Case 5.1: SunPine - an entrepreneurial bio-refinery - Sweden

Detailed Information

Name of the company: SunPine

Country: Sweden

Size of the business: 70 employees



The company was founded by innovator and serial entrepreneur Lars Stigsson, who had MSc degree in Chemical Engineering. The entrepreneur had an idea to use plant sterols in pine oil (tall oil) to produce cholesterol lowering food products and started a cooperation with Valeri Naydenov, a PhD student from Bulgaria specialising in analytical chemistry. The entrepreneurs started to cooperate in working on fatty acids and the separation process of plant sterols. The ongoing discussion in media and science regarding biodiesel at the time motivated the entrepreneurs to try to develop biodiesel and work on ideas on other products after biodiesel. Equity in the company SunPine was sold to three major industrial investors in order to build a full-scale plant in Piteå, Sweden, where the development climate was good, and there were possibilities to rent tanks in the area. Piteå has also a harbour with sufficient capacity. Additional part of the company was sold in 2014. The owner consortium of SunPine represent the entire processing chain from forest raw material to processing, marketing and distribution of renewable diesel fuel and resin.

History in summary

  • 2005: Concept development.
  • 2006: Identification of location and tanks for storage.
  • 2007: The first employees including appointed CEO.
  • 2008: The environmental permit was approved.
  • 2009: Construction of a new plant.
  • 2010: Production of pine diesel began in May 2010.
  • 2010: The first deliveries to Preem were made in October 2010.
  • 2011: Improvement of the vacuum system. Problems in production, clogging and cleaning.
  • 2012: Complementary improvement investments.
  • 2013: During the years up until March 2013, efforts largely concerned the removal of bottlenecks and achieving a stable production. The plant reached its planned capacity in 2013, which was also the first year the company made a profit. In all, the initial investment amounted to around 35 M EUR.
  • 2014: Stable production, increased feed and improved process. Handling sludge. The company Lawter, owned by Harima Chemicals in Japan, became a new shareholder and partner.
  • 2014: The upgrade the plant for the manufacture of a new product – rosin that is an existing product on the global market, but is not dependent on political decisions.
  • 2015: The new production plant became operational.  The investment for upgrading the plant and to enable the manufacture of rosin totalled around 21 M EUR.
  • 2016: First delivery of rosin, a start-up year for working on recurring production stoppages and a number of supplementary actions and succeeding in creating stable production with good reliability by the end of year.
  • 2017: Achieving smooth and stable production, achievement of set goals and records in delivery and results.
  • 2018: Continued stability and good production. The EU decides to open up for SunPine’s pine diesel. Decision to invest 25 M EUR in a new factory. Production capacity will be raised by 50%.
  • 2019: In the fall of 2019, a new laboratory and a new office were inaugurated to make room for a new larger SunPine.
  • 2020: Production started in new factory during the fall of 2020.
  • 2021: Production in 2021 is estimated to be more than 150 000 m3 of raw tall diesel.

Main activities

SunPine seeks to extract renewable products through sustainable forestry by processing and seeking to make best use of a tree’s essential components for the manufacture of renewable products. SunPine’s bio-refinery supplies innovative and sustainable products that are based on pine oil, a residual product from Kraft pulp mills. The products reach the world market in everything from the Nordic Swan eco-labelled diesel to fragrant perfumes. The main products are:

  • Pine diesel – SunPine produces over 100 million litres of pine diesel with plans to expand. In terms of positive climate impact, today’s production reduces fossil CO2 emissions by 250 000 tonnes per year, or in simpler terms, equivalent to the emissions from 157 672 vehicles every year;
  • Rosin is produced from pine oil and SunPine customers process it into adhesives, ink, tape, paint and road markings and other things. SunPine has an annual rosin production capacity of 24,000 tonnes;
  • Heating Bio-oil – SunPine’s bio-oil is certified sustainable by the Swedish Energy Agency – a green fuel oil.It is a good renewable alternative to fossil fuel oils for industry. Bio-oil has more potential development possibilities such as for petrol or lubricating oils, development of cholesterol reducing foodstuffs or medications. SunPine produces around 50 000 tonnes of fuel oil per year;
  • Turpentine for customers in the perfume industry. SunPine produces around 2 000 tonnes of sulphate turpentine per year;
  • Surplus heat used for district heating in the city of Piteå. SunPine supplies around 1 500 000 kWh of district heating annually.


Pine oil is transported from pulp mills in Scandinavia to the factory in Piteå but also by boat from the USA. After processing mixed with diesel from ordinary crude oil, it is sold as the Swan-labeled Preem Evolution Diesel to consumers at tank stations all over Sweden. Rosin, heating bio-oil and turpentine are sold to mix of international and Swedish industrial clients. District heating market is the local area of the city of Piteå.

Challenges and solutions

Pine diesel only represents 2% of the total diesel consumption in Sweden. However, an important barrier to expansion is the supply of pine diesel. Several pulp mills in Scandinavia are expanding, meaning that the porudction volumes of pine oil will be increasing. Estimates on pine diesel indicate that pine diesel will constitute 5% of the diesel consumption in Sweden in the future. Research is going on concerning different processes for producing gasoline or diesel from other residues in the forest industry, e.g., converting lignin into fuel. SunPine collaborates with Luleå Technical University in technical research and development.

One important factor is the policy in Sweden and the EU. The industry is dependent on long-term regulation and cost-neutral energy politics. Companies are able and willing to invest if the rules are stable for many years, however, the political climate has been unstable with rules changing annually. Backing of national ambitious policies arguing for the importance of use of biomass for different purposes and taxation to increase the competitiveness of renewable fuels are required. The Business Model of SunPine ought to be replicable on a general level in other regions of Europe. A combination of new applied technology and access to suitable forms of biomass could lead to new types of sustainable bio-fuels. Challenges are also related to finance and access to the specific value chain, both regarding supply and demand. SunPine has overcome these two challenges, by taking in new owners in the company. These owners have brought economic capital and access to the value chain from both supply and demand perspectives.


SunPine has not received any financial support or grants from public authorities. The initial development was financed by entrepreneur Lars Stigsson. Further financing was received from three investors each buying initially 20% share in company and each of them investing around 10 M EUR and later buying additional 5% share each. In 2014, the remaining 25% was sold told to the Dutch company Lawter, owned by Harima Chemicals in Japan.

The investors were particularly important as they represented actors along the value chain:

  • Södra is Sweden’s largest forest-owner association and a leading global producer of paper pulp;
  • Sveaskog is Sweden’s largest forest owner and a leading supplier of saw logs, pulpwood and biofuel;
  • Preem is Sweden’s largest fuel company, with over 600 fuel stations for private and commercial traffic. Preem has two refineries in Sweden: Preemraff Lysekil and Preemraff Göteborg;
  • Lawter is a Dutch company owned by Harima Chemicals (Japan) with a strong position in terms of chemical products extracted from pine oil.

In 2018, SunPine decided to invest 25 M EUR in a new production plant close to the old plant as the market for sustainable pine diesel fuel is growing and company wants to assume responsibility for the Swedish shift to renewable fuels. The production capacity will be raised by 50% and in the right conditions, SunPine could meet 14% of all renewable diesel requirements in Sweden by 2030.

What makes this case innovative?

Today it is a world-leading bio-refinery with 100 M EUR sales that continues to develop and invest in new technology and R&D.

Other related Business Cases

Case 1.1: Ecopellet – environmentally friendly biofuels and pet products from sustainable raw materials – Estonia

Case 1.2: Quercus – production of solid biofuels for energy – Poland 

Case 3.1: Kurana – production of bioethanol, electricity and heat from renewable resources in a closed technological loop – Lithuania 

Case 3.2: 3B Bioenergie – energy production and special processing of digestate – Germany

Case 4.1: Przedsiębiorstwo Energetyki Cieplnej – energy efficient district heating system – Poland

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