Wood-based solutions for sustainable transport


Renewable biofuels and plywood offer solid solutions for green transport – without requiring costly investment in new cars or fuel distribution systems.

The challenges presented by climate change are a source of deep concern and fierce debate across the globe. The need for decisive action is glaringly visible especially in transport, which is currently a main source of carbon dioxide emissions.

In Finland, one fifth of carbon dioxide emissions derive from the transportation sector, 90% of which are caused by road traffic. The Nordic country aims to halve transport greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.

The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland has calculated that this can goal could be achieved if 30% of all transport fuel were renewable biofuel, and if fossil-based vehicles were to be replaced by 250,000 electric cars and 50,000 biogas cars.

According to Nils-Olof Nylund, VTT Senior Advisor specialising in engines, renewable biofuels play a key role in reducing the transport sector’s emissions.

“Pitting electric cars against biofuels is counter-productive, because both are needed. Significant emission reductions can be obtained with renewable fuels, where Finland is at the forefront. Drop-in biofuels, which require no changes to current fuel distribution systems and vehicles, have the advantage,” Nylund says.

Proudly made in Finland

Finnish companies have developed advanced biofuels sourced from waste, residues and side streams from agriculture and forestry. These second-generation biofuels pollute less than ever and do not compete with food crops.

At its biorefinery in Lappeenranta, UPM manufactures renewable UPM BioVerno diesel and UPM BioVerno naphtha, a petrol component, from tall oil, which is produced during pulp production.

As a pure hydrocarbon, the characteristics and energy content of UPM BioVerno diesel correspond to that of fossil diesel, making it fully compatible with the distribution systems already in use. Unlike traditional biodiesel, BioVerno can be used as part of a mixture or by itself. Its greenhouse gas emissions throughout the entire production chain are up to 80% lower than those of conventional diesel.

“UPM BioVerno is a drop-in fuel. It is made here in Finland and fulfils sustainability criteria, making it a good solution,” says Nylund.

UPM BioVerno has been tested on buses and industrial machinery in the Helsinki metropolitan area. These tests confirm that the fuel measurably reduces emissions. UPM is part of the BioSata project coordinated by VTT, which will see the Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) bus service and the City of Helsinki’s construction fleet transition entirely to biofuels.

Fewer vehicles, better systems

Finland’s objective of halving transport greenhouse gas emissions not only requires energy efficiency but also fewer vehicles on the road.

It also requires improved logistics: lorries, for instance, should run with a full load as often as possible. There are already a variety of traffic flow design and logistics planning systems supporting this, but any further solutions increasing transport efficiency and smooth flow would be more than welcome. UPM Plywood has developed transport products that facilitate truck loading and enable increased transport capacity.

“Plywood has an excellent strength-to-weight ratio, which helps lighten the equipment and reduce fuel needed while increasing payload,” says UPM Plywood’s End Use Manager Juha Patovirta.

Products such as second-generation WISA-Top Grip Evo2 help speed up loading and improve safety thanks to its high-friction coating. Such solutions can bring significant benefits, especially in emerging markets, where the transition to lightweight coated plywood floors in trucks is still in its infancy.

Since the measurement of CO2 emissions focuses on vehicle engines and fuels, regulatory incentives primarily concern car manufacturers, not companies in the logistics sector, whose willingness to embrace sustainability goals is driven solely by their own readiness to develop and experiment with new solutions.

Source: UPM