Recycled cooking oil powers Finnair flight to New York

By Finnair | September 24, 2014

Finnair operated its flight from Helsinki to New York on Sept. 23 with an Airbus A330 using environmentally sustainable biofuel, coinciding with the UN Climate Summit taking place in New York on the same day. As a leader in the sustainable development of commercial aviation, the airline believes strongly in proactive measures to manage environmental performance.

Most of an airline’s environmental impact arises from aircraft emissions during flight, and switching to a more sustainable fuel source can reduce net CO2 emissions by between 50 and 80 percent. The biofuel mixture powering the flight to New York, provided by SkyNRG Nordic—a joint venture between SkyNRG and Statoil Aviation—is partly manufactured from cooking oil recycled from restaurants, an example of a biofuel alternative to ordinary jet fuel that significantly reduces net greenhouse gas emissions while also being sustainable in its own right. Finnair and its partners insist on the cultivation of biofuel sources that neither compete with food production nor damage biodiversity.

Aviation biofuel is a proven and exhaustively tested technology—Finnair first flew with biofuel in 2011—but at more than twice the price of conventionally produced jet fuel, it is not yet economically viable for any airline to operate with exclusively. This demonstration flight is made possible thanks in part to cooperation with Airbus and SkyNRG Nordic.

“The UN Climate Summit is an important gathering to fight climate change, and we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight the climate benefits of more widespread adoption of environmentally sustainable biofuels in aviation,” said Kati Ihamäki, vice president of sustainable development at Finnair  “Finnair is committed to working further with industry partners and government bodies alike to help develop the biofuel supply chain and bring down the cost of sustainable biofuel for everyday use.”

“As air traffic contributes 2 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, it is very important to have this trial with the use of biofuels,” said Finland’s Minister for International Development Pekka Haavisto. “If the price of oil rises and biofuels become cheaper, there will hopefully be a day when we’ll be able to replace at least some of the fossil fuels with fuels made of renewable and waste material. I’m happy that Finnair is showing leadership in this development.”

“Finnair is a long-standing Airbus customer of almost 30 years and I am particularly proud to be collaborating with the airline for this commercial flight,” said Andrea Debbané, vice president of environmental affairs at Airbus. “ Airbus and Finnair share the aviation industry’s ambitions to reach carbon neutral growth by combining the most modern and fuel-efficient aircraft with optimized air traffic management and operational procedures, while also pushing for the commercial use of affordable sustainable jet fuels.”

“This flight is a warm up for a large offensive from our side with our partners Statoil Aviation, Neste Oil and many others to accelerate the local supply and production of sustainable and affordable jet fuel for the Nordic countries,” said Dirk Kronemeijer, CEO of SkyNRG. “With common effort – including crucial support from governments – and united purpose, we can realize a sustainable and long term future for aviation.”

Along with its partners Finnair is also currently investigating the possibility of establishing a biofuel hub at Helsinki Airport. Finnair is active as well in the Nordic Initiative for Sustainable Aviation, a group of airlines, airport operators, manufacturers and government ministries working to accelerate the development of sustainable biofuel for aviation in the Nordic countries.