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City of Helsinki shifts to renewable transportation fuels

A new multi-stakeholder project seeks to ensure that all commercial vehicles and machinery operated by the Finnish capital as well as the bus services commissioned by Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) will fully switch to renewable fuels by 2020.

Dusk to dawn in downtown Helsinki.

A new project in Helsinki aims to decarbonise bus and commercial vehicles operated by or on behalf of the city by 2020.

The BioSata project represents a concerted Finnish effort to decarbonise urban transportation and commercial vehicles in the City of Helsinki by enabling a rapid transition to biofuels. Commercial vehicles operated by the City of Helsinki and bus services commissioned by Helsinki Region Transport (HSL) will fully switch to renewable fuels by 2020.

Sustainably produced biofuels are playing a major role in reaching the emission targets of Helsinki Region Transport. The BioSata project could accelerate the transition from fossil fuels, says Reijo Mäkinen, Project Director at HSL.

The project is part of the Helsinki region’s Smart & Clean project, which aims to achieve the most attractive zero-emission mobility in the world.

UPM Biofuels Lappeenranta Biorefinery (photo courtesy UPM Biofuels).

UPM Biofuels Lappeenranta Biorefinery (photo courtesy UPM Biofuels).

Key project stakeholders include Helsinki Region Transport (HSL), the City of Helsinki, Helsinki City Construction Services (Stara) producers of renewable fuels UPM Biofuels, Neste, Teboil and St1 along with the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment, the Finnish Petroleum and Biofuels Association and the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT).

Replace 42 000 tonnes of fossil fuel annually

Vehicles serving on HSL’s routes in the Helsinki region include around 1 400 buses, which consume about 40 000 tonnes of fuel each year. Stara’s own vehicle fleet uses around 2 000 tonnes of fuel a year. This represents around 8.5 percent of the current annual production of biofuels in Finland estimated to be 500 000 tonnes.

The construction services company, Stara, which operates most of the city’s vehicles, will be involved from the City of Helsinki’s side.

Switching to biofuels will markedly reduce carbon dioxide and local particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions. This will have a particularly clear impact on air quality in the centre of Helsinki, says Sami Aherva, Unit Director of Stara.

The advantage of high-quality liquid biofuels lies in the fact that neither new vehicles nor a new distribution infrastructure are required. Local emissions can be reduced through the targeted use of biofuels.

Neste is currently the largest renewable fuel producer in Finland.

Neste is currently the largest renewable fuel producer in Finland.

Particulate emissions can be reduced by up to a third, by using renewable diesel in older vehicles and machinery. At best, biofuels reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by the production and use of fuel by 80-90 percent compared to fossil fuels.

Taking into account the number and types of vehicles involved, such as buses, trucks and construction machinery, BioSata is Europe’s largest coordinated advanced biofuels project. The project will also involve follow-up measurements. These measurements will cover issues such as fuel performance, impacts on local emissions and energy efficiency, and maintenance needs, says Research Professor Nils-Olof Nylund of VTT, who is in charge of coordinating the project.

The national energy and climate strategy require that Finland raises the share of biofuels to 30 percent of all fuels by 2030. Finland is a leading country in the use and development of advanced biofuels based waste and residues.

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