Norway sees a myriad of possibilities for future resource use

Published November 23, 2018

It is more important than ever to use resources sustainably. Norway is fortunate to have plentiful natural resources that can be taken full advantage of – with care.

From time immemorial humans have harvested from nature’s bounty. Until recently, the resources were sufficient to sustain us, but it is becoming obvious that some resources are all too finite. It is critical that future resource use respects nature’s limits.

Norway has always had access to a vast amount of bio and natural resources – fish, oil and gas, minerals, forests, and hydropower being the most well known. With the green transition underway, however, Norwegians are looking for new ways to use these resources in sustainable closed loops. Below are some of the most exciting developments in Norway at the moment.

Glitne land-based fish farms for halibut

New uses for old resources

Norway has huge ocean areas and extensive expertise in aquaculture. The country is the world’s second-largest seafood nation, after China, with tremendous potential for further developing the ocean industries.

One exciting development is known as “integrated multitrophic aquaculture”, which means to produce new types of biomass alongside aquaculture. Ocean Forest was founded by Lerøy Seafood Group and the environmental organisation Bellona. The company is already growing kelp, and is further exploring the cultivation of seaweed, kelp and biomass together with farmed fish at the same facility. The concept follows a circular principle that fully exploits nutrients from aquaculture.

The petroleum industry, meanwhile, has given Norway important experience and technology that can be applied in mining other natural resources, such as minerals. Mineral and rare earth metals could become a very important export for Norway, as they are components in technology necessary for making the green transition, such as solar cells, wind turbines, electric cars, smartphones, batteries and power cables.

NorSun lab for silicon wafers and ingots

NorSun is a leading company in high-performance monocrystalline silicon ingots and wafers. Silicon wafers are the building blocks for solar cells, which in turn are the building blocks of solar panels, and they have high export value.

Petroleum-derived chemicals are still used in many products, including adhesives, coatings, cosmetics, household cleaning products and packaging materials. Several Norwegian companies, however, see the potential in replacing these oil-based additives with additives derived from forest biomass – a plentiful resource in Norway.

Borregaard, for example, operates the world’s most advanced biorefinery, delivering green and sustainable solutions based on renewable raw materials and its unique expertise. The company has developed Exilva, a powerful additive created using cellulose from Scandinavian forests. Exilva is the world’s first commercially available cellulose fibril additive.

wood biomass for Exilva additive

Utilising every bit of the raw material

With the help of new knowledge and technology, natural resources that are currently not utilised can become the source of new industries. Within the marine sector, for instance, the Norwegian Centre of Expertise (NCE) Blue Legasea is gathering experience, resources and knowledge from all segments of the marine value chain. They are working to make Norway a leader in sustainable value creation based on full exploitation of marine raw materials. Mobile SeaLab, a laboratory at one of Norway’s leading research organisations, SINTEF, is doing the same. Mobile SeaLab contains a small, but complete, factory facility for the recovery of oil, protein-rich fractions, and other nutrients from residual raw materials from the fisheries industry.

Norwegian agriculture produces around 415 000 metric tons of residual raw materials annually. Much of this is used for animal feed, but the number of application areas can be increased considerably. Norilia already enjoys success in creating valuable products from what was once considered waste: hides and skins, natural casings, wool and edible meat products. The company uses some 150 000 metric tons of co-streams, or plus-products, from the meat and poultry industry via Nortura to achieve an annual turnover of NOK 500 million, of which 70 per cent comes from exports.

Norilia has also collaborated with the biotech company Biovotec and the food research institute Nofima to develop an organic adhesive bandage made of eggshell membrane that can help to heal chronic sores. Meanwhile, Norner is developing a biocomposite plastic from potato peel.

seafood lab Nofima

Recycling and reuse keep resources in use

Utilisation of bio and natural resources is not necessarily sustainable in and of itself. To ensure that we respect nature and its limits, products and materials must be kept in use with the help of recycling and reuse. This is one of the principles of the circular economy, and is economically, environmentally and socially beneficial. Norwegian companies have already made strides in certain areas within the circular economy.

N2 Applied, for example, has developed a technology enabling farmers to produce nitrogen fertiliser on their own farms, through fixing nitrogen from air and reacting it with ammonia found in the manure of their livestock. The result is a win-win-win situation, with lower greenhouse gas emissions from livestock, higher resource use efficiency, and reduced costs. Students are also in on the act. The innovative student company Plarva Solutions SB is working to solve the pressing problem of marine pollution and contaminated plastic. Among other things, the company is using caterpillars that secrete an enzyme which breaks down plastic to make biofuel.

Ammonia from manure for nitrogen fertiliser N2 Applied

Photos, from top: Borregaard; Glitne land-based fish farm for halibut, Arve Ullebø; NorSun; Borregaard, Nicolas Tourrenc; Nofima, Jon-Are Berg-Jacobsen; N2 Applied.