Neste Oil achieves milestones at Rotterdam, Porvoo refineries

By Bryan Sims | December 20, 2011

Global refining and marketing company Neste Oil Corp. held a grand opening ceremony at its 800,000-metric-ton (240 MMgy) renewable diesel—trademarked NExBTL—production facility at the Port of Rotterdam, Netherlands. Over 150 guests, including Dutch Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economic Affairs, Agriculture and Innovation Maxime Verhagen, a representative of the Finnish government, as well as other dignitaries representing the political, governmental and business sectors attended the event at the new plant.  

The Rotterdam facility, which officially started up in September, was completed on schedule and on budget, according to Neste Oil in a statement, and marks a major step forward in the company’s cleaner traffic strategy. The refinery employs approximately 150 people, the majority of which are Dutch.

“Through the hard work and cooperation among nearly 15 partners we have built Europe’s largest and finest renewable diesel refinery in just two years,” said Matti Lievonen, president and CEO of Neste Oil. “As a location, the Port of Rotterdam has fulfilled our expectations. It is centrally located in terms of our product and feedstock flows as well as within close proximity to our key markets and customers in Europe. The government of the Netherlands as well as Dutch authorities played an important role in supporting Neste Oil’s investment in a renewable fuels plant, which has been one of the biggest investments in the Netherlands over the recent years.”

Neste Oil currently owns and operates a similar-sized NExBTL production facility operating in Singapore, which came online late 2010, including two renewable diesel plants at the Porvoo refinery in Finland that came on stream in 2007 and 2009 that have a combined production capacity of 380,000 metric tons per year. The start-up of the Rotterdam refinery brings Neste Oil’s combined renewable diesel production capacity to approximately 2 million metric tons annually. The company’s primary target markets for NExBTL are Europe and North America.

Like all of its renewable diesel production plants, Neste Oil’s Rotterdam facility is capable of using a range of feedtocks such as vegetable oils, stearin (the byproduct of vegetable oil refining), as well as oils and fats that meet stringent sustainability criteria included in the EU Renewable Energy Directive (RED). Additionally, the Rotterdam facility is capable of utilizing third-gen feedstocks like algal oil. As a corporate partner in a five-year AlgaePARC project launched in June and coordinated by Wageningen University and Research Centre in the Netherlands, Neste Oil is involved in developing technologies and processes for growing microalgae on an industrial scale as a raw material for use in fuel, food and chemical production.

Meanwhile, Neste Oil said it intends to build a pilot plant at its Porvoo, Finland, refinery that will produce waste-based microbial oil for use in the manufacture of renewable fuels such as NExBTL and, potentially, biobased jet fuel in the future. Specifically, the pilot plant will be used to develop microbial oil production processes and test various raw materials for producing microbial oil, such as straw and other agricultural residues, as well as industrial waste and residues. The facility is expected to be complete in the second half of 2012 and represents an investment of approximately €8 million ($10.4 million).

“In strategic terms, this is a very important decision for us as the new pilot plant will enable us to progress to the next stage in our microbial oil development work,” said Petri Lehmus, vice president of research and technology for Neste Oil. “The decision very much supports Neste Oil’s strategy aimed at extending our raw material base.”

Neste Oil, which applied for patents covering its microbial oil technology in fall 2010, has successfully demonstrated that it can produce NExBTL renewable diesel from microbial oil at lab scale. The company has carried out pioneering collaborative work with the Aalto University School of Chemical Technology on developing microbial oil technology and intends to transfer the expertise learned from the collaboration to the pilot plant project.

“Finland has become one of the pioneers in the world of microbial oil research and I believe that the results of our work are of international significance,” Lehmus said. 

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