“The entire town of Vaasa smelled like burnt bread” 

“Marseglia Group is Italy’s largest refiner of various vegetable oils for diverse purposes including skin care products. In 2002, the Group approached Wärtsilä with an idea.

Would it be possible to power diesel engines with unprocessed, low-quality oil from olives and waste plants that is not suitable for food use? The refineries needed electricity and steam.

Wärtsilä’s management was not enthused by the prospect of developing ‘another new product’. The market was small and the development project would be a long one.

This reluctance did not, however, prevent the engineers of the product development team from starting to look for new solutions alongside their other duties. Based on their proposed solutions, the Italians were requested to send a couple of barrels of olive oil to be tested in the laboratory’s test engine.

You can imagine my surprise when I received a phone call from the factory gates: there’s an Italian road tanker here, loaded with olive oil – what should we do?

We drilled a hole in the laboratory wall and the heated oil was funnelled straight from the road tanker into the test engine. The project didn’t remain a secret for long, however. When we ran our tests, people around Vaasa took notice of the smell of burnt bread and wondered whether the large local bakery had caught fire.

Following our tests and a few modifications, it turned out that the engine ran just fine on vegetable oil. The adjustments also eliminated the smell issue, and the product was ready to be sold to the customer.

The hobby of Ostrobothnian engineers had turned into a new product. Our entrepreneurial spirit and characteristic stubbornness helped open up the market for biofuel engines.

Harry Lindroos 
at Wärtsilä in various positions from 1980 to 2011

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