Change Ignites Innovation: UPM capitalizing on industry shifts
Last year was a big year for UPM, the Finnish frontrunner in the bio and forest industry. In January of 2015, they opened the world’s first wood-based renewable biorefinery in Lappeenranta, Finland.
The construction of the Biorefinery began during the summer of 2012, employing some 200 people for nearly two years. The actually planning and implementation process took nearly seven or eight years to realize, but it has been a worthwhile journey. The commercial production of renewable diesel has opened many new doors for the company.
“The product quality is top notch, which boosts our trust when developing new businesses,” says Jyrki Ovaska, Executive Vice President of Technology at UPM.
The widespread shift in the forest and paper industry prompted UPM to develop new, innovative businesses in the bio economy. The opportunities, as Jyrki puts it, have been “thrilling” and have fueled their Biofore transformation strategy.
How does it work?
The actual biorefinery is based on a hydrotreatment process developed specifically by UPM and produces about 120 million liters (100,000 tons) of renewable BioVerno diesel annually. The diesel is manufactured from crude tall oil, which is a residue of pulp production. Aesthetically, it’s a viscous, yellow-black and acidic liquid originating from the resin of pine, spruce and birch trees (Source: European Biofuels Technology Platform).
The actual biofuel production process from wood-based tall oil is an advanced UPM innovation. The renewable, raw tall oil is a result of separating fibrous material from wood. This is ultimately the residue of pulp manufacturing, which was often burned for energy (Source: UPM Biofuels).
In Lappeenranta biorefinery, a significant portion of tall oil comes from UPM’s own pulp mills in Finland, such as the Kaukas mill site.
The economic benefits
Perhaps the greatest benefit of renewable diesel is the positive environmental effect. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 80 percent, which further lowers UPM’s already small carbon footprint.
Research also indicates that UPM BioVerno pairs well with all diesel cars, buses and trucks compared to regular diesel.
“UPM BioVerno renewable diesel has already been shown to function just like conventional diesel in all diesel engines without any modification to vehicles or distribution systems. The significantly lower CO2 emissions and tailpipe emissions make UPM BioVerno diesel a sustainable choice for drivers,” says Jyrki.
Invest in Finland
UPM’s total investment in the Biorefinery, without any public investment grants, is 175 million euros. Jyrki emphasizes how it’s important that they remain committed to developing the business in, but not limited to, Finland.
“Traditionally, Finland is our home base. We are currently investing close to 300 million euros in various projects in this country. Research institutes are playing a big role in our developments, and this is the place to develop new businesses” says Jyrki.
By: Lauren Ayala