Neste Oil (Helsinki: NES1V.HE ) has announced plans to build a €550 million (US$810 million) NExBTL plant, the largest renewable diesel plant in the world, with a capacity of 800,000 t/a (12,150 bpd1), located in Singapore, and using palm oil as feedstock. NExBTL technology, is the first commercial second generation biodiesel production process (Neste prefers to call it renewable diesel rather than biodiesel, because of its improved properties and the potential ability to be made from energy crops other than oil seeds or animal fat).
The first NExBTL facility, shown above, was commissioned in Finland at Neste Oil's Porvoo refinery in summer 2007, and a second is due to come on stream there in 2009. Both have an annual production capacity of 170,000 tons (2,580 bpd).
NExBTL Renewable Diesel, outperforms conventional fossil diesel fuel and can be used as such in existing vehicles and be distributed in existing logistics systems. It is a pure hydrocarbon with properties and quality similar to fossil diesel. Wider feedstock base can be utilized in the production process. Due to quality, it is possible to blend tens of percents of NExBTL into diesel. The higher the NExBTL content is, the lower are the emissions.
NExBTL is made utilizing a proprietary conversion process for vegetable oils and animal fats. NExBTL Renewable diesel properties are similar to the best existing diesels such as GTL. NExBTL is sulfur-, oxygen-, nitrogen- and aromatic free and has very high cetane number. Cold properties (cloud point) of NExBTL can be adjusted in the production from -5 to -30 ºC to meet the needs of various climatic conditions. NExBTL diesel is compatible with the existing vehicle fleet as well as diesel fuel logistic system and is technically easy to blend in conventional diesels in all ratios.
The main raw material planned for the Singapore plant will be palm oil. Neste Oil has committed itself to only using palm oil certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) as soon as sufficient quantities are available. Palm oil complying with the RSPO certification system, which was approved in November 2007, will probably be available from the early part of 2008 onwards.
RSPO, established in April 2004 after three years planning period, is actively seeking solutions to problems related to palm oil production. RSPO brings together oil palm producers, officials, NGOs and palm oil consumers. The organization has started a development process to implement sustainability principles and criteria for palm oil production.
RSPO has created principles and criteria - both social and environmental - for palm oil production; is running a trial program together with many oil palm producers and has developed a certification scheme for sustainable palm oil.
According to this article in the International Herald Tribune, despite the above precautions:
Neste's decision to use palm oil as a raw material was criticized by environmentalists who say an increase in palm oil plantations is a major cause of rain forest destruction in Asia.
Critics included Greenpeace, which earlier this week tried to block the arrival of a palm oil tanker from Malaysia at Neste's refinery with rubber dinghies and motorboats.
"Neste's decision indicates that the company is planning that its production (of biofuels) will be greatly dependent precisely on palm oil," said Greenpeace spokesman Harri Lammi. "Constructing the plant in the vicinity of palm oil plantations in Singapore indicates that the company, despite earlier claims, has no plans to even attempt to base its biodiesel production on more sustainable raw materials."
(Chief Executive Risto Rinne) said Neste would ensure its palm oil will be certified as having being produced by environmentally friendly methods once such a system is in place.
"We have a very clear principle that we are aware of the source of all raw materials used in our biodiesel, including palm oil ... and that it is produced by sustainable methods," Rinne said.
The Q&A section on the Neste web site further addresses their position on feedstocks, palm oil in particular, for NExBTL.
Neste Oil is also putting emphasis into development of new energy crops or alternative feedstocks. The company considers future potential to exist among energy crops that are non-edible like Jathropha Curacas and therefore do not compete with food production. Also, as a natural continuation to its vision "The leading provider of cleaner traffic fuels", Neste Oil is investing into the development of the 3nd generation biofuel technology using gasification of biomass and Fischer-Tropsch synthesis.
1 Assuming that they were using metric tons and that biodiesel had a density of 0.88.