5 March 2015

Neste Oil makes use of methane capture, facilitated by innovative German legislation


Methane capture reduces the environmental effects of crude palm oil acquired by Neste Oil. This is of particular interest to customers in Germany, where a progressive environmental law is about to enter into force.

Reducing methane emissions is important for the environment, as methane is an extremely strong greenhouse gas. Its effect on climate warming is more than 20 times stronger than that of carbon dioxide.

Neste Oil has begun to purchase crude palm oil that has undergone a methane capture process during production. In addition, the crude palm oil has received International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC). Methane capture has attracted particular interest in Germany because of a progressive law that is due to come into effect in 2015.

Germany seeks advanced methods to reduce emissions

Legislation on renewable fuels usually focuses on the percentage of biocomponents added to fuels. Germany is taking the legislation to a new level. Instead of the share of biofuels, the new regulations focus on the amount by which greenhouse gas emissions will actually be reduced. “This is a good operating method. The legislator sets the goal for emission reductions, and operators in the field decide on the best and most effective ways for them to reach the goals. This is usually how the smartest solutions are found,” says Kaisa Hietala, EVP, Renewable Products at Neste Oil.

Similar laws have previously been introduced in U.S. states and Canadian provinces. However, Germany is the first country to introduce this type of system at the national level.

The details of the law are yet to be confirmed, but the goal for 2015 is expected to be a reduction of 3.5% in greenhouse gas emissions.

“I believe the law will generate a great deal of innovation. It encourages operators to consider the best ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This increases efficiency and makes the entire production chain more environmentally friendly,” says Hietala. Methane capture is one of the effective solutions facilitated by the law.

The raw material improves, but the product remains the same

In palm oil production, methane is generated after the actual oil has been pressed. A large amount of organic matter is removed with the water. When the water is stored, the organic matter may begin to decompose into methane.

Capturing the methane generated by the process is an effective way—and one of the only sensible ways—to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Even now, Neste Oil’s renewable oils reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40–90% compared to fossil fuels. Methane recovery will further improve the situation.

“The actual product will remain the same and can be used as before. The quality of the raw material will not change, but the greenhouse gas emissions over its life cycle will further decrease,” says Hietala. In other words, methane recovery benefits customers and the environment alike.