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UPM: Cleaner city traffic with wood-based diesel

UPM is conducting field tests of its novel wood-based diesel fuel in urban buses together with Helsinki Regional Transport (HSL) and the Technical Research Centre (VTT).

A Helsinki city bus in its signature shade of blue cruises comfortably down Mannerheim Street, the ‘main drag’ in the Finnish capital. When it reaches the corner of the Helsinki Music Centre, it turns right and parks in front of UPM’s Biofore House. Both sides of the bus sport green UPM BioVerno tapes indicating that the vehicle is fuelled with renewable wood-based diesel and generates fewer hazardous emissions. Its tour around the city marks the launch of bus field tests that will run for at least a year. The tests will evaluate the performance of UPM’s renewable diesel in terms of its fuel functionality in bus engines. Its emissions and fuel consumption will be compared to those of fossil diesel.

“We are delighted to participate in the Helsinki Regional Transport initiative for emission-free public transport. One of the main targets of the initiative is to replace fossil fuels with renewable biofuels in the coming years,” says Sari Mannonen, Sales and Marketing Director at UPM Biofuels.


Reducing tailpipe emissions

Various research centres have produced excellent results with UPM BioVerno diesel in numerous engine, vehicle and fleet tests. The studies have confirmed that UPM BioVerno matches the performance of the best quality diesel fuels, yet reduces tailpipe emissions significantly. “UPM BioVerno generates up to 80 % fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fossil diesel fuels during its lifecycle. The latest studies prove that UPM BioVerno diesel also reduces harmful tailpipe emissions significantly – and that in practice means better air quality,” emphasises  Mannonen. “In the first phase we will use a diesel blend that contains 20% UPM BioVerno. Later we will run a 50% blend in the test vehicles. The target is to conduct test drives with pure renewable wood-based diesel as well,” she adds.


Road transport, maritime and aviation

The bus field tests also form part of the larger ‘BioPilot’ project that is being coordinated by the VTT Technical Research Centre. The project’s goal is to encourage companies to commercialise renewable energy solutions in traffic. According to Research Professor Nils-Olof Nylund from the VTT, the biggest benefit of ‘drop-in’ fuels like UPM BioVerno is that they are fully compatible with all fuel distribution systems and cars but also with vehicles manufactured in the future. Nylund says that advanced and sustainable biofuels could be a fast track to low-emission traffic for Finland. Investing in domestic biofuel production is cost-effective from a technological and economic point of view as well.

“Finland’s total traffic fuel consumption is around four million tonnes a year. Renewable biofuel production capacity is around 500,000 tonnes a year, which represents around 10% of total fuel consumption. In this respect Finland is in a very good position compared to any other country. Renewable biofuels can replace conventional fossil fuels not only on the road but in maritime and aviation as well,” says Nylund. 

VTT has previously tested UPM BioVerno diesel both in passenger cars and bus engines with great results. The new bus field tests mark a continuation of VTT’s long-term collaboration in testing with UPM.


Towards emission-free traffic

The Helsinki Regional Transport (HSL) aims to decrease CO² and other hazardous emissions by over 90% in public transportation by 2025. “Increasing use of public transportation is important for sustainable development in general. Our strategy sees advanced biofuels as a perfect match for us because they can be adopted immediately. Our target is to fully replace fossil fuels with renewable biofuels by the year 2020,” confirms Reijo Mäkinen, head of public transportation at HSL.

The tests are being conducted on four identical, low-emission Volvo Euro VI Class buses with efficient engines. The buses will be operated by Transdev Finland on HSL’s regular bus routes. Two buses are using UPM BioVerno renewable diesel and the other two are fuelled with conventional fossil diesel. Both VTT and the bus manufacturer Volvo will check the test buses before, in the middle and at the end of the testing period.

“The environment is one of Volvo’s three core values along with safety and the high quality of our products. These test drives place us at the forefront of development also in this field,” confirms Tom Rönnberg, who is responsible for product technology at the Volvo Bus Centre. “The new Volvo Euro VI buses perform a continuous cleaning process of the exhaust system during normal driving conditions. Using clean fuels in the engines will reduce the process and the need for maintenance for the vehicles. With a clean fuel the maintenance costs will decrease,” he adds.

St1 is the distributor of the fuel used in this project. UPM BioVerno has been available at St1 filling stations in Finland as part of their Diesel Plus fuel since spring.