In a world still heavily reliant on fossil fuels, there is no single silver bullet to completely replace their widespread use. However, by combining sustainability and quality with innovation, UPM’s advanced biofuel UPM BioVerno comes pretty close to being the perfect alternative. The 100% wood-based, renewable fuel is a ready solution that can help mitigate the devastating effects of carbon emissions on the environment.
Made from crude tall oil, a renewable forest industry residue of chemical pulp production, UPM’s biofuel offers a higher quality than the traditional fossil fuel it replaces. At the same time, it significantly reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, explains Jaakko Nousiainen, Production Director at UPM Biofuels and head of the UPM Lappeenranta Biorefinery.
“UPM BioVerno cuts down on CO2 emissions by over 80%, and drastically reduces NOx and particulate emissions compared to fossil fuels. The higher cetane number means it also burns better in the engine, improving fuel efficiency and lowering exhaust emissions,” he says.
It is a complete drop-in fuel that is compatible and ready to use either as a blend or as 100% fuel in all diesel engines.
UPM Biofuels – an effective weapon to cut down on emissions and to help reach climate targets
Strict EU-level regulations target an overall 40% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030. Considering the high energy demand in the transportation sector, all alternatives that can lower GHG emissions are crucial – electrification, improved engine efficiency, and undoubtedly, low-emission biofuels.
According to the latest International Energy Agency Global report*, the global demand for biofuels is set to grow by 41 billion litres, or 28%, over 2021–2026, further propelled by recovery to pre-COVID-19 demand levels.
“In sectors like transportation, where the growth has been massive, advanced biofuels are the fastest, easiest, and most sustainable way to replace fossils and cut down on CO2 emissions,” Nousiainen says.
The high sustainability of the products makes UPM Biofuels a forerunner in the industry.
“Since our starting point is residue stream from pulp mills, it is justified to say that UPM BioVerno is a true example of a product that supports circular economy. The molecules in our pure hydrocarbon product are the same as in fossil fuels, but the difference is that the carbon in our products is only tens of years old, while fossil fuels are made of carbons that existed when dinosaurs roamed the earth,” Nousiainen quips.
Combining expertise in renewable raw materials with innovative production processes
The inception of this ground-breaking product came from the tempting possibility of using wood-based crude tall oil as a feedstock — the renewable raw material was already being generated as a residue during pulp production. A significant portion of the raw material processed at UPM's Lappeenranta Biorefinery comes from UPM’s own pulp mills in Finland.
Production starts with the pre-treatment of crude tall oil to remove cooking chemical residues, fibre particles, water, and turpentine components. The purified tall oil then moves to the hydrotreatment phase, where the crude oil molecules are converted, and the reaction water is separated.
The components are catalytically modified to produce renewable hydrocarbons at the end of the process. The resulting naphtha is an ideal replacement for fossil naphtha which could be used, for instance, in petrochemical processes to produce renewable plastics. The main hydrocarbon stream is high-quality renewable diesel.
Efficient processes optimise resources, and ensure sustainable practices during production
The entire production process is optimised to be highly sustainable from start to finish, with special care taken to ensure all components in the raw material are used efficiently.
The biofuel production process generates multiple side streams that are further turned into opportunities for renewable resources. Residual wood-based pitch is used as bioenergy. Renewable turpentine is used as feedstock for aroma chemicals in the fragrance and flavour industry.
“Our role in the production is to run the process as efficiently as possible. We utilize all the molecules from the feedstock as far as we can. Also, the more stable the production process is, the higher the production rate is, leading to better sustainability,” Nousiainen says.
Ultimately, cutting down on C02 emissions and adhering to the target of limiting global warming to 1.5°C is the biggest driver of innovation and development at UPM Biofuels.
“Battling climate change is a common challenge for us as humankind, and UPM is fully committed to this goal. All fossil raw materials cannot be replaced with crude tall oil, but we are proud to offer this high quality renewable sustainable biocomponent as a perfect alternative in many markets,” Nousiainen sums up.
* IEA (2021), Renewables 2021, IEA, Paris https://www.iea.org/reports/renewables-2021, License: CC BY 4.0