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The renewable fuel technology that just keeps getting better

Neste Oil Corporation
The premium-quality fuels developed by Neste Oil, with their lower level of environmental impact, help combat climate change, while its renewable refining technology contributes to reducing the world’s dependence on oil.

Neste Oil has long been a pioneer in developing and producing products that have a lower level of impact on the environment and its NExBTL technology is no exception. Using proprietary hydrogenation technology, Neste Oil can produce premiumquality renewable diesel, together with a growing number of other renewable products, from an extensive range of vegetable oil, waste, and residues.

Following a major investment programme over the last few years, which has seen new refineries built in Rotterdam and Singapore and production expanded in Finland, Neste Oil now has 2 million t/a of NExBTL capacity in place today – making it the world’s largest producer of renewable diesel.

Neste Oil’s renewable diesel refinery in Rotterdam came on stream in 2011. The fuel produced here and at the company’s other NExBTL units is a highly effective way of reducing CO2 emissions without the need to modify existing engines or fuel distribution systems.

Much more than just diesel

NExBTL renewable diesel offers significantly better technical properties than conventional first-generation biodiesel and offers even better performance than the best fossil diesel. It is also the only diesel produced from renewables that can be used as such or as a high-content blending component. The higher the percentage of NExBTL in a vehicle’s fuel, the bigger the improvement in performance and emissions will be.

NExBTL renewable diesel is a pure hydrocarbon and contains no sulphur, oxygen, nitrogen, or aromatics. Thanks to a high cetane number, it combusts very efficiently and helps keep engines clean and performing at their best. It also offers good storability and does not dissolve easily in water. With excellent low-temperature properties, it can be used year-round, even in very cold climates.

Extensive field tests in Finland, Canada, and Germany have confirmed that NExBTL renewable diesel offers significantly reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and tailpipe emissions and represents a highly effective tool for reducing CO2 emissions without the need to modify existing vehicles or fuel distribution systems.

Greenhouse gas emissions over the entire life cycle of NExBTL renewable diesel are between 40% and 90% lower compared to those of fossil diesel, depending on the feedstock used. Particulate emissions are over a quarter lower than those of conventional diesel and NOx emissions 10% lower. Carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions are around 30% and 50% lower respectively.

Neste Oil followed up its lead in renewable diesel by producing NExBTL renewable aviation fuel for the first time in 2011. Fully compliant with the very stringent quality standards demanded in aviation, this can be produced in industrial quantities and has made Neste Oil a global pioneer in the field and the first company to supply biofuel for scheduled commercial flights.

"The only biofuel producer that can produce 
renewable diesel from so many different 
types of feedstock."

Usage of NExBTL renewable aviation fuel by Lufthansa on a total of 1,187 flights between Frankfurt and Hamburg and one intercontinental flight between Frankfurt and Washington D.C. proved an unqualified success. The flights saw one engine on each aircraft run on a mixture of 50% NExBTL renewable aviation fuel and 50% regular jet fuel. The condition of the combustion chambers, turbines, and fuel systems of the aircrafts’ engines was exemplary throughout and no signs of damage or corrosion were detected in their fuel tanks. Usage of NExBTL aviation fuel also resulted in slightly lower fuel consumption compared to regular fossil jet fuel, thanks to its higher energy content.

The NExBTL product range was further extended in 2012 with the launch of NExBTL renewable naphtha. This can be used as a biobased gasoline component in blending gasoline and as a feedstock for producing bioplastics with a smaller carbon footprint than those of products produced from fossil naphtha. Studies are now under way to assess the feasibility of commercialising NExBTL propane.

Feedstock flexibility set to grow even further

One of the key strengths of Neste Oil’s NExBTL refining technology is the sheer range of different renewable raw materials than can be used without compromising the quality of the endproduct. In fact, Neste Oil is currently the world’s only biofuel producer that can produce renewable diesel from more than 10 different types of feedstock.

Neste Oil has steadily increased the number of different renewable inputs that it uses and recently added waste fat from fish processors to its portfolio. Its use of waste- and residue-based materials has increased very substantially and doubled in 2012, when they accounted for 35% of total renewable input usage, making Neste Oil the world’s largest producer of renewable fuels from waste and residues today.

All the renewable inputs used by Neste Oil can be traced back to their origin and comply with the strict sustainability criteria set out in EU biofuel legislation. 77% of all the raw materials used by Neste Oil to produce renewable fuels were certified in 2012, and 91% of its palm oil.

Neste Oil has continued to prioritise the development of new types of raw materials to ensure that these can be used as inputs for producing biofuels as soon as possible. Over the longer term, the company’s research is focusing on using microbial oil produced from agricultural and forest industry residues (lignocellulose) and algae oil. Both of these materials have already been used to produce laboratory-scale batches of NExBTL renewable diesel.

NExBTL renewable diesel can be produced from more than 10 different types of feedstock, including waste animal fat.
A new milestone was reached in 2012 with the commissioning of Europe’s first pilot plant capable of producing microbial oil from waste and residues for use as a renewable feedstock. If the technology proves commercially viable and the production concept logistically viable, Neste Oil could be producing commercial volumes of microbial oil some time after 2015.

(Published in HighTech Finland 2013)