According to results from VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, alcohol fuel can be made to work well even in low temperatures by optimizing the proportions of the fuel blend, one element of which is ethanol. The research forms part of the fuel project carried out under the TransEco programme, and no equivalent optimization of ethanol fuel for cold conditions has been carried out elsewhere. Depending on the time of year, St1’s Refuel RE85, which was introduced onto the market a year ago, contains up to 85% ethanol which the company manufactures from biowaste, ensuring extremely low fossil CO2 emissions for the fuel. This biofuel, which is suited to so-called flexifuel car models, is currently available at seven St1 distribution stations in the Helsinki region. Next year the distribution network for Refuel RE85 will be extended beyond the Helsinki region according to demand.
Coordinated by VTT, the TransEco research programme is developing innovations such as cost-effective alternative fuels suited to Finnish conditions, with a view to running Finnish cars on fuel with a biocomponent of as much as 20 per cent by 2020 and thereby achieving Finland’s climate goals. St1 is focused on optimizing to Finnish conditions high blend ethanol fuels which could be used to replace fossil gasoline, and on minimizing the environmental impact of their use.
Finnish fuel innovation brings biofuel targets within reach
St1’s high blend ethanol Refuel RE85 has been researched in laboratory conditions at VTT, with a primary focus on how well it functions as far as -25 °C below freezing point. The test results for the biofuel, developed for northern climate conditions, confirm that it functions well even in low temperatures. Verification of the results with leading experts in the field also gives the project significant international visibility, since nowhere else in the world have such extensive ethanol tests been carried out. The results of the study will also be utilized by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN), which is currently finetuning its specifications for engine fuels containing bioalcohol.
In addition to VTT, car importers play an important role in the project. Ford, Volvo and Saab have considerable experience in various parts of the globe with flexifuel model cars that run on high blend ethanol. - “We’re very pleased that they chose to partner with us as pioneers in Finland in reducing fossil CO2 emissions in Finnish transport. Of all the environmentally friendlier driving alternatives, running a car on bioethanol is the most cost-effective solution available. The minimal additional cost burden will not hinder its adoption on a larger scale,” says St1’s Renewable Energy Director Jari Suominen.
The EU has set a target of 10% renewable energy in transport by the year 2020. In Finland, the oil industry proposes meeting that target with biofuels as early as 2015, which means that the target for 2020 could be as high as 20 per cent. “By choosing a flexifuel model car and using Refuel RE85 biofuel in place of fossil gasoline, both individual and business motorists can considerably reduce their own transport fossil CO2 emissions. In order to meet our tough but important climate targets, we need concrete alternatives. We hope that tax treatment of flexifuel model vehicles will be standardized quickly to reflect their emission levels. At the moment they are still taxed like ordinary gasoline-run cars,” adds St1’s Jari Suominen.
A car bought today must also be designed to run on the biofuels of the future
Launched a year ago, Refuel RE85 saw flexifuel car models introduced onto the Finnish market. They can be flexibly refueled with both high blend ethanol and ordinary gasoline. The vehicle’s automatic control engineering takes care of the rest. Leading car importers are utilizing the possibilities offered by Finnish high blend ethanol: there are already a thousand flexifuel cars on Finnish roads today, and demand is constantly growing. St1’s project partners Ford, Volvo and Saab no longer sell purely gasoline-run vehicles, rather, they have renewed their range of gasoline-run vehicles with flexifuel models, which are practically the same price.
”In ordinary gasoline-run cars, the gasoline can only be supplemented with ethanol in limited amounts – 5 per cent of volume according to current standards. From next year this will rise to a maximum 10%, which only represents 6% of total energy, however. When EU targets alone require 10% renewable energy in transport by the year 2020, clearly there is a need for alternatives. In flexifuel car models, the proportion of ethanol in fuel can be as high as 85%. In practice, however, the flexifuel model is no more expensive than an ordinary gasoline car. So with marginal additional investment, we can lay the foundations for the future and ensure that gasoline car equipment is also capable of taking high blend ethanol fuel," explains VTT Research Professor Nils-Olof Nylund, who heads the TransEco project.
Motiva also wants to draw attention to the significance of car purchases, since around a fifth of Finland’s CO2 emissions are produced by transport. “Individual decisions in buying a new car, whether made by government, businesses or consumers, decide the shape of our car stock for this decade and beyond. That is why every decision should be weighted in favor of the car model’s future usability and cost-efficiency,” says Motiva’s CEO Jouko Kinnunen.
Legislative reforms are under preparation in Finland which will see taxation of fuels adjusted in favor of environmentally friendlier choices. The aim is incentivize choices and consumption that are energy-efficient and reduce CO2 emissions. According to a preliminary proposal, waste-based biofuels with low CO2 emissions would receive special treatment by the tax regime.
For more information, please contact:
Jari Suominen, Director, Renewable Energy, St1 Oy, tel. 010 557 2371, jari.suominen(at)st1.fi
Nils-Olof Nylund, VTT, Research Professor, Traffic Energy Use and Engine Technology, tel. 0400 703 715, nils-olof.nylund(at)vtt.fi
The fuel project forms part of VTT’s five-year TransEco research programme, whose key aims are to achieve energy savings and increase the use of renewable energy in transport. The primary source of funding for the fuel research part of the project is the Ministry of Employment and the Economy. The research programme is developing technologies and commercializing the results of development work. TransEco’s subprojects also cooperate closely to exchange information.
St1 in brief.
St1 is a Finnish energy company whose vision is to be the leading producer and seller of CO2-aware energy. The company researches and develops economically viable, environmentally sustainable energy solutions. St1’s energy services and products cover everything from wind power to high-concentration ethanol Refuel RE85 produced from biowaste. The company received the Motiva Renewable Energy Award for 2009.
St1 stays true to its vision by turning waste into bioethanol with the help of the company's own award-winning dispersed Etanolix® production concept. The company is building its sixth bioethanol production facility in Finland. St1 has a total of around 640 gas stations in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Poland. The company has its headquarters in Helsinki and offices in Stockholm and Warsaw. www.st1.fi