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Laitex is building a green transition to a paradise island

Laitex Oy has been doing business with Reunion paradise island in the Indian Ocean for the last couple of years. Laitex gave up its Russian operations in March. New opportunities have been found to replace it when Europe gives up Russian energy. Lappeenranta-based family business Laitex Oy is taking an increasingly stronger foothold in its green transition businesses.

Laitex will deliver six coal boiler conversions to Reunion this and next year. Reunion is an overseas department and region of France in the Indian Ocean. In practice, on the island of Reunion, it’s a question of modifying coal-fired power plants to operate with low-emission pellets and other biomass. With the help of this change, the carbon dioxide emissions of the power plants will drop by almost 90 percent when coal is replaced by pellets.

Modernization projects always have their own challenges when building something new in existing conditions and spaces. The role of planning and close cooperation with the customer is emphasized,” says Lasse Kurronen, CEO of Laitex.

The orders are based on cooperation with the French renewable energy company Albioma. The cooperation between the companies began in 2019, when the first conversion of a coal boiler to biomass was carried out on the island of Guadeloupe in the Caribbean.

“Laitex and Albioma, as well as several boiler suppliers, have worked closely together on projects for several years”, says CEO Lasse Kurronen.

Laitex offers site services

Laitex will supply Reunion new fuel feeding systems for a total of six coal boilers. Process technology and equipment are designed and mostly manufactured in Lappeenranta, Finland. Laitex is on site to monitor the process and train the personnel of the power plants. The installers are local labour.

“In pellet processing, various dust explosion issues are main concerns, and we have a lot of expertise in ATEX requirements”, Kurronen says.

The island destinations of the Caribbean and Reunion also have their own exoticism, which creates its own spice for projects already in the planning phase.

“Spare parts are not available close by and time must be reserved for transport. Maintenance shutdowns are less frequent than on mainland, so the equipment is designed to last,” Kurronen lists.

The green transition is progressing

The green transition has been a central part of Laitex’s strategy since 2019. Kurronen emphasizes that the green transition is real, and it must be tackled now. “New energy solutions are more environmentally friendly. Carbon dioxide emissions are lower, and the energy efficiency of production is also better from the point of view of circular economy.”

For companies, the green transition means continuous competence development to remain competitive in the world. Laitex works closely with Lappeenranta-Lahti University of Technology, LUT University. The university supports the green transition not only with its research activities but also with its goal of being carbon negative by 2024.

“The green transition is real and Laitex intends to follow the global trend,” says CEO Lasse Kurronen. Kurronen hopes for more measures to speed up the green transition. “The desire to switch to green energy is now globally stronger than ever. By waiting for the next crises, we cannot move forwards.”

Coal boiler conversions are just one part of Laitex’s product family in the green transition. Different value chains of industrial side streams are rearing their heads. “We have interesting projects going on, for example in the production processes of bio-oil and biochemicals and in the processing of lignin. These are real megatrends,” says Kurronen.

Kurronen reminds that Finland is one of the world’s leading countries in terms of abandoning fossil energy and serves as an example for other countries that are only at the beginning of their green transition. “It is an honour for us to export Finnish Greentech know-how to the world.”

Business operations in Russia ended

Although the new openings at paradise islands have gone well, the past year has not been easy. At the beginning of March 2022, Laitex decided to stop all its business in Russia after Russia invaded Ukraine in February. Laitex has been trading in Russia since the early 90s. The decision meant a loss of turnover of four million euros for the current fiscal year.

“The decision was clear and easy, even though it meant severing long-standing customer relationships and a 20 percent loss in turnover. The law or sanctions did not oblige to give up everything in the spring winter. A large part of our products are not subjects to sanctions. The decision was above all a moral one,” says Kurronen.