Waste-based microbial oil set to become a raw material for renewable diesel

21.09.2010

Neste Oil Corporation
Press release
21 September 2010 at 1 pm (EET)

Waste-based microbial oil set to become a raw material for renewable diesel

Neste Oil has applied for patents to cover technology developed to produce microbial oil from waste and residues with the help of various yeasts and molds for use as a feedstock for its NExBTL renewable diesel. Research work started with the Aalto University School of Science and Technology at the end of 2007 has resolved the process technology-related challenges involved; and microbial oil produced in this way has already been successfully refined into NExBTL renewable diesel.

"Our research is currently concentrating on ways of extending the range of raw materials we can use for producing NExBTL, and we're particularly focusing on nonfood materials capable of making a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions," explains Neste Oil's Biotechnology Manager, Markku Patajoki.

"Our work has shown that waste-based microbial oil represents an excellent opportunity, and we believe it's a very promising future raw material."

Following the success of the lab work, the emphasis will now shift to evaluating microbial oil's potential for pilot-scale production. Commercial production is likely to be possible by 2015 at the earliest.

Making use of agricultural and industrial waste and residues

Research has shown that agricultural residues, together with waste and sidestreams from industry, represent an excellent source of energy and carbon for yeasts and molds, which feed off organic compounds.

"Sugars from cereals and sugar cane can also be used, but agricultural and industrial waste and residues are even more interesting materials from a sustainable point of view," says Neste Oil Researcher Perttu Koskinen.

"We're currently in the process of evaluating a number of alternative raw materials for processing using yeasts and moulds. Agricultural residues such as straw or an industrial by-product such as glycerol from traditional biodiesel process, for example, are suitable for producing microbial oil using yeasts or molds."

New innovations call for advanced applied scientific research

Finland is a world leader in microbial oil research, and the work carried out by the Aalto University School of Science and Technology and Neste Oil is at the cutting edge of the field. The School of Science and Technology concentrated on the initial phase of identifying which yeast and mold strains are the most suitable for industrial use and developing the systems technology needed to ensure that microbes generate sufficient levels of oil. Neste Oil, for its part, focused on leveraging its expertise to extract the microbial oil produced from the biomass.

"Collaboration with Neste Oil on the project has gone very well," says Professor Simo Laakso of the Department of Biotechnology and Chemistry at Aalto University.

"We've been able to draw on our know-how in the scientific fundamentals to identify new sources of raw materials for producing renewable fuels. This kind of applied scientific research is essential for generating new innovations that can go on to be commercialized."

Neste Oil has a long history in developing cleaner, lower-emission traffic fuels. The company currently spends close to €40 million annually on R&D, of which around 80% is linked to renewable raw materials. In addition to microbes, Neste Oil is also investigating the potential of algae, jatropha, forest industry by-products, and other materials.

NExBTL technology is very flexible and can be used to produce renewable diesel from different types of raw materials, such as vegetable oil and waste fat from food industry. NExBTL renewable diesel is currently produced from palm oil and rapeseed oil and waste fat sourced from the food industry.

Neste Oil Corporation
Hanna Maula
Director, Corporate Communications

Further information:
Kari Kolsi, Vice President, R&D, tel. +358 (0)10 458 2317

Neste Oil in brief

Neste Oil Corporation is a refining and marketing company concentrating on low-emission, high-quality traffic fuels. The company is the world's leading supplier of renewable diesel. Neste Oil's refineries are located at Porvoo and Naantali in Finland and have a combined crude oil refining capacity of approx. 260,000 bbl/d. The company had net sales of EUR 9.6 billion in 2009, employs around 5,100 people, and is listed on NASDAQ OMX Helsinki.

Neste Oil is included in the Dow Jones Sustainability World Index and is featured in the Ethibel Pioneer Investment Register. It has been awarded 'Best in Class' recognition for its social accountability by the Norwegian bank, Storebrand, and is on Innovest's Global 100 list of the world's most sustainable corporations. Forest Footprint Disclosure (FFD) has ranked Neste Oil as the best performer in the oil & gas sector. Further information: www.nesteoil.com.

NExBTL renewable diesel in brief

Neste Oil's NExBTL renewable diesel is compatible with all diesel engines and can be used as such or blended with fossil diesel. It has an identical chemical composition to that of fossil diesel and offers equally good or superior product properties. NExBTL renewable diesel has been tested extensively and successfully in trucks, buses, and cars around the world. Neste Oil supplies the Finnish market with Neste Green diesel, which contains a minimum of 10% renewable content.