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Waste and residues as raw materials

Neste has focused on waste and residue raw materials for over a decade. We source wastes and residues globally for our renewables refineries located in Finland, the Netherlands and Singapore. 

We have set a target to grow their share from the current 80% to 100% of the company’s total renewable raw material inputs by 2025. Our refineries of renewable products have been technically capable of running on 100% waste and residues since 2015. 

Reducing emissions while accelerating the circular economy

With our proprietary NEXBTL technology, renewable products can be refined flexibly from a wide variety of low-quality raw materials while the end-products retain their high quality. 

Efficient utilization of wastes and residues is one of the cornerstones of the circular economy. Producing high-quality products from waste and residue raw materials is an example of efficient use of resources. It provides also one of the key means to reduce the pressure to clear new areas of land for the cultivation or production of virgin raw materials for various uses. 

The life cycle emissions of products produced from waste and residues are also typically smaller than those produced from virgin vegetable oils, and significantly smaller than life cycle emissions of fossil oil based alternatives. 

Waste and residues in our current portfolio

Neste uses approximately 10 different globally-sourced raw materials each year to produce its renewable products. The majority of these are wastes and residues. Animal fat waste, used cooking oil and various wastes and residues from vegetable oils processing represent the top three waste and residue raw material categories we use based on their current and estimated shares of Neste’s total annual renewable raw material inputs. 

None of our raw materials represent the majority share of the total annual inputs. Proportions of individual raw materials in Neste's refining vary from year to year, depending on their availability, price, and specific market requirements, for example. 

Examples of wastes and residues that we have in our raw material portfolio:

Used cooking oil (UCO)

UCO consists of oils and fats of a vegetable or animal origin that have been used by the food industry, restaurants, households to cook food for human consumption. UCO is considered a waste as it is no longer fit for human consumption for food hygiene reasons. 

We source UCO globally from collectors and aggregators in many different countries. As an example of this, Neste’s office in Shanghai focuses on sourcing waste and residue raw materials, particularly UCO, in China from local collectors in the East coast of China, especially in the regions around Shanghai, but later on also in other big cities. UCO is sourced also from Europe and the Nordics.

In September 2019, we opened an office in Shanghai focusing on renewable raw material sourcing in China. We started sourcing certified volumes of used cooking oil (UCO) there.

In May 2020, we completed the acquisition of Mahoney Environmental, a leading collector and recycler of used cooking oil in the United States, and its affiliated entities. 

Animal fat from food industry waste

Animal fat from food industry waste is derived from the food industry’s meat processing waste as it is further processed into meat and bone meal, as well as rendered animal fat at rendering plants. Rendering is a heating process which also eliminates pathogens in order to protect the health of humans and animals.

Neste sources mixed animal fat waste that is unsuitable for human consumption. We source it globally, also from the Nordics. In addition to biofuels, animal fat waste may be used in the chemical and energy industries, and partly as animal feeds. 

In 2018, we acquired 51% of the shares of Demeter, one of the largest animal fat traders in Europe.

Vegetable oil processing waste and residues

Many vegetable oil processing wastes and residues can be used as raw materials to produce Neste's renewable products. Of these types of wastes and residues, Neste uses, for example, palm fatty acid distillate (PFAD), spent bleaching earth oil (SBEO) and palm effluent sludge (PES). PFAD is a processing residue derived from the final stages of refining food-grade palm oil. It consists of degraded fats, free fatty acids, that need to be removed before palm oil meets the food industry’s quality standards in terms of taste, smell, color and shelf life. SBEO consists of oil waste recovered from spent bleaching earth that is used in the refining processes of various vegetable oils. PES is oil waste derived from palm oil mill effluent; it consists of the remaining oily waste skimmed from the palm oil mill’s wastewater (POME). 

Fish fat from fish processing waste

Fish fat waste is separated from the gutting waste of, for example freshwater fish pangasius after the parts suitable for human consumption have been removed for the food industry use at fish processing plants. Pangasius is grown particularly in Southeast Asia. Fish fat can also be used as feed.

Technical corn oil

Technical corn oil (TCO) is a processing residue generated in the production of ethanol from corn, during which also animal feed is produced. The yields of TCO are small and this residue is not suitable for human consumption.

TCO is cheaper than corn oil (or maze oil) produced for human consumption. TCO is used primarily as raw material in the oleochemical industry, as an animal feed additive, and as raw material in renewable diesel production. The needs for ethanol as a biocomponent in gasoline blends has simultaneously increased the availability of TCO as raw material suitable for renewable diesel production. We source TCO from the United States.

Pre-treatment capacity improving

To supplement our global platform for raw material sourcing, we have also been developing our unique capability to pre-treat, i.e. purify, low-quality raw materials to remove impurities. Our Sluiskil plant in the Netherlands, for example, specializes in pre-treating renewable raw materials for our renewable products refineries. 

Our production capacity expansion project ongoing at the Singapore refinery will further improve our raw material pre-treatment capacity, enabling us to use even lower-quality waste and residue raw materials that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to process.

Exploring new wastes and residues

We are continuously searching for even lower quality wastes and residues to be used in the production of fuels, chemicals and materials. We are developing the availability of emerging, lower-quality waste and residue raw materials, such as acid oils and palm effluent sludge (PES), while continuing to study lignocellulosics, such as agricultural and forest harvesting residues, municipal solid waste and wastewater-derived grease (i.e. “brown grease”) as future raw material options. 

Read more about our future raw materials here.