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A truly advanced renewable diesel

Neste Oil’s premium-quality NExBTL renewable diesel, produced using the company’s proprietary technology, is the world’s cleanest diesel fuel – of any type. The company is set to become the world’s leading player in renewable diesel.
Neste Oil Corporation

Neste Oil’s NExBTL technology enables premiumquality renewable diesel to be produced from a wide range of vegetable oil and animal fat. The resulting fuel offers significantly better technical properties than conventional first-generation biodiesels, and is even better than the best fossil diesel on the market today.

NExBTL renewable diesel is fully compatible with existing diesel vehicles and fuel distribution systems, keeping switching costs to a minimum. It is the only diesel produced from renewables that can be used as such or as a high-content blending component. The higher the NExBTL content, the greater the improvement in technical performance and the greater the reduction in emissions.

NExBTL renewable diesel’s performance meets automotive manufacturers’ toughest specifications. A pure hydrocarbon, it contains no sulphur, oxygen, nitrogen, or aromatics. Thanks to a high cetane number, it burns 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 cold climates.

Significantly lower emissions

Neste Oil will have four NExBTL renewable diesel plants in operation by 2011, with a combined capacity of close to 2 million t/a.

NExBTL renewable diesel has been studied extensively, and the test results have been excellent, showing that NExBTL offers significantly reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and tailpipe emissions.

Greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil diesel, as measured over the product’s entire life cycle, are between 40% and 60% lower, depending on the raw material inputs used. Particulate emissions are also significantly lower than those of conventional diesel. Compared to conventional biodiesel, NOx emissions are lower as well. A lower level of tailpipe aldehyde emissions underlines the fact that NExBTL is a clean-burning fuel.

Sustainably produced raw materials

NExBTL is the most flexible renewable diesel technology anywhere in terms of the range of raw materials that it can use. Palm oil is currently the best vegetable oil for the process, due both to its availability and positive environmental footprint. Neste Oil also uses rapeseed oil and animal fat.

Neste Oil only uses raw materials that are produced responsibly and sustainably, and expects its suppliers to commit themselves to continuously improving their operations. The company can trace the origin of its palm oil from the plantation to its refineries. When selecting raw materials, determining greenhouse gas reduction potential across the entire life cycle is crucial. The final choice depends on a combination of security of supply, availability, and price – once sustainability criteria have been met.

Neste Oil is an active member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a non-profit organisation that brings together palm oil producers, users, governments, and environmental and nongovernmental organisations. The certification system for palm oil developed by the RSPO is now being introduced on the plantations from which Neste Oil sources its palm oil. The first plantations have already been certified, and the first batches of certified palm oil are expected at Neste Oil’s Porvoo site in Finland in spring 2009. Neste Oil will extend its use of certified palm oil as more becomes available.

In the future, renewable diesel will be produced from an even wider range of raw materials. Neste Oil is working with over 20 universities and research groups internationally on new raw materials, such as algae, microbes, and logging waste.

Neste Oil and Stora Enso will start up a new-generation pilot plant in Finland in 2009 to investigate producing renewable diesel from wood-based biomass.

Becoming a world leader

An EU directive on biofuels and renewable energy was approved in December 2008 and will require the use of renewable energy in traffic and transport across the Community to reach 10% by 2020. Conventional biodiesel and higher-quality renewable diesel production capacity in Europe totalled some 16 million t/a in 2008, but consumption is expected to outstrip this rapidly – which is why Neste Oil is increasing its own capacity significantly and has set itself the strategic target of becoming the world’s leader in renewable diesel.

The world’s first NExBTL plant was completed at Neste Oil’s Porvoo refinery in Finland in summer 2007, and this 170,000 t/a facility will be joined by another of the same size there in 2009.

Neste Oil is currently building two 800,000 t/a NExBTL plants, in Singapore and Rotterdam. These are due to be completed in 2010 and 2011 respectively, and will be the world’s largest renewable diesel plants.

Neste Oil has established a unique system that enables it to trace the palm oil it uses back to the exact area of the plantation where it originated.

NExBTL renewable diesel in brief

  • Produced from renewable raw materials using Neste Oil’s proprietary technology
  • Can be based on a mix of vegetable oil and animal fat
  • Compatible with all modern engines; no need to replace existing vehicles
  • Can be used as such or as a blending component in conventional diesel
  • Performance and ease of use equal to that of fossil diesel
  • Reduces both tailpipe and greenhouse gas emissions 
  • Can be produced in world-scale plants.
  • Industry-leading emissions performance *)
    • 40-60% less greenhouse gas emissions
    • 10% less NOx
    • 28% less fine particles
    • Significantly lower levels of other pollutants
    • Easier cold starts and less tailpipe soot.

*) Sources: MAN, SAE

> Heikki Kilander
(Published in HighTech Finland 2009)