May 30, 2013

Renewable diesel from Finland, part 1: Neste Oil’s record number of raw materials

Biofuels produced from renewable resources are making traffic greener. The energy company Neste Oil is the only producer of renewable diesel in the world that utilises more than 10 different raw materials. The use of waste and residue materials has increased significantly in recent years.

The energy company Neste Oil is presently the world’s only producer of biofuel that is capable of producing renewable diesel from more than ten different raw materials.

The energy company Neste Oil is presently the world’s only producer of biofuel that is capable of producing renewable diesel from more than 10 different raw materials.

Lehtikuva / Martti Kainulainen

Within the space of five years, Neste Oil has shaped its renewable fuel products into a business that brings in net sales of more than 2 billion euros. During the first quarter of this year, the company achieved its first positive result from renewable fuels, equalling some 26 million euros.

“The renewable NExBTL diesel fuel is sold as a premium-quality biocomponent to corporate customers in Europe and the US. In Finland, Neste Oil has been selling fuel containing a minimum of 10 per cent renewable NExBTL diesel to consumers since 2008,” says Kaisa Hietala, vice president, Renewable Fuels at Neste Oil.

Traceable raw materials

NExBTL diesel can be produced from palm oil, its refinement by-products stearin and palm oil fatty acid distillate, rapeseed oil, jatropha oil, camelina oil, soybean oil, waste animal fat from the food industry and waste fat from the fish processing industry.

“In 2012, we produced enough renewable diesel to keep more than two million cars running for a year,” Hietala says. “In compliance with the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive and the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s sustainability criteria, we are committed to procuring only certified sustainably produced raw materials that are fully traceable to the plantation or production location.”

The production of raw materials for biofuels is carefully regulated. Raw materials can only be produced in strictly specified areas that do not threaten natural resources. European legislation excludes, without exception, areas in which the produced raw materials are not suitable for the production of biofuels. These include biodiverse and carbon-rich areas.

“Through full traceability we ensure that only acceptable raw materials are refined,” Hietala says.

New applications

Expanding the raw material base is one of the key goals of Neste Oil’s R & D work: approximately 70 per cent of the company’s R & D costs are focused on research related to renewable raw materials. According to the company, the most interesting candidates for new raw materials are the waste flows from oil plants, the waste flow from ethanol production and used frying fat.

“Our long-term raw material research is focused on utilising microbial oil produced from waste as well as microalgae oil as raw materials for renewable fuels,” Hietala explains. “Both raw materials have already been used to produce renewable NExBTL diesel in laboratory conditions.”

Neste Oil’s refineries can also produce renewable aviation fuel, the first delivery of which was to Lufthansa in 2011. In 2012, the company expanded its product range further by launching the commercial production and sales of renewable naphtha to corporate customers.

“Renewable naphtha can be used, for example, in the chemical industry as a raw material for bioplastics and as a biocomponent in gasoline. Naphtha is a by-product of refining operations in Finland, Holland and Singapore. We have also initiated studies looking into the commercialisation of renewable solvents,” Hietala concludes.

Text by: Sari Okko

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