UPM’s biorefinery project took a major step forwards as road tests of the UPM BioVerno diesel were completed at the beginning of 2014.
The tests showed that the second generation renewable diesel developed by UPM works just as well as regular diesel. The only difference is that the innovative diesel significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuels.
“The results of the road tests were similar to the results of the previous engine and vehicle tests. UPM BioVerno is fit for use,” summarises UPM researcher Ville Vauhkonen who is responsible for the vehicle testing.
From the laboratory to the road
The road tests that began in May 2013 were performed by researchers from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. The test cars included four new Volkswagen Golf 1.6 TDIs.
Two of the cars ran on a fuel blend that included 20% UPM BioVerno and 80% fossil diesel. Regular diesel was used in two of the cars for comparison purposes.
Approximately 20 experienced test drivers from VTT participated in the road tests and kept a meticulous log of the distance driven, routes taken, outdoor temperature and when they refuelled.
“The goal was to keep the test drives of the four cars as similar as possible. Test drives were performed in varying conditions: we drove short distances in the city and longer distances outside the city in both summer and winter weather,” says Juhani Laurikko, Principal Scientist from VTT.
Great results in all conditions
After the test drives, the fuel consumption and exhaust gas emission measurements were repeated.
“The engines of the test cars worked excellently in all conditions,” Laurikko says.
In addition to performing the road tests, VTT is testing how UPM BioVerno affects the different parts of a car fuel system. Parts made of metal, plastic, rubber and silicone will be exposed to the renewable diesel for several months in laboratory conditions.
“The purpose of the test is to ensure that the fuel does not have adverse effects on other materials, such as the rubber gaskets,” Laurikko says.
From decision to product
UPM set its sights on becoming a major player in the wood-based biofuel sector. The company examined various manufacturing technologies and whether it was possible to use residues and by-products from its production plants. The most interesting raw material proved to be crude tall oil, a residue of pulp production. UPM faced a long and demanding R&D process as a similar wood-based biofuel had not been developed before.
UPM invested in small-scale test and laboratory equipment in Lappeenranta and began systematically building up the know-how required to refine hydrocarbons. The company did not have to reinvent the wheel, and existing competence was used in R&D.
The greatest insights were related to applying and combining existing technology and know-how. Technology and a profitable business model were developed side by side from the outset. Over the years, dozens of people from around the Group have been involved in the R&D work.
UPM decided to build the world’s first commercial scale wood-based biorefinery in Lappeenranta. The majority of the crude tall oil used by the plant comes from Finnish pulp mills, including many UPM mills such as the adjacent Kaukas pulp mill.
The production capacity of the biorefinery will be 100,000 tonnes, or 120 million litres, of renewable diesel per year. Production is scheduled to begin in 2014, but development will not end there. As well as fine-tuning the product and business model, UPM will focus on optimising the production process.
UPM will be the world’s first commercial scale manufacturer of woodbased biofuel when the production of renewable UPM BioVerno diesel begins in Lappeenranta.
UPM BioVerno is a high quality second generation renewable diesel made from crude tall oil, a residue of pulp production. The difference between first generation biofuels and UPM’s renewable diesel is that the raw materials used by UPM do not contain food crops.
The quality and properties of UPM BioVerno are first class. The fuel is similar to mineral diesel, and it is fully compatible with current diesel engines and the fuel distribution network.
UPM BioVerno meets the requirements of standard EN 590. Its benefits include a low sulphur and aromatic concentration and a high cetane number (an indicator of the ignition quality of diesel fuel). The fuel can be mixed and used in all mixing ratios (0–100%).
Text Matti Remes