Finnair signs SAF agreement with Neste as it targets a 50 per cent reduction of net emissions by 2025
Mon 9 Mar 2020 – As part of what it calls the most ambitious sustainability strategy to date in the aviation industry, Finnair says it intends to reduce its net emissions by 50% by the end of 2025 from a 2019 baseline and achieve carbon neutrality by 2045 at the latest. To achieve the 2025 target, the airline is investing between €3.5-4.0 billion ($4-4.5bn) over the next five years and a further €60 million ($68m) in sustainability initiatives over the same period. As well as seeking reductions in onboard weight and driving improvements in operational fuel efficiency, Finnair will also offset the carbon emissions from flights by corporate customers. Sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) are to play a key role in its long-term carbon reduction strategy and last week the airline announced an agreement with Neste to purchase SAF for use on flights from Helsinki.
“We are excited about increasing the use of SAF in our operations from our Helsinki hub,” said Finnair 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 annually on SAF. Developing a healthy SAF market requires commitment from forerunners and we are happy to be leading the way with Neste.”
As part of its ‘Push for change’ initiative launched in early 2019, Finnair used SAF sourced from used cooking oil on two flights from San Francisco to Helsinki under a purchase agreement with Shell, World Energy and SkyNRG (see article). This follows a survey that found travellers were prepared to pay more to lower the environmental impact of their flights if the proceeds went directly towards mitigation projects.
The airline says it intends to offer “integrated ticket solutions” to its customers later this year that will include a SAF option and will match customer contributions make to SAF with its own purchases. It will also use SAF to decrease the carbon footprint of its own staff duty travel and is working with airport operator Finavia and Neste to devise ways for corporate customers to decrease their travel carbon footprint with SAF.
“Decreasing emissions from aviation calls for cooperation, as this challenge cannot be solved by anyone alone,” commented Peter Vanacker, Neste’s CEO. “We are 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 business travel with Finnair through the use of Neste MY Renewable Jet Fuel. Currently, SAF offers the only viable alternative to fossil liquid fuels for powering commercial aircraft.”
In December, Finnair announced it would be contributing funding, along with other companies that include Neste, to a feasibility study on a potential synthetic fuels pilot production plant in Eastern Finland. The industrial-scale pilot facility is based on power-to-x technology to produce carbon-neutral fuels for transportation. The main raw materials would be excess hydrogen produced by chemical company Kemira and CO2 from the Finnsementii cement facility in Lappeenranta. Hydrogen and CO2 can be brought together in a synthesis process to provide synthetic methanol, which can be further processed into synthetic, emission-free transportation fuels.
The feasibility study is getting its main funding from the regional council of South Carelia, and the city of Lappeenranta is also partner in the project. It is being led by Lappeenranta-Lahti University (LUT), which first piloted the production of hydrocarbon to replace fossil fuels at laboratory scale in 2017.
“This project is seen as a chance to learn together and share knowledge,” said Jarmo Partanen, Dean of the LUT School of Energy Systems. “Some companies seek solutions to turn their own emissions into profitable raw materials. Others have a clear target to start producing or using carbon-neutral fuels in the near future.”
Added Anne Larilahti, Finnair’s VP Sustainability: “Synthetic fuels are a key part of the long-term solution for carbon-neutral aviation. It is natural for us to be supporting this important study to advance the development of synthetic fuels in Finland.”
Finnair’s multi-billion investment in the renewal and growth of its fleet is expected to reduce the CO2 emissions of its European traffic by 10-15% and it foresees further significant investment beyond 2025. The airline said it had paid over €35 million ($40m) in environment-related payments and EU ETS costs last year.
A plan has been developed to save unnecessary weight from the airline’s aircraft, with a target of reducing fuel consumption by 15,000 tonnes per year. As of the end of April, Finnair will remove travel retail sales from its short-haul European fleet and focus on pre-orders, which is expected to reduce on average 50-100 kg per flight and result in a 70,000 kg saving in fuel consumption and 220,000 kg of CO2 emissions per year.
The airline will also remove around 230 tonnes of plastic from its flights and plans to cut single-use plastics in half by the end of 2022. It is also replacing plastic cutlery from economy cabins with more sustainable options, so reducing a further 53 tonnes of plastic from its flights per year. To counter CO2 generated by meat production and to cater for changing tastes, more vegetarian options will be offered to customers during 2020. Action is also being taken to cut food waste in catering operations by half by the end of 2022.
To help achieve carbon neutrality in Finnair’s non-flight operations by 2022, further measures are to be taken to use renewable energy in ground vehicles and real estate energy consumption.
As of the beginning of September, Finnair will offset the carbon emissions of its corporate customers. It will also encourage consumer customers to make sustainable choices by introducing new ticket types that allow customers to support SAF purchases or offsetting initiatives later this year.
“The ambitious targets we have announced are achievable through the tangible steps we’ve described which we know will make a real contribution to CO2 reduction,” said Larilahti. “By working together with our customers, partners and employees, we can embrace this challenge with confidence. We want to encourage innovation and engagement, from our customers to our staff and to our supply chain, to show Finnair can lead the way to make a real difference.”
According to Finnair’s latest sustainability report, CO2 emissions from jet fuel consumption amounted to 3,566,409 tonnes in 2019, compared to 3,248,045 in 2018. The fuel used per revenue tonne kilometre decreased by 1.0% as a result of energy-saving activities and the addition of two Airbus A350s into the fleet. Finnair has improved the fuel efficiency of the fleet by 27.2% since 2005, an average 2.3% annual reduction.
Finnair management is to propose at the company’s next annual general meeting an amendment into the Article of Association “to allow Finnair to engage in activities that increase the positive effects and reduce the negative effects of our business on the environment and society.”