E, Kesoil, Union
Neste Oil is the privatised national oil company of Finland. Neste's history since it started in 1948 is fairly complex, but initially the company was established to import oil products and construct a refinery, which opened in 1957. Not initially involved in marketing road fuels, most of the retail outlets can be traced back to the former Union, BP, Gulf or Kesoil chains.
Union started life as Bensiinin-Kuluttajain Oy in 1931, using the BK brand. In 1953 it changed its name to Union; later it found its way in the hands of the Finnish state and became the main component of Neste's downstream operations in 1991. BP entered Finland in 1960 by buying Petko, an independent chain established 20 years earlier and after a period in a joint venture (see right for a 1981 photograph of a BP/Union site in Jyvaskyla) sold out to Union in 1983. Neste's third component was Finnoil, which bought Gulf's outlets in the 1970s and switched them to the "E" brand; E-Öljyn had itself been established only in 1967. Neste bought out the minority interest in Finnoil in 1991 and replaced the E brand with its own.
Kesoil dates back to around 1949 as Autoilijain Bensiinija Kauppayhtiö, which changed its name to Kesoil in 1964 and was owned by the Finnish state and remained as an separate brand until 1998-9. Possibly to prevent a total dominance of the domestic market, Neste introduced the A24 brand at wholly automated outlets in the mid 1990s. In 2007, Neste reimaged its stations under the "Neste Oil" brand (although the former A24 stations became Neste Oil Express, with some briefly displaying the NEX brand).
Neste's first retail activity outside Finland was in 1991 in Estonia; since then it had become an important player in all three Baltic States, Belarus and the St Petersburg area of Russia, although in 2001/2 all Baltic Neste sites were converted to the unmanned A24 format. Neste also operates a small chain of automat sites in Poland.
The only known Neste sheet map covers the Baltic states and adjoining Russia and Poland under the title (in English) St Petersburg to Warsaw. The reverse of the map has town plans of Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Minsk, St Petersburg (shown right) and Warsaw, each marking Neste locations, as well a full list of the 74 stations in the area at the date of publication (1996). No cartographer is given credit for this unusual map.
The Kesoil map (left) dates from 1974 and marks all Kesoil stations, which are also listed on the reverse. Although the cover may imply that it is only a two colour map, it is actually full colour inside, and was prepared by Maanmittaushallitus at 1:1,500,000.
As noted above, E was a single letter brand introduced at Finnoil stations when the Gulf chain was bought by the company: it was later replaced by Neste. The map shown here dates from 1982 and was produced for E by Maanmittaushallitus. The map being shown unfolded on the cover was not quite the same as the actual map inside; it may have been an earlier edition.
E-Öljyt station in Jyväskylä, 1981
Text and layout © Ian Byrne, 1999-2015
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