Carbon footprint hunt

March 08, 2012Päivi Salpakivi-Salomaa


How can you influence your carbon footprint today?

Global warming is an issue that influences all of us, and so it is even easier to embrace this issue. Now and then you hear about new ideas, such as storing carbon in the seabed, encapsulating it in the permafrost, pumping it back into the oil/gas field or neutralising it into carbonates.  Just yesterday a reporter called me and wanted to know whether the forest industry is interested in such experiments.

The experiments get their share of media attention, but the really important hard work is not noted in the headlines. We should not disregard the dull basics, however, even though they lack the charm of novelty and are hardly media-sexy. Piecing together the required means is not easy or simple. One of the most important issues influencing global warming in terms of the forest industry is sustainable raw material sourcing.

Metsä2.jpgThe most important cornerstone in the fight against global warming is the sustainable forest management itself.

Have the trees been harvested from well-maintained northern woods or plantations in areas that used to be rainforest? Everything we do in the forest–at the starting point–greatly influences global warming, and we must also monitor how the raw material is transported, used and recycled during its life cycle.

If we use the raw material in a versatile and efficient manner, we can also lower our energy consumption, and thus make our carbon footprint smaller. As much of the energy used in manufacturing processes as possible should be either renewable or carbon neutral.

Our large integrated industrial facilities allow us to efficiently recycle both our energy and our resources. For example, energy is generated at UPM Kaukas in a bioenergy plant from the sawmill and pulp mill by-products. We generate so much energy that part of it can be used as electricity at the paper mill or used to heat homes in Lappeenranta. We first use the raw material to manufacture wood products, pulp and paper, and then we use it in energy production. In the future, we will even make biodiesel from it.

There has been talk of saving energy for a long time, and there is no reason to stop talking about it now. Energy-saving process innovations are also profitable because the cheapest kilowatt is the one you never use. Thus, it is also easy to get the financial people interested in the issue.

The bioenergy plant of  UPM Kaukas mill integrate generates energy from the by-products of the sawmill and pulp mill, enough to be used as electricity and heat in Lappeenranta.

Surprisingly enough, we have always been able to find new ways to save energy once we started to look for them. After all, we have been searching since the last millennium. 770 GWh of saved electricity and 1100 GWh of saved heat per year are pretty large figures, but that–in other words around 5% total energy savings–is what we have achieved in a UPM project including almost all of the paper mills, pulp mills, sawmills and plywood mills, and all the development ideas of our employees.

We are actively searching for any fuels that would allow us to cut back on our use of fossil energy. For example, our Madison mill in the United States has switched from oil to the partial use of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which has reduced both the mill's emissions and its expenses. The Madison mill also provided us with the technical means needed in the direct use of LPG, and the Madison mill is involved in a project aimed at offering LPG in the region. This would even further reduce the emission rate.

New technologies can also offer the opportunity to make a breakthrough. Examples of such breakthroughs at UPM include new groundwood pulp manufacturing technologies made at the Plattling mill in Germany and the Madison mill, and the application of energy-efficient solutions in the manufacturing of refined mechanical pulp at the Kaipola and Rauma mills in Finland and the Steyrermühl mill in Austria. But what about the solutions of the future? Europe has set demanding goals for the prevention of climate change. Global negotiations sometimes seem to be getting nowhere, but these goals are nevertheless being expanded. For example, energy-efficiency is a very important aspect in the next five-year plan of China.

The EU requires its member states to commit to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions.

Because the global population will continue to grow and the competition for raw materials will become even harsher, the consumers' expectations on the environmental quality of products will also increase. New fibre-based products that are manufactured from renewable materials and energy may be the heralds of a new low carbon economy. The forest industry can be a pioneer of the new era by making the right choices, making technical and financial investments and continuing its innovative development.

Wood is and will remain an important material for man. It binds carbon, it can be used instead of fossil energy sources and its fibres can be used to manufacture versatile products to replace old ones. The most important cornerstone in the fight against global warming is the sustainable forest industry itself. The versatile use of wood, sustainable sourcing and energy/material efficiency will create the foundation for sustainable bioeconomy.

Bioproducts can be the answer to the growing needs of the society. New cost-efficient, viable innovations are always needed. They will drive progress and slowly eliminate the cheapjacks of the carbon footprint hunt.

Päivi Salpakivi-Salomaa
UPM Vice President, Environmental Affairs

8 March 2012

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