Finnair aims to become a launch customer for commercial airline jet biofuel flights in 2011
Tue 21 Dec 2010 – Following the recent announcement that Lufthansa is set to become the world’s first airline to use biofuels on commercial flights, it has emerged that Finnair is also in discussions with the same biofuel supplier, Finland’s Neste Oil, to become a launch user of sustainable jet fuels derived from logging waste. According to Finnair and Neste, the two parties have been looking at areas of cooperation for over two years and are still ongoing. Finnair said a decision has still to be made on when the first commercial biofuel flights will take place and will depend on factors such as the availability of biomass and when biofuel blends will be certified for commercial use.
According to Finnish broadcaster YLE, Finnair is set to become the first airline in the world to use fuel produced from renewable sources on regular flights, although Lufthansa made a similar claim a few weeks ago when it announced a cooperative agreement had been signed with Neste, with the first flights following certification that is expected at the end by the end of the first quarter of 2011.
However, Finnair believes that “first-flyer” status has not been guaranteed to any airline by Neste and a final decision has yet to be made.
“Discussions with Finnair are ongoing and unfinished,” said a Neste spokesperson. “Thus Neste Oil has not issued any statements or press releases regarding the issue.”
A Finnair spokesperson told GreenAir Online: “Finnair is aiming to be the first airline to use biofuels on commercial flights but unfortunately there is no guarantee for that yet. However, Finnair is also looking for long-term cooperation with different interest groups to engage in biofuels development work, especially regarding the use of biomass.”
According to an article on the YLE website, Neste will produce jet biofuel, derived from lard or logging waste, at its production facilities in Porvoo (Finland), Rotterdam and Singapore. The report said airlines have demanded the new fuel should not contain palm oil because of deforestation concerns and Finnair was especially interested in utilizing logging waste from home forests. Neste is one of the largest users of certified palm oil in the world, which it uses in its NExBTL renewable diesel. The company opened what it claims is the world’s largest renewable diesel production plant in Singapore last month.
When it announced the Lufthansa agreement, Neste said the jet biofuel that would be used by the German airline on flights between Hamburg and Frankfurt would be a blend of 50% NExBTL jet fuel and 50% fossil-based jet fuel in one engine, while the other engine would use conventional jet fuel.
The primary purpose of Lufthansa’s ‘burnFAIR’ project is to conduct a long-term trial to study the effect of biofuel on engine maintenance and engine life – the airline has world-leading aircraft maintenance facilities in Hamburg. The project is part of an overall ‘FAIR’ initiative (Future Aircraft Research) in which other issues – alongside biofuel compatibility – such as new engine and aircraft concepts or other fuels are under study. The German federal government is contributing a total of €5 million towards ‘FAIR’, of which half will be earmarked for the ‘burnFAIR’ project. Lufthansa will be investing €6.6 million.
“We know that biofuel is an issue we must address carefully,” said Lufthansa Chairman and CEO Wolfgang Mayrhuber, announcing the launch of the project. “We can see the opportunities this fuel offers and give serious attention to the debate on the requisite raw materials. But we first want to acquire experience in daily practice in the use of biofuels. We are doing pioneering work in that no other airline to date has operated an aircraft engine with biofuel over a longer term.
“Our fuel is sustainable. No rain forest will be deforested for Lufthansa biofuel. In the procurement of biofuel, we ensure it originates from a sustainable supply and production process. Our licensed suppliers must provide proof of the sustainability of their processes.”