EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW: Neste Brings Biofuels to the Aviation Industry

February 14, 2019

Listen to this article:

An ACT News Executive Interview with Lana Van Marter, Commercial Development Manager, Neste, a front-runner in the production of advanced biofuels and renewable fuels.

Lana Van Marter has a unique perspective on sustainability and many of the global challenges we currently face. Today she works for Neste, focusing on the aviation industry, as they pioneer renewable fuels from diverse feedstocks. Lana has a long history working in the aviation industry as well as a fascinating prior career. Previously, as a Foreign Service Officer representing the Philippines and as a representative at the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change, Lana was at the forefront of recognizing the need to create impactful environmental policies in order to mitigate climate change. With such valuable career experience across the public and private sectors, Lana connects the dots from her earlier work with the United Nations to the work she is doing with Neste today.

ACT News caught up with Lana to learn more about how Neste is pioneering biofuels for the aviation industry.

ACT News: Neste has been producing Renewable Jet fuel (RJF), please tell us about some of the key actions Neste is taking to encourage the aviation industry to incorporate RJF.

Lana Van Marter: Neste is working relentlessly to help airports and all aviation stakeholders take advantage of sustainable low-carbon fuels across their operations. We are also developing other opportunities for sustainable aviation solutions through our Neste Green Hub Initiative.

Neste is working to help all aviation stakeholders take advantage of sustainable low-carbon fuels across their operations.

Neste created the Green Hub Initiative which connects key stakeholders to the right ecosystem in order to decrease CO2 emissions across the aviation industry. Green Hub creates a platform where airports, solution providers, airlines, authorities, local community and passengers unite to contribute to more sustainable travel.

While much of aviation’s carbon footprint is linked to flights, there remains a great opportunity to reduce emissions through other applications such as renewable diesel for ground support equipment (GSE) and renewable plastics in aircraft and terminals.

Neste supports the circular economy using feedstocks which mostly come from waste and residues. We are working with airports and airlines to collect waste, such as grease and cooking oil, that can then be used to make sustainable low-carbon fuel. Neste also explores ways to introduce liquefied plastic waste as a future raw material for traditional fossil refining and for petrochemical processes. This not only supports global efforts to reduce plastic waste, but also provides the means to reduce crude oil dependency in the production of fuels, chemicals, and new plastics.

Neste supports and participates in the ASTM approval process for different feedstock pathways to make sure we have a wide variety of feedstock choices to support the demand for sustainable aviation fuel from the aviation industry.

In 2019, Neste will increase production of renewable jet fuel as we build up the logistical and blending capabilities to create a cost-effective delivery system for sustainable alternative fuel.

ACT News: Decreasing CO2 emissions in aviation is crucial to combating climate change. How is your role at Neste helping achieve this goal?

Lana Van Marter: Having worked in the industry for 17 years, aviation is in my blood. I am a catalyst, encouraging the aviation industry to incorporate RJF and find solutions to decarbonize aviation as a whole. Millions of passengers have gone through the terminals and thousands of aircraft have operated on the runways of airports I helped build and manage.

Photo of Plane Landing

Every opportunity to reduce carbon emissions should be taken, from the curb-zone to the time an aircraft is in the sky. For instance, vehicles bringing passengers to the airport can use sustainable energy via electric or hybrid technologies or use renewable diesel and other sustainable alternative fuels. Passengers can make a green choice at the food and beverage concessions by using renewable plastics and other sustainable products. Airport terminals can operate using renewable electricity, ground service equipment can use renewable diesel or electricity, aircraft can be powered by renewable jet fuel and use only a single engine during landing.

I also look forward to contributing towards the development of other sustainable products that could decarbonize aviation including aircraft rescue and firefighting (ARFF) trucks that use renewable diesel, renewable foam for extinguishing fires, and renewable de-icing fluids.

ACT News: Before working at Neste, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?

Lana Van Marter: Before joining Neste, the most interesting job I had was as a Foreign Service Officer representing the Philippines, which included being a diplomatic representative to the United Nations. I had the opportunity in the 1990’s to participate in the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change. I witnessed and engaged in the debates and initiatives among nations as the world responded as one unit, with one voice, to combat global environmental challenges. At that time, it was difficult to visualize active and contributory participation, as global investments tended not to be sensitive to environmentally responsible guidelines. However, with the adoption of this global initiative, international bodies like the United Nations, European Union and International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) implemented market-based measures and found ways to enable many sectors to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Today, working with Neste allows me to actively be a part of this global solution. With our renewable products that use waste and residues for feedstock, I am now part of the solutions that were only aspirational in these early debates. It is a great feeling to know that things are getting done and that I’ve played a part in helping to mitigate a global phenomenon– something that future generations will benefit from.

ACT News: Given the rapid advancements taking place in the sustainable transportation space having an executive leadership team that brings a diverse range of perspective is critical.  What recommendations or advice do you have for women interested in pursuing or advancing their career in the clean transportation and energy sector?

Much of aviation’s carbon footprint is linked to flights, but there are opportunities to reduce emissions with renewable diesel for ground support equipment (GSE), and renewable plastics in aircraft and terminals.

Lana Van Marter: The opportunities are out there, try to actively look for them. Do the best you can wherever you are. A good guide is to strive for excellence in anything you do. Training in the areas you are interested in pursuing can never be underestimated. Keep meeting people and advocating for what you believe in. Always keep abreast of developments in the industry. As a woman, always be ready to break through the artificial glass ceiling that some around you might try to make you believe in. Go sideways or go around obstacles as needed. Always have a positive attitude and the readiness to work hard.

ACT News: You care deeply about personal development and teamwork. Along these lines, what are your thoughts and practices related to mentoring?

Lana Van Marter: I am always a mentor and a mentee. I would not be where I am today if not for the many mentors who helped me out along the way. Also, being an active member of several committees and industry-related associations continually provides me with an opportunity to meet others.

I also believe in teamwork. Always remember that we are part of a community, at work and at play, and we should know and continue to learn to work with our team. The heights of success we can reach usually depends on how well we work with our team towards the same goal, contributing to a common cause, and caring for each teammate.

How have you seen the aviation industry change since you took over as Commercial Development Manager at Neste?

Lana Van Marter: The aviation industry tends to lead the way in innovation. As I travel for work, I’ve seen how biometrics in passenger security and processing are being adopted worldwide. More airports are also making it known that they are using clean energy, such as wind and solar, to support their terminals. Airports are also making it easier for passengers to find bins to recycle waste and plastics. I’ve also observed aircraft using one engine as they approach the gate, which helps save fuel and reduce emissions.

Neste will be increasing production of renewable jet fuel, as we build up logistical and blending capabilities to create a cost-effective delivery system for sustainable alternative fuel.

ACT News: What did you learn the hard way?

Lana Van Marter: The hardest part is balancing family, children, work, and play. To achieve this some years ago, I gave up being a diplomat and peacekeeper at the United Nations, and fully relocated to a different country. I adopted a different culture and way of life. It was hard, but it was a great choice. It opened my eyes to wonderful possibilities. I met new friends, overcame many obstacles and got to where I am today. This was a conscious choice as a woman. Otherwise, I might not have married and had a family.  Career-wise, this meant starting over and having the courage, fortitude and strength to manage change. With Neste, I’ve managed the change from working at airports to working towards de-carbonizing solutions, and making a contribution to society that was once only a dream.