Finnair to Fly on Low Carbon Forest Fuel

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When I was invited on a cleantech blogger tour of clean tech in Finland this summer, one thing that took me by surprise was the gorgeous Finnair Oy airplane that took me the last leg from New York to Finland. I haven’t been on any airplanes except US flights in… practically forever, and was completely unprepared for the clean, spacious, luxurious design of the interior and the sumptuous airline food – in economy class.

Of course the guilt of taking an airplane and racking up the carbon miles tempered my enjoyment… but that won’t be for long.

Finnair Oy is to switch to using a bio-kerosene manufactured by Neste Oil. Finnair’s sleek commercial airline is to fly on a a biofuel from wood waste from their forests.

If you’ve ever been suspended over Finland in an airplane you will know that the whole country except for Helsinki is pretty much entirely forest, and so I was told, sustainably managed. Although 90% of it is cut, something like 91% gets replanted each year, so it remains nearly all forest.

“It will be the first time that NexBTL aviation fuel, this Finnish hi-tech solution, will be used in commercial service.  We’re not talking any longer of a trial, but of commercial flights”, says Neste Oil CEO Matti Lievonen.

Commercial flights will start as soon as the certification agency, ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) approves the bio fuel for commercial use.

Initially flights between Helsinki and London or Singapore will use fuel manufactured from waste made from cutting wood.  The company will also start to use bio fuels from renewable raw materials.

“We are planning to start commercial operations as soon as we get certification.  We’re talking of a significant percentage of our daily flights”, commented Finnair’s Environmental Director Kati Ihamäki to YLE’s news service.

Demand for Neste Oil’s bio-kerosene is expected to rise as it is one of very few refineries capable of making bio fuels for the aviation industry.  Neste’s bio fuel can be used to replace fossil-based aviation fuel entirely.

At the moment, the bio fuel costs twice as much as fossil fuel. But there is no carbon cost to the climate. The EU has already made it illegal to land in Europe on high carbon fuels by 2012. Finns are good at engineering solutions to technical issues. No bellyaching from dirty industry about costs. They roll up their sleeves and find a solution. By using renewable fuels, Finnair will still fly really friendly skies.


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