Dialogue: wood-based biofuels reducing emissions in transport

10/10/2014 09:47:00

What comes to your mind when biofuels are mentioned? For many of us, first thoughts are related to food versus fuel, land grabbing, deforestation issues or increasing food prices. This has had an influence on the image of the biofuels industry.

As UPM is a pioneer in producing advanced, wood-based biofuels in the world, we consider it especially important to reach out to various stakeholders, and explore and define the important sustainability criteria also within new audiences.

We at UPM believe strongly in the positive sustainability credentials of wood-based biofuels. For this reason we have engaged ourselves in close collaboration with stakeholders like WWF to identify the positive opportunities of wood-based biofuels, and also to discuss and elaborate on the issues that will raise concerns. We have been managing forests according to the principles of sustainable forest management for long, and want to promote the opportunities that sustainability produced wood-based biofuels offer.

Transport sector in crucial role in emissions

Today, European Union imports half of the energy it consumes. The EU spends more than 1 billion € per day to pay its external energy bill. The transport sector is no exception. Road transport is one of the few sectors where emissions have also risen rapidly in recent years. In EU, 95% of the fuel consumption is still based on fossil fuels. Therefore, the transport sector is on track to become the biggest source of CO2 in EU.

Advanced wood-based biofuels are a competitive option for Europe in renewable energy. Not only because we have 25 percent of the global forest resources but European forest industry is also one of the few industries that has the capacity to sustainably develop large scale advanced biofuel production. What´s more, wood-based biofuels create one of the highest GHG savings (even more than 80%) and are under no circumstances in conflict with the food chain.

At UPM wood as raw material has been used for more than 100 years for many different businesses. Now, without increasing wood harvesting or land use, process and forest residues can be directed to biofuels production.

Wood raw material is the basis of many different businesses and resource efficiency at UPM.

Wood-based biofuels – new products from modern forestry

Wood-based biofuels will considerably decrease the dependence of transportation on fossil fuels. Sustainably produced, wood-based biofuels provide a promising alternative to decrease both emissions in traffic and oil import, as well as to increase national energy independence. Investments also benefit the local economic development through local raw material use and labor. However, producing wood-based biofuels, sustainability throughout the whole value chain must be ensured.

Transparency and continuous improvement are essential principles in sustainable biofuels production. Certification of biofuels and forestry certification systems are important tools in managing sustainability of biofuels production and supply chain, but further development of the EU wide standards is required to enable certification of wood-based biofuels.

UPM recognises the importance of proving sustainability of wood-based biofuels and has therefore engaged with several NGOs on the subject. We are also participating in numerous research programmes and projects looking at the various aspects of availability and sustainability of wood residues.

WWF and UPM achieving together

The conservation organisation WWF and UPM have a long history of working together on sustainable forest management. UPM and WWF Finland have recently agreed on versatile cooperation covering also promotion of sustainable wood-based biofuels as well as sustainable forest management and sourcing of raw materials in Finland. The key element in the WWF cooperation is to promote the sustainability and use of wood-based, advanced biofuels, such as the renewable diesel produced at the UPM Biorefinery in Lappeenranta, Finland.

To promote sustainable forestry, UPM and WWF Finland are looking for new ways to protect biodiversity and adoption of the FSC certificate in the Finnish privately owned forests. UPM and WWF Finland cooperate also in the area of species protection.

Another good example of cooperation between industry and NGOs is the recent Wasted report published by European Climate Foundation (ECF), International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), biofuels industry, and NGOs, such as WWF and BirdLife. The report concluded that converting all sustainably available forestry, agricultural and municipal wastes and residues in the EU to biofuels could cover up to 16 % of road transport fuel in 2030, deliver significant GHG savings, and create plenty of jobs in Europe. This cooperation continues as second phase workshops.

The Wasted report is based on publications of Chris Malins from International Council on Clean Transportation and commissioned by European Climate Foundation together with industry and NGOs.

Forest-based biomass, either directly from forest or through industrial processes, offers a sustainable alternative for biofuel production. Open communication and increased transparency are important means for UPM in achieving a high level of sustainability throughout the biofuels value chain.

upm-lappeenranta-biorefinery-may-2014.jpgUPM biorefinery in Lappeenranta, Finland nears completion and produces annually 120 million litres of renewable wood-based diesel.