Vapo Group – New industry from a familiar raw material

Vapo Group is developing new Finnish high value products for global markets. Geological Survey of Finland (GTK) provides applied research and innovative methods for Vapo Group to base their development on.

Vapo Group`s Challenge

Business in a changing environment

The common denominator of Vapo Group’s operations is peat. Peat is used as substrate in professional and hobbyist horticulture, for local energy production and increasingly as raw material for new high value products. Finland’s aim for carbon neutrality and the pressure for combatting climate change have quickly changed the operating environment in relation to energy peat particularly. Peat burning is being decreased rapidly: it will be halved by 2025 and nearly ended in 2035. In 2030, the total area of peatlands used for peat production will also be halved.

“Most of Vapo Group`s turnover already comes from sources other than energy peat. The cornerstones of our new growth strategy are international substrate markets, renewable energy sources, and highly processed peat products, such as activated carbon. A whole new industry is growing around activated carbon in Finland”, says Päivi Martikainen, Vapo Group`s Director of Operational Excellence and Sustainability.

New products require more detailed information on the raw material and its production areas, such as information on the locations of suitable wetlands, the thickness of peat layers and the quality and chemical properties of the peat itself. Understanding the overarching mechanisms of the wetlands, such as the flow of greenhouse gas emissions and carbon storage, is equally important for the sustainable utilisation of the raw material.

GTK Offering Solutions

Efficiency and cost savings from a new method

For decades, GTK’s vast national research database on wetlands and peat reserves has served as the basis of understanding the operational environment and the raw material. Vapo Group values particularly GTK’s research and expertise. “GTK has a lot of geological knowledge that we can make use of in our operations. Our field is rather unusual. Finland has a limited number of experts who really understand the quirks of peat as a raw material”, says Päivi Peronius, Vapo Group`s Head of Peat Assets.

For regional data collection, Vapo Group has used GTK’s Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) service, which produces information on the inclination of the surface of the wetland and the topography of its bottom. A few years ago, GTK proposed updating the interpreted data from the GPR survey with an elevation model formed with data collected with drones. After some experimentation, a method using drone imaging was developed that reduces the time required for field work and enables faster utilisation of the data. “The method is more efficient; it has made taking measurements faster and it has saved us costs. In the future, we will increasingly need solutions that combine merging data and applied research”, notes Peronius.

Going Forward

Competitiveness from sustainability

Global challenges force us to seek solutions for air and water purification and efficient food production. Activated carbon is used to treat water, air and industrial emissions. The pharmaceutical industry uses activated carbon in the treatment of nutrients and medicinal products to ensure they are safe for human consumption. Around 80 per cent of the activated carbon used in Europe comes from outside of Europe, mainly from Asia and North America. Vapo Group`s aim is to introduce a sustainably produced Finnish alternative to European markets.

“GTK is nationally and internationally recognised expert and research organisation, which is very important to us.” Päivi Martikainen, Director of Operational Excellence and Sustainability, Vapo Group

“Relying on unbiased and researched information is part of sustainability. We emphasise reputation, acceptability and impartiality in the selection of our partners. Of course, GTK is nationally and internationally recognised expert and research organisation, which is very important to us”, Martikainen concludes.

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