Wastes and residues as raw materials

In recent years, Neste has become the world’s largest biofuels player with regards to circular economy. While we are aiming even higher, already 80% of the production of our renewable products is based on waste and residues.

We are continuously on a search for new, even lower quality wastes and residues to be utilized in the production of our premium-quality products. With the company’s 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. Here are examples of wastes and residues that we have in our raw material portfolio:

Animal fat from food industry waste

For years we have produced our renewable products from food industry’s meat processing waste that is unsuitable for human consumption. Meat processing waste is further processed into meat bone meal and 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. In addition to producing biofuels, animal fat may partly be used as animal feed, as well as in the chemical and energy industries. Neste sources animal fat globally.

Fish fat from fish processing waste

Neste started using fish fat derived from fish processing waste to produce renewable diesel already in 2012. Fish fat is separated from the gutting waste of freshwater fish pangasius after the parts suitable for human consumption have been removed for food industry use at fish processing plants. Pangasius is grown particularly in Southeast Asia. Fish fat can also be used as feed.

Residues from vegetable oil processing

Many residues of vegetable oil processing are suitable raw materials for producing our renewable products. For example, palm oil refining for food and chemical industry uses generates rancid fats, i.e. free fatty acids as processing residue. A processing residue known as palm fatty acid distillate (PFAD) is most commonly used to produce candles and soaps. Fatty acids are partly used also in animal feed, while Neste uses them as to refine renewable products.

During palm oil processing, some 5% of the fat is rancid and removed as free fatty acids; this is less than the amount of sawdust a sawmill yields when making timber products. These rancid fats i.e. free fatty acids are removed by distilling in order to reduce the unwanted odors, tastes and color defects, as well as increasing the shelf-life of oil before palm oil can be used to produce cookies, cereals, and candy, or used as spreads and cooking fat. 

Free fatty acids are unsuitable for human consumption. The deliveries of oil palm bunches from the plantations to the mills are, therefore, usually made as quickly as possible in order to minimize the rancidification of fats to free fatty acids to rancid fats and limit the amount of fatty acids that needs to be distilled. Producers of palm oil aim at as small yields of processing residue PFAD as possible because they can get a better price for the crude palm oil than from selling PFAD.

Used cooking oil

Used cooking fats and oils are primarily wastes from food industry and restaurants. Neste sources used cooking oils (UCO) globally.

Technical corn oil

Technical corn oil (TCO), which we have been using since 2013, is a processing residue generated in the production of ethanol, during which also animal feed is produced, from corn. 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.

Tall oil pitch

In addition to the wastes and residues listed above, we have utilized inedible tall oil pitch, a residue from tall oil refining process, to produce traffic fuels at our refinery in Naantali, Finland.

Sustainability aspects related to the use of wastes and residues

Producing biofuels from wastes is resource efficient and an example of smart utilization of the globe’s resources. Utilizing wastes and residues as raw material reduces the need to increase use of land to produce or to cultivate raw materials. This is how less can be more.

The greenhouse gas emissions over the entire life cycle of Neste Renewable Diesel made from wastes and residues are up to 85–90% smaller than those of fossil diesel. This exceeds the current EU-level requirement for 35% reduction, as well as the requirement of 50% reduction that comes into effect in 2017. All the wastes and residues we use meet the criteria set by the European (EU RED) and North American (RFS) legislation. Waste and residue raw materials are, for example, traceable to their origins (at the vegetable oil or meat processing plants), as required by law.