types of design processes. In the following, I have tried to elucidate the optimal role and the most productive ways to utilize CFD as a part of the design process.

Benefits of CFD are lost if it is applied only in the post-design phase

Some 20–30 years ago, when CFD made its strong entry, it suffered from somewhat too long analysis times for efficient development work and, especially, for desired design process lead times. This major shortcoming appeared through several sources, like 2D design systems, forcing the creation of separate 3D models for analysis, the need to create structured element meshes for solutions, and insufficient solution power.

These shortages led to the application of CFD analysis mostly to check accepted designs. In this way, most of the benefits of CFD are lost since weaknesses or even inoperability of the design are found out far too late and lead to a repeated design process. Typically, related to the post-design analysis, the number of different analyzed model variations is also very low, leaving space for incorrect conclusions.

This approach, called the traditional process, has clear drawbacks. When modeling only serves to check design, knowledge is not created through modeling, and the information produced in the modeling phase is only partially utilized. Also, the accepted design can no longer be modified much. Changes and development ideas mean a return to the concept phase, resulting in slow and expensive changes. In addition, the modeling approach and sub-models do not improve in the process, but the same type of methods will be applied in later design.

As a result, investment in modeling may fail due to an unsuitable approach. However, CFD is a tool that can be utilized at different levels of complexity and details, positioning it also in the concept phase. In addition, CFD has new roles as part of the design process.

The traditional process for CFD
The traditional process for CFD

Concept phase modeling takes product assessment to a new level

In the early adaptors process, the drawbacks of the traditional process are avoided by associating modeling with design already in the concept phase. The concept design models are much faster to create with CFD, which is applied with more approximate models and with lower local resolution (element mesh). Better screening in the concept phase also leads to better design and reduced risks. CFD can also provide improved information and indicate critical parts or components in design.

In the design and development phase, the base model can be utilized for parametric studies and small changes in design, providing wider gain of the base model. It also provides information on the sensitivity and features of design.

The early adaptor process for CFD.
The early adaptor process for CFD

Accomplished studies confirm that there are clear advantages to this type of design process. Concept phase modeling improves most product assessments and leads to even more than collaboration between CFD experts and design, since concept-stage modeling focuses participants on key design areas. Already approximate modeling of concepts and ideas early in the process are very important for success. In addition, more expensive models in the design and development phase can be varied (parametric geometry, coverage of operational range) to improve utilization of later phase investment.

To further motivate the early adaption in the concept phase, estimates on the stages of a typical CFD modeling task are shown in table below. It can be stated that concept stage models are faster to perform. Time is estimated to be only one third of the duration of design and development phase. The models have impact over the whole process and even reduce time spent in later phases.


Table 1 Estimates on duration of modeling stages based on my own experience
Estimates on duration of modeling stages based on my own experience


However, it is still obvious that there is a notable difference between the concept phase and the design and development phase, as the target and methods are different. Concept phase models do not directly support those later phases in the design process.

The development cycle can be considerably reduced

The basic idea behind the parallel modeling approach is quite straightforward. To enable design support at all stages, also modeling needs to develop along the process. In the regular design process, there is a notable time interval between the concept phase and the design and development phase. Often a prototype precedes the final design. This time slot is available for multiple supporting tasks like building prototype models for the planning of reliable and correct tests, a more profound interpretation of test results, developing concept phase models to cover challenges of the design and development phase, as well as conducting improved studies of critical components.

The parallel modeling process for CFD
The parallel modeling process for CFD

It is easy to see the benefits of this process. The development cycle is most reduced if concept phase modeling is supplemented by component models. This way, improved understanding of the selected concept can be achieved. The method also allows more profound analysis of selected components. In addition, verification and tests of critical components of the concept can be carried out before the final design.

In the typical process design, the notable difference is that CFD is not the natural tool of choice for full scope. This role is then addressed to the process modeling tool, which provides the framework for design. However, CFD is an excellent tool to support components of process modeling.

Also, the parallel modeling process produces a digital representation of the functionality of design as a natural outcome. This is as an additional deliverable of notable value since the applicability extends to later studies on process parameters and easy access to further development.

The parallel modeling approach for processes’ design
The parallel modeling approach for processes’ design

The parallel modeling process can also be applied to designs that are tailored with each delivery. The concept phase can be thought of as serving the offer stage, for example the modifications and context for which the design is intended. This can be handled with quick and more approximate models.

CFD even supports the creation of digital twins

A digital twin is a digital representation of an active unique product or unique product-service system that comprises its selected characteristics, properties, conditions, and behaviors by means of models, information, and data within a single or even across multiple life cycle phases.

Covering the full essence of a digital twin is highly demanding and takes a long development time. Therefore, only a few real digital twins exist. Most of them are targeted to improve design based on the collected sensor data. Accordingly, digital twins are regularly built for existing designs but seldom during a design process.

Of the covered design process types, the parallel modeling process provides the best way to underlay digital twins. Improved component models are built during the process, which leads to better description in the design and development phase and serves as an excellent model base for the post-inclusion of the control system. Also, it provides additional confidence for the design process if sensor data from earlier designs can be utilized.

Companies may worry that a parallel modeling process will lead to a complicated design process and organizational changes. It is also often heard that designers are not capable of handling such specialized modeling tasks as CFD. However, questionnaires addressed to successful industry in the field reveal that the best outcome is achieved when modeling tasks are kept separate from design.

Most of the benefits related to a parallel modeling process can be achieved by organizing tasks in the design process differently: although a separate group of specialists is needed, they should not be a separate group in the process.

Hannu Karema

Dr. Tech. (Fluid dynamics and Thermal power Eng.)

Hannu Karema graduated from Tampere University of Technology in 1987. He worked 10 years as a researcher at the Tampere University of Technology and the Academy of Finland in the field of modeling of fluidized beds in combustion and multi-phase numerics. This was followed by a five-year senior researcher position at VTT. After this, he has applied his profound knowledge on CFD modeling and industrial processes as a consultant. Currently he is working as Lead Consulting Specialist in the Technical Analysis group.

Intelligent Engineering

Latest post


Energy efficiency in cleanrooms – Dangers of overdesign or under-design

Kirjoittanut By Goran Serafimov

Since the global energy crisis hit, companies in pharmaceutical manufacturing started improving their energy efficiency to contribute to the economy as well as to their budget. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are typically...

Read more » Lue lisää »

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.

Intelligent Engineering

Latest post


Energy efficiency in cleanrooms – Dangers of overdesign or under-design

Kirjoittanut By Goran Serafimov

Since the global energy crisis hit, companies in pharmaceutical manufacturing started improving their energy efficiency to contribute to the economy as well as to their budget. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are typically...

Read more » Lue lisää »

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.

Intelligent Engineering

Latest post


Energy efficiency in cleanrooms – Dangers of overdesign or under-design

Kirjoittanut By Goran Serafimov

Since the global energy crisis hit, companies in pharmaceutical manufacturing started improving their energy efficiency to contribute to the economy as well as to their budget. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are typically...

Read more » Lue lisää »

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.

Intelligent Engineering

Latest post


Energy efficiency in cleanrooms – Dangers of overdesign or under-design

Kirjoittanut By Goran Serafimov

Since the global energy crisis hit, companies in pharmaceutical manufacturing started improving their energy efficiency to contribute to the economy as well as to their budget. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are typically...

Read more » Lue lisää »
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.

Intelligent Engineering

Latest post


Energy efficiency in cleanrooms – Dangers of overdesign or under-design

Kirjoittanut By Goran Serafimov

Since the global energy crisis hit, companies in pharmaceutical manufacturing started improving their energy efficiency to contribute to the economy as well as to their budget. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are typically...

Read more » Lue lisää »

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.

Intelligent Engineering

Latest post


Energy efficiency in cleanrooms – Dangers of overdesign or under-design

Kirjoittanut By Goran Serafimov

Since the global energy crisis hit, companies in pharmaceutical manufacturing started improving their energy efficiency to contribute to the economy as well as to their budget. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are typically...

Read more » Lue lisää »

Copyright © 2020 – Elomatic, All rights reserved