In the global pursuit of decarbonization, the advanced biofuels industry has been leading the charge toward a sustainable future. In this sector, climate change mitigation is not just an ambitious goal but a core industrial policy and target.
Among the different approaches that industries are taking in this race to reduce emissions and transition to net zero, the power of collaboration cannot be overstated, according to Christian Librera, the Senior Vice President of UPM Biofuels.
“We need to raise awareness about the potential that lies in all the different technologies and solutions we can get to mitigate climate change. It gives me a real sense of pride and purpose to be a part of a company like UPM, which is a front-runner in wood-based advanced biofuels. We are driving the change in the industry,” says Librera, who joined the company in January 2023.
Librera emphasizes the pivotal role of advanced biofuels in offering a readily available solution to reduce emissions that fits into the existing distribution system.
“With advanced biofuels, there is no need to wait — we are offering a ready possibility to contribute towards the decarbonization of the transportation sector right now. We are not competing with other solutions, but complementing them, because energy is limited, and so are resources,” he adds.
Harnessing the potential of advanced biofuels in hard-to-abate sectors
The global demand for biofuels is expected to rise substantially by 2030. Alongside electrification and other low-carbon technologies, advanced biofuels seamlessly integrate into a broader decarbonization strategy, especially in hard-to-abate sectors such as heavy-duty transport, trucking, large-scale passenger transport, maritime, and aviation.
“Advanced biofuels will continue to play a key role in helping reduce emissions in sectors where electrification is not an easy or viable option. In the aviation sector particularly, there will be a notable increase in the demand for biofuels — numerous airlines have already actively incorporated sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) into their operations,” he says.
Librera reveals that SAF would be a big part of the company’s product mix at UPM’s potential next-generation biorefinery in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The biorefinery aims to produce up to 500,000 tonnes of high-quality renewable fuels annually, including sustainable aviation fuel.
Enabling the reduction of CO2 emissions by 440,000 tons per year
With the Rotterdam project, UPM Biofuels aims to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of road transport and aviation, while also replacing fossil raw materials for chemicals and plastics with renewable alternatives.
“This biorefinery would improve the long-term competitiveness and sustainability performance of UPM Biofuels by introducing several sustainable feedstocks, not limited to crude tall oil. This is an exciting opportunity for us to build on the success of our existing , and find ways to ensure feedstock availability with unique solutions,” Librera says.
UPM Biofuels has already made significant strides in reducing emissions through the existing Lappeenranta facility, which is the first commercial-scale biorefinery with a capacity of 130 000 tonnes to produce renewable wood-based diesel and naphtha. The facility enables the reduction of CO2 emissions by 440,000 tons per year. This equals roughly the annual emissions of approximately 150,000 passenger cars.
The tangible reduction in CO2 emissions demonstrates the potential of advanced biofuels to make a substantial difference.
UPM Biofuels is also actively exploring different ways to contribute to the industry of renewable fuels of nonbiological origin, such as hydrogen-based fuels.
“There are many solutions that are part of the toolbox to reach EU climate targets. We are investigating opportunities to utilize our own expertise and assets to benefit from the growth potential that comes from hydrogen-based fuels,” Librera adds.
Exciting to be in the driver’s seat of the transition to a greener future
UPM Biofuels’ commitment to its innovative and ambitious growth plans, sustainable feedstock use, and technological advancement are what drive Librera in his own journey at the company.
“The Biofuels team is dedicated to building a sustainable future, beyond fossils. It’s not just talk, we are committed to being in the driver’s seat of this transition to a greener future for us, our families, and the planet. And in my role, I've been given the trust and empowerment to further drive and accelerate this transition,” says Librera.
The biggest privilege of this role, according to Librera is the fact that he gets to be a part of the solution and actively contribute to a net zero future.
“For me, the greatest thing would be if in the future I can fly on a vacation with my children in an airplane that is powered by sustainable aviation fuel by UPM. Can you imagine how that would feel? I would be so proud that I could be a part of this success story,” a hopeful Librera says.
Text: Priya D'Souza