Raw material research
R&D played an important role in enabling Neste Oil to add soybean oil, camelina oil, and jatropha oil to its raw material base in 2011. The suitability of these inputs for the company’s production technology was carefully reviewed with the help of analyses and laboratory-scale tests before the go-ahead was given for full-scale production. A number of new calculation methods related to processing different raw material blends were developed.
Research and development work on extending the raw material base continued in 2011. By-products of vegetable oil refining, waste fat from the fish processing industry, and used cooking oil were identified as the most interesting short-term potential alternatives. Longer term, Neste Oil’s raw material research is focusing on using biowax produced from wood-based biomass and microbial and algae oil as feedstocks for producing renewable fuels. Laboratory-scale batches of NExBTL renewable diesel have already been produced from these materials. Development work on production technology for microbial and algae oil continued during 2011; studies also looked at how production volumes can be scaled up to industrial levels.
Microbial oil is one of the most exciting potential raw material alternatives over the long term, and Neste Oil is carrying out cutting-edge research on how this oil can be used in biofuel production. Neste Oil has been working on R&D in this area with Aalto University since 2007, and applied for various patents for technology that can produce microbial oil from waste using fungi in 2010. Research during 2011 shifted to the next stage when the company decided to build a pilot plant to produce waste-based microbial oil at its Porvoo Technology centre. The facility is due to be completed in the second half of 2012 and represents an investment of approx. EUR 8 million.
Neste Oil continued R&D with Stora Enso on the use of wood-based biomass during 2011. The companies have had a joint demonstration plant in Varkaus producing biowax from this type of biomass for use as a renewable diesel feedstock since 2009. An environmental impact assessment covering the building of a possible commercial plant in either Porvoo or Imatra was completed in 2011. The Ministry of Employment and the Economy forwarded Neste Oil’s and Stora Enso’s NER 300 application to the European Commission for consideration. The final decision on whether to go ahead with the investment will be taken when the possible public subsidy for the project has been confirmed.
Research cooperation in Finland and overseas
Neste Oil works closely with leading research institutions and companies in a variety of fields as part of its R&D on renewable raw materials. A total of around 25 universities and research bodies in Finland and around the world are currently involved.
Neste Oil launched a number of new joint projects in the raw material research field during 2011. A project aimed at developing higher-yield oilseed rape varieties suitable for Finnish growing conditions was started in early 2011 together with Boreal Plant Breeding and Raisio. During the summer, Neste Oil decided to join international algae research projects in Australia and the Netherlands. The goal of these projects is to test various algae cultivation techniques in outdoor conditions. In the fall, a joint algae R&D project was launched with the Marine Research Centre at the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). This will test the lipid production capacity of different types of algae and analyze how lipid quality and quantity can be optimized by adjusting growing conditions.
In 2011 Neste Oil decided to build a pilot plant to produce waste-based microbial oil at its Porvoo Technology centre. The facility is due to be completed in the second half of 2012 and represents an investment of approx. EUR 8 million.