Finnish Biodiesel Fuels Mixed Reaction

As the debate over whether countries should mandate more or less biofuels rages on, Finland’s diesel car drivers — at least in the Helsinki area — now have a chance to fill up their tanks with a new diesel fuel blend whose biodiesel content is at least 10 percent. Neste Oil, Finland’s biggest oil refiner, launched the new biodiesel blend commercially this week, called Neste Green diesel; the biofuel is a mixture of fossil fuel diesel and Neste Oil’s NExBTL Renewable diesel, which is based on renewable raw materials such as palm oil, rapeseed oil and animal fats.

Neste Oil aims to become the global leader in renewable diesel. The company is currently producing NExBTL in one refinery in Porvoo, Finland; a second plant is also under construction elsewhere in the country. A third, which the company claims will be the biggest biodiesel production plant in the world, is currently being built in Singapore. Neste is also said to be looking for investments to build additional plants in the future, potentially in the Benelux countries in Western Europe or in the U.S.

Many, however, oppose the shift to biofuels made partly of palm oil, arguing that it, too, is far from environmentally friendly. Today a European Union directive mandates that each member country should have at least 2 percent of bio or renewable ingredients in transport fuels.

In Helsinki, Greenpeace activists welcomed the new Neste Green diesel by locking the fuel pump nozzles at Neste fueling stations. Wearing orangutan suits, activists claimed that the increased use of palm oil is resulting in cutting down of rain forests and destroying the living environment of endangered orangutans.