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The waste of one – the raw material of the other

At Orion Pharma’s Fermion plant waste ethanol is used to reduce the nitrogen load in the Baltic Sea.

Outside Hanko in Finland, two different plants are located side-by-side. One of them is Orion’s subsidiary Fermion, manufacturing pharmaceutical ingredients, and the other is the Dupont-owned Genencor International, manufacturing enzymes. The two plants decided to work together to reduce their emissions and their creative solution/technology has shown that the nitrogen load emitted into the Baltic Sea can be reduced by at least 50–60% from the previous levels.

“On average more than 70% of the waste solution is utilized in the water treatment circulation.”

The alcoholic liquid by-products generated at Fermion, previously destroyed as waste, with the help of the new technology are now being used for cutting the nitrogen content of wastewater by significant amounts. The staff at Fermion’s distillery developed a method by which the weak alcoholic solution is made into a liquid with an alcohol concentration of 50–80%. This is more suited for recycling. The chemicals are captured in the light fraction, which continues to be delivered to the Riihimäki plant for incineration, but on average more than 70% of the waste solution is utilized in the water treatment circulation.


The energy used in the distilling process comes from waste energy – and takes place at an existing facility. The new process was tested at the wastewater treatment facility in early 2020. A major milestone in the project was achieved in December 2020, when Fermion introduced a 20 cubic-meter container for the alcoholic solution processed at the distillery, from where it is led to the wastewater facility as necessary.

Read more about the Nordic life science industry’s sustainability efforts in our latest issue – out now!

Photo: iStock