Adam Hylén, business development manager for bar products, Ovako Smedjebacken, writes on the advantages of using forestry tracks that tread lightly on the environment.

WITH the COP26 climate change conference due to take place in Glasgow in November, political pressure is mounting to enhance sustainability in forestry. As a result, there’s growing interest in products that can help operators to improve their performance and report the results.

One example is the forestry machine tracks made by Swedish forestry and construction equipment manufacturer Olofsfors. It is certifying the carbon footprint of its tracks in a move that will help the industry quantify its environmental impact.

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Göran Nyberg, CEO of Olofsfors, said: “Forestry operators want to have minimal impact on our planet. Our customers are calling for us to help them quantify their environmental performance. To achieve this, we are currently working to publish the independently verified carbon footprint of our forestry machine tracks. In turn, our customers will be able to use this data to demonstrate their own environmental impact.”

Tracks provide traction and flotation in slippery and muddy conditions, helping to improve the productivity of forestry machines. However, they typically have a high embodied carbon dioxide (CO2) content as the steel they use is produced using energy-intensive processes.

This creates an opportunity to save CO2 emissions by choosing tracks that give a long and reliable life and that are manufactured with low-carbon steel. In addition, if a forestry operator knows the carbon footprint of the tracks, it gives them the data to measure, report and improve their overall environmental performance.


Publishing the carbon footprint of its products is the latest step in Olofsfors’ long-term initiative to reduce its CO2 emissions. It also sources low-carbon electricity for its plant from hydropower and nuclear energy generators.

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It has also teamed up with steel supplier Ovako to source speciality steel that ensures a long service life and cuts the carbon footprint of manufacturing. The wear-resistant (WR) grades of boron steel are supplied from the Smedjebacken and Boxholm mills in Sweden.


It’s important to use a grade of steel that can withstand the forest environment, where tracks need to navigate rocks, ice, tree stumps and branches, steep slopes and deep mud. Tracks with a long life and high reliability will avoid outages and reduce operating costs.

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Therefore, WR steel is ideal due to its wear resistance and high strength. A third characteristic, ductility, is an important measure of the steel’s ability to withstand tensile stress without becoming brittle. It helps the tracks withstand heavy mechanical loads in extremely cold conditions.


Olofsfors also works closely with Ovako to source steel bars with special profiles that precisely match the size and cross-sectional shape of its track components.

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As a result, Olofsfors can cut the bars to the required length and carry out forming to shape them before final assembly and welding. This reduces the number of manufacturing steps at its workshop and avoids the need to invest in high-cost production equipment.


The environmental footprint of forestry companies is under increasing scrutiny from governments, and pressure to minimise carbon emissions is building. However, to get an accurate view of their footprint, they must consider the contribution of all the tools and resources they use. This means they need to gather comprehensive information about all equipment, energy, and fuel consumption.

Suppliers can provide this information, but it’s important to make sure that it covers every step in production ‘from cradle to gate’. The gold standard is an environmental product declaration (EPD) that is independently verified under the ISO 14025 standard.

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Not all suppliers report on this basis, which covers data on energy and CO2 emissions at every step in sourcing and production of steel and other materials. This includes the CO2 embodied in raw materials such as steel, as well as the direct emissions from fuels burned and indirect emissions from electricity used during manufacture, as well as energy required for transportation.


It’s also worth noting that the carbon footprint reported by different steel suppliers varies widely. For example, the carbon footprint of Ovako’s hot-rolled steel bar is only 20 per cent of the global average for comparable materials.

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One reason for this disparity is its use of scrap steel instead of iron ore. Steel can be remelted and reused to create new steel without compromising its quality. And because it takes more energy to process iron ore than scrap, recycled steel requires less energy and reduces CO2 emissions.

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Another way to minimize the environmental footprint is to use an electric arc furnace that draws on low-carbon energy to melt steel. This compares with mills that burn fossil fuels in their production process.

Low-carbon transport also helps to minimize the environmental footprint. For example, Olofsfors requires its suppliers to use rail freight, which has a fraction of the carbon footprint of other modes of transport.

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