Finnish Neste is focusing its raw materials research on waste plastics as a substitute for crude oil in the manufacture of oil products. The idea of “one’s waste is a valuable raw material to another” is central to the circular economy, and, for over a decade, it has inspired Neste’s development and production of renewable fuels. The company headquartered in Espoo already produces enough Neste MY Renewable Diesel, produced of waste and residues, to power more than two million cars for a year. This will enable Neste’s customers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by almost 7 million tons this year. Underpinning this progress is the company’s patented NEXBTL technology for refining low-quality waste fats into high-quality, fully renewable fuel. The same technology can be used to produce other renewable products also, such as renewable aviation fuel and raw material for bioplastics.
“In practice, our business, based on renewable products and circular economics, is eating away at our traditional business operations. This is a sacrifice that many did not believe in at first,” says President and CEO of Neste, Matti Lievonen. “But when it comes to the question of what kind of planet we will leave to future generations, the transition to sustainable lifestyles cannot be held back.”
Fat-containing wastes and residues currently account for nearly 80 percent of the raw materials of Neste’s renewable products. Examples of the raw materials Neste uses include waste fats from the meat and fish processing industries, and used cooking oil. However, the situation in a decade’s time may be very different, as the waste and residues that are currently used by modern refineries are limited. The Finnish company is investing a large amount of resources in research on renewable raw materials. The primary aim is to find increasingly lower grade waste and residue raw materials that have no other significant uses.
Among the most important new raw materials of the future that Neste is interested are residues from the forestry industry, algae, and waste plastics. The research on waste plastics is focused on how to introduce it as a raw material in oil refining processes. For example, plastic packaging materials could be recycled, instead of being disposed of in waste incinerators, and could replace crude oil in the manufacture of petroleum products.