Finnair, Neste partner to reduce CO2 footprint of flying with sustainable aviation fuels

March 5, 2020 |

In Finland, Finnair and Neste inked a new agreement which will gradually and considerably increase Finnair’s use of sustainable aviation fuel in its operations. The new partnership will be a key contributing factor in Finnair’s long-term target of carbon neutrality. Sustainable aviation fuels are a key part of the long-term solution for reducing the CO2 footprint of aviation, as they reduce the CO2 emissions by up to 80% compared to fossil fuels.

The partnership will not only increase Finnair’s use of sustainable aviation fuel, but it will also boost the production of sustainable aviation fuel in Finland. Growing availability is also important in order to make sustainable aviation fuel more widely used and affordable for Finnair’s future flight operations.

Finnair will encourage its customers to support the use of sustainable aviation fuel by offering integrated ticket solutions which will include a sustainable aviation fuel option later this year and will match the contributions customers make to sustainable aviation fuel with its own purchases. Finnair will also use sustainable aviation fuel to decrease the CO2 footprint of its own staff duty travel. Non-integrated voluntary extra payments have recently run afoul of Finnish merchant laws, as we reported here.

The Finnair backstory

There’s a big background here. As far back as 2011, we reported that Finnair had decided to postpone the introduction of Neste Oil’s renewable jet fuel into its commercial flights due to cost and sustainability issues. The airline says it would prefer to use biofuels made from local sources rather than “hauling raw material from the other side of the world.” Neste is developing a facility in Finland using wood waste as a feedstock which may later on fit with Finnair’s sustainability criteria. Finnair had signaled in 2010 that it had intended to introduce Neste’s fuels, as soon as the Bio-SPK spec was approved, as we reported here.

In the flurry of interest in 2010, we reported that British Airways, Rolls-Royce, Finnair, Gatwick Airport and IATA Airbus announced that they will form a research consortium with Cranfield University to support the university’s efforts to produce algal-based aviation biofuels. The group has established a pilot project for growing and harvesting biomass on the Cranfield campus, and expects to move to an offshore site for salt water-based algal development, with commercial-scale production expected to commence by 2013.

The shift began back in 2018, when we reported that Finnair’s consumer research study shows that the majority of Finns are ready to pay to reduce the emissions caused by air travel, but want the proceeds from possible additional charges to go directly to environmental work. Almost all Finns (94 %) want to reduce the emissions of air travel, and many are also willing to pay for this as a part of the ticket price. The respondents saw supporting the use of biofuels (55%) and carbon captures (28%) as the best alternatives for reducing the environmental impacts of flying.

In August, we reported that Finnair announced that it will fly the first biofuel flights backed by its “Push for change” carbon decreasing initiative. On both August 5 and 7, the Finnair flight departing San Francisco Airport bound for Helsinki, Finland, will be flown with a biofuel mix of 12 percent, reducing the total CO2 emissions for the two flights by approximately 32 tons. Finnair’s biofuels partners in San Francisco are SkyNRG and World Energy; Shell Aviation has provided logistics and supply chain support for the project. The sustainable biofuel is produced from used cooking oil in California.

Next Steps

In addition, Finnair, the Finnish airport operator Finavia and Neste are working together to define ways for corporate customers to be able to reduce the CO2 footprint of their travel with sustainable aviation fuel.

“Achieving concrete CO2 reductions is key to solving the CO2 challenge of aviation, and to ensure a sustainable future where the benefits of aviation can continue, while its climate impacts are dramatically reduced,” adds Manner.

Reaction from the stakeholders

“We are excited about increasing the use of sustainable aviation fuel in our operations from our Helsinki hub,” says Finnair’s CEO, Topi Manner. “Sustainable aviation fuels are a key part of our long-term plan for carbon neutrality – by the end of 2025, we expect to spend some 10 million euros annually on sustainable aviation fuels. Developing a healthy SAF market requires commitment from forerunners, and we are happy to be leading the way with Neste.”

“Decreasing emissions from aviation calls for cooperation, as this challenge cannot be solved by anyone alone,” says Peter Vanacker, Neste’s President and CEO. “We are very pleased to cooperate with Finnair, and support Finnair’s carbon neutrality target. Besides the fuel supply, this partnership offers us an opportunity for contributing to our own climate targets by decreasing CO2 emissions of our employees’ business travel with Finnair through the use of Neste MY Renewable Jet Fuel.”

“Currently, sustainable aviation fuel offers the only viable alternative to fossil liquid fuels for powering commercial aircraft. Neste’s sustainable aviation fuel is fully compatible with the existing jet engine technology and fuel distribution infrastructure when blended with fossil jet fuel,” continues Vanacker.

More on the story at ABLC

Both Finnair and Neste will be at ABLC 2020 in Washington DC, March 25-27, which features the Sustainable Aviation Summit in partnership with CAAFI, the Commercial Aviation Alternative Fuels Initiative.

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