Days 9-11, May 27, 28, 29 – Alex

Day 9- Sunday, May 27th- Luleå, Sweden

We arrived in Luleå in the morning after a long night of sleeping in the couchettes, along with a lot of card playing.

Playing cards in the couchette

When we finally got off the train, we made our way to the Park Hotell, checked in, and went out for lunch. After eating, we had a little bit of free time to explore the city before heading to Gammelstad. Although the church doors were locked, we were free to walk around the small village and check out the old farm museum.

On top of the ski hill at Örnberget park

Bonfire at Örnberget park

Once we left Gammelstad, we prepared for our picnic by taking a trip to the local grocery store, to buy food for grilling and snacking. The BBQ took place in the beautiful Örnberget park. The park had several fire pits and was full of climbing walls, tight ropes, and other equipment to play on. It also was near the top of a ski hill, with a beautiful view. When the picnic was over, we were once again free to explore Luleå, in a land where, during summer, the sky is never completely dark.

Late night sun in Luleå


Day 10- Monday, May 28th- Luleå, Sweden

Today, we woke up bright and early for a trip to Luleå University of Technology (LTU). Marcus Öhman gave several lectures, with coffee breaks in between of course, regarding pyrolysis, gasification, and combustion.

We learned the conditions in which total combustion can be achieved, that is: a sufficient supply of oxygen from the input air (though it must be controlled to maximize efficiency), a high temperature (greater than 850 degrees Celsius), a long residence time (of a couple seconds), and a strong turbulence to mix the air with the fuel.

Marcus also talked about the environmental impacts of gasification and combustion. He discussed the various greenhouse and other harmful gases produced in these processes and the filters that are necessary to capture the emissions. In the end, he stated that the ultimate engineering trick is to convert these elements back to their natural form before releasing them, to minimize the environmental impact.

We left LTU and drove to Piteå, where we visited the Energy Technology Centre (ETC). ETC is a non-profit organization that works with other private companies, running gasification and biorefining research on a pilot scale. Olov Öhrman talked to us about the gasification process and how ETC uses it to create biofuels, such as methanol, and the conversion process to make dimethylether, or DME. He also discussed the production of pyrolysis oil and its future potential as a renewable fuel source.

After a quick tour of the facility, we headed back to Luleå for the night. The professors and I went shopping for food to make a spaghetti dinner for the group, before calling it a night.


Day 11- Tuesday, May 29- Luleå, Sweden

In the morning, we once again returned to LTU for additional lectures by Marcus Öhman. This time he focused more on the technical aspects of combustion. He described to us the major types of gasification as well as the progression of technology for cleaning gas emissions that emerged in the 1950’s and continues to develop today. Marcus also gave us an introduction to the Skellefteå Kraft power plant that we would be touring with him in the afternoon.

Skellefteå Kraft power plant

We left LTU and made the hour and a half drive south to Skellefteå. This power plant is the fifth largest producer of electricity in Sweden and a major producer of wood pellets. Using a combined heat, power, and pelletization system; the Skellefteå Kraft plant can produce electricity and pellets, along with district heating. One interesting thing about this plant is that it is 100% municipally owned.

Skellefteå Kraft utilizes biomass in combination with 15-20% peat. Peat is a decaying mossy substance found in wetland areas. Although it takes thousands of years to accumulate, the government has deemed it renewable as long as it is harvested at a certain rate. By mixing the biomass with peat, this company is able to achieve a higher efficiency at a lower cost. This system also reduces the need for oil usage in district heating during especially cold winters.

Massive sawdust pile

Jan Burvall gave us a tour of the facility, at which we had to wear hardhats for protection. We visited the biomass storage area, full of everything from sawdust to wood chips to freshly harvested timber. We then went to the sites of several boilers before putting in earplugs to enter the turbine room. Afterwards, we said our goodbyes and hopped back in the van to return to Luleå: where we ate dinner and spent the night analyzing all that we had learned the past few days.

Grass couch in Luleå


The city of Luleå is located on the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia. Its harbor is one of the largest in Sweden and is especially important in the transportation of iron ore mined, in the north (1). The Luleå University of Technology, located in the city, is home to over 6,000 students and offers many programs, including one of Sustainable Energy Engineering (2). We will be studying at the university with their Chemical Engineering and Energy Technology department on May 28th and 29th.

We’ll be arriving in Luleå in the morning, via an overnight train. We are staying at the Park Hotell, in the heart of the city. There is a variety of dining establishments nearby, including several with vegetarian/vegan options, such as Thai food.

The Church Town of Gammelstad, about 6 miles from our hotel, is an important part of the historic culture of Luleå. It consists of over 400 cottages surrounding the central Nederluleå Church, built in the 15th century (3). We will be visiting this site, in the afternoon, on the first day that we arrive in Luleå, May 27th.

The Norrbottens Museum in downtown displays artifacts and information regarding the history of northern Sweden. Also in downtown Luleå, there are a few parks, especially on the coastline, comprised of many trees and paths that could be fun to explore. We are eating a picnic dinner in Örnberget park on our first night in Luleå.



1. Iron Ore to Market. September 2010. International Mining, 36-40.

2. Luleå University of Technology. Retrieved 16 May 2012 from

3. Gammelstad Church Town. Retrieved 16 May 2012 from



2 responses to “Days 9-11, May 27, 28, 29 – Alex

  1. This portion of the trip was far more informational than most of the other visits we had made. Not only were there plant tours to see the systems and processes in progress, but with the combined informational lectures the students, including myself, were able to grasp more of the engineering concepts needed to make this kind of renewable technology possible.

    Although Alex didn’t mention it, when we went to visit ETC it was actually the day before they began testing pure lignin as a source of energy. Lignin, as we learned during this portion of the study abroad, is a very important fuel source for it burns a lot more energy than cellulose; however, lignin comes mostly from trees compared to the cellulose found common in green plants. This testing is very important because with the paper industry being rather successful in Sweden, if pure lignin is determined an adequate source of energy there could possibly be an increase in demand for this biological material.

  2. My favorite part of these days was seeing the biomass stored in massive mounds and the different stages of storage. It was incredible to see how much they could accumulate in such a short amount of time just from the rejected trees from paper mills and the wastes and residues from other various processes. It really makes you think about how much feedstock is required to keep the process running and the kind of impact it can have on the environment if it is not carefully regulated. It was also really interesting that the materials were stored outside and open to the elements. They made sure to store it on cement to prevent contamination and runoff, but the whole area was still open to the rain and wind. It seemed as if the rain would saturate it and prevent the desired water content from being achieved without further processing. It makes me wonder if it is cheaper to have to process the materials or build a large, controlled storage facility.

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