Neste strikes up the band, floats the balloons

  • 1998-09-24
  • Sandra L. Medearis
RIGA - Neste Latvia on Sept. 18, officially popped the cork on its new oil terminal at Riga port. The catered affair celebrated Finland-based Neste Oil's 50th anniversary. A fully-owned subsidiary, Neste Latvija handles Latvian operations.

The oil refiners will use the 8.8 million lat ($15.2 million) facility to funnel oil products to wholesale customers and 16 retail filling stations in Latvia. Expansion into agriculture, industry and business markets has an important place on the company's objectives list, Neste Executive Director Matti Okansen said.

The first tons of oil went across the docks and into Neste's six huge storage tanks in April. Since then, the company has transferred 45,000 tons. Neste expects the throughput to equal from 350,000 to 500,000 tons a year after the firm ads rail tankers next year.

The green storage tanks have a combined capacity of 30,000 cubic meters, and have the modern environmentally safe floating roofs to move up and down with volume to prevent evaporation into the air. Neste uses modern fuel recovery methods for displacement in the loading of road tankers. Neste managers said that the company's operations and products will achieve International Standards Organization 14001 certification by the end of 1998.

Neste Oil, a member of the Finnish Fortum energy group, has one automated fuel station in Latvia and plans to open four in October. Employment of 250 locals is augmented by independent Latvian entrepreneurs who employ about another 150 people, managing Director Veli-Matti Ropponen said.

Neste was founded in 1948 and has two refineries and about 1,000 retail outlets in Finland. It has in recent years expanded its retail operations to include 100 stations across Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland and Russia. A terminal at the existing port in St. Petersburg is under construction with completion planned for next year.

That Neste terminal will not affect Ventspils Nafta, analyst Angelika Khotelovitch said.

"The Neste terminal will be primarily an import operation, whereas Ventspils Nafta is mainly an export terminal, so the impact on Ventspils will not be significant," she said.

Neste began activities in Latvia in 1990, when it established Latvian Traffic Service (LTS) in which it had a 60 percent holding, with the state owning 40 percent. In 1996, Neste acquired all LTS shares and in 1993 established Neste Oil Oy Latvia, followed by Neste Oil Terminal Riga, both of which it owns 100 percent. These two companies merged in April and became Neste Latvija. Since it came to Latvia, Neste has invested about 27.5 million lats.