Story | 04/23/2024 10:15:39 | 5 min Read time

Transport emissions of WISA plywood in Finland decrease by a quarter

Sara Steensig

Editor, Tulus

Juho Kuva

Photographer, VR Transpoint

The Finnish railway operator VR commits to using the same amount of renewable diesel for its train traffic as the transport of WISA plywood between Pellos and Kouvola consumes. The initiative is part of UPM Plywood’s continuous efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.

UPM Plywood has made a deal with the Finnish railway company VR to shift from fossil to renewable diesel.

This significant move is yet another step on the journey towards a future beyond fossils, where UPM Plywood continuously improves the responsibility of its entire value chain.

“This is a great first move. Similar projects are on their way, but here we had a great possibility to shift to a low emission transportation mode,” says Juha Vallittu, Manager, Logistics at UPM Plywood.

“Let’s do it the clean way”

All WISA spruce plywood is produced at the UPM Pellos plywood mills. Thanks to their strength and light weight, WISA spruce products are in high demand in the construction sector and are shipped to customers all over the world. Just above half of the ready WISA plywood products leave the Pellos mills by train. Trucks are used for the rest.  

Slightly more than half of Finland's railway network utilises electric power for operation. However, on the about 150km stretch between Pellos and Kouvola, the locomotives are fuelled with diesel.  

As both UPM Plywood and VR aim to lower their emissions, the parties agreed upon switching to renewable fuels, when they recently renewed their contract. The practical implementation is based on the mass balance principle: VR commits to using the same amount of renewable diesel for its train traffic as the transport of WISA plywood between Pellos and Kouvola consumes. VR has tested that the rolling stock can use renewable diesel without further preparations.

Using renewable fuels reduces the emissions from train transportation to almost zero, and the shift will cut the total emissions from WISA plywood transports inside Finland by 24 per cent.

Account Director Tuomas Kansikas from VR Transpoint says that the train operator is dedicated to developing new operation models with its customers.  
“As a result of this cooperation with UPM Plywood, we will optimise the load factor of the trains, thus using the full transportation capacity. Electricity is of course the primary power source, but only slightly more than half of the Finnish rail network is electrified, so other fuels will continue to be needed alongside electricity. Since alternative traction power technologies for rail transport, such as battery and hydrogen locomotives, are still under development, the most practical solution for non-electrified railway sections is currently renewable fuels.”


Will to invest in responsible delivery

In addition to using renewable fuels, the new contract with VR also makes the train deliveries of WISA plywood more efficient. Until now, two locomotives have typically been in use without necessarily reaching their full capacity. Now, there will be more departures with fully loaded trains pulled by one locomotive.

“It's about optimising so that the transportation equipment is full and not hauling anything unnecessary. No more half-empty trains,” Vallittu assures.

Optimising outbound logistics is part of UPM Plywood’s ongoing work to reduce indirect emissions from the whole value chain by 30 per cent by 2030, against 2018 levels – also known as the 30 by 30 goal. The indirect so-called “scope 3 emissions” account for the biggest part of UPM Plywood’s emissions.

Switching to LNG vessels, increasing payloads and boosting intermodal and multimodal deliveries have already reduced WISA plywood transport emissions remarkably. Utilising inter- and multimodal shipping methods means for example that the truck transporting WISA plywood from Estonia to Germany drives into a ferry instead of driving through Poland by road, which reduces emissions considerably.

Now, emissions from train transport in Finland are drastically reduced, and to reach the 30 by 30 goal, UPM Plywood is looking to use alternative energy sources for all product deliveries.

“Right now, it mainly means renewable fuels, but electricity, gas and hydrogen are all making their way into long-distance transportation in the years to come,” foresees Vallittu, adding that all new initiatives do come with a price tag.

“It's not free, but we are committed to the UN climate goals and are ready to invest in more responsible deliveries,” he says. “We promise to take care of this as a whole. That’s what we mean when we talk about ‘responsibility made easy’.”


Rising demand for low-emission products

Product deliveries account for around 40 per cent of UPM Plywood’s scope 3 emissions. And logistics is an area with no single silver bullet, says UPM Plywood’s Environmental Manager Sanna Kontinen.

“We must develop different measures to address these emissions," Kontinen emphasises. She characterises the many initiatives directly from the people within UPM Plywood as “extremely important.”

“This renewable diesel initiative is an excellent example! No initiative alone can solve all our challenges, but each of them engages people to think ‘What can I do in my responsibility area? What alternative solutions can I suggest to our suppliers?’ We need to seek and uncover these possibilities ourselves.”

Kontinen notes that the demand for low-emission products is especially on the rise in the construction sector, where legislation from the EU and national parliaments continuously requires better climate performance of the materials used. 

As the carbon footprint of WISA plywood’s life cycle decreases, the customers who use plywood in their operations, also cut their own climate impact.

"The customer’s scope 3 emissions are lowered when they buy a product from us with a smaller carbon footprint,” Kontinen sums up.

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