Future raw materials

Abstract landscape

We continue to work towards increasing the availability of renewable and recycled raw materials, while also developing technologies to diversify our current portfolio with new scalable raw materials. This will help us ensure access to sufficient volumes of raw materials to support our growing production capacity, which enables us to maximize the positive carbon handprint provided by our renewable and circular solutions.

Short to mid term: increasing the availability of waste and residues and novel vegetable oils

We are exploring ways to increase the availability of emerging, even lower-quality waste and residue raw materials, such as acid oils and wastewater-derived grease (i.e. “brown grease”). We are also exploring novel vegetable oils produced with regenerative agricultural practices.

Brown grease & acid oils icon

Neste’s raw material strategy focuses on developing new raw material sources while growing our existing portfolio with new raw materials.

In addition to expanding the sourcing volumes of the waste and residues we already have in our raw material portfolio, we are working on diversifying our portfolio with emerging, even lower-quality wastes and residues (including raw materials from EU RED II Annex IX A list) and developing our pretreatment capacity to enable their use.

These raw materials include, for example:

Acid oils: Free fatty acids derived from refining processes of a variety of vegetable oils, for example. Neste is currently developing a supply of acid oils originating from the vegetable oil refining process, such as refining of soybean oil. 

Brown grease: Refers to fats, oils and grease removed from wastewater. Grease trap fat is removed from grease traps, which are commonly found in restaurants, while sewage sludge is a remainder of the wastewater treatment process. 

Advanced pretreatment processes and the use of the proprietary NEXBTL technology make it possible for Neste to convert low-quality raw materials like acid oils and brown grease into high-quality renewable products, but on a global scale, the use of these materials requires substantial investment in additional research and development. 

Did you know?

Many underdeveloped raw material pools exist, but face challenges both inside their supply chains (such as collection, transport, and refinement) as well as outside (such as sustainability regulations). In other words, unlocking the potential of additional renewable raw materials is a task that demands as much ingenuity as it does urgency. Collaborative effort is key; more than anything else, scaling up the use of renewable raw materials requires highly effective and ambitious partnerships.

Lower-quality waste and residues

Regenerative agriculture focuses on restoring soil health.

Regenerative farming practices aim to trap carbon in healthier soils, promote biodiversity and reduce emissions from agriculture, while increasing farm productivity. 

As part of our efforts to develop new sustainable sources of renewable raw materials, Neste is exploring the potential of regenerative agricultural concepts to produce additional biomass. Neste focuses on concepts, such as intermediate cropping, which do not create additional demand for agricultural land. 

We have launched over 60  field studies across the globe, working together with farmers, other value chain partners and research institutions. We have been studying  a variety of crops and regenerative agriculture management practices, for both annuals and perennials, to identify most promising concepts for scale-up. With promising results, we have set at target these novel vegetable oils from regenerative agricultural practices to make up ~20% of our renewable raw material pool by 2035.

Did you know?

Regenerative agriculture refers to methods that agricultural producers can use to protect or restore the viability of land and soil as well as the ecosystems they are a part of. With soil conservation at their center, regenerative practices consider not only short-term crop yields, but long-term resilience of ecosystems, enhancing both the environmental and economic dimensions of sustainable agriculture.

The benefits of regenerative practices often extend further than the land itself. They can also reduce GHG emissions and unlock new opportunities in agricultural value chains. Regenerative practices such as cultivating marginal lands or planting intermediate crops may also be a way to produce additional, new volumes of bio-based renewable raw materials contributing to a broader shift toward more sustainable agriculture. 

Long term: exploring new raw materials and developing technologies to diversify our raw material portfolio further

Our long-term raw material development focuses on, for example, the following scalable, sustainable raw materials and technologies enabling their use:

Microalgae icon

As a raw material for fuel production, algae have been the target of extensive research over the recent decades.

Microalgae are powerful miniature fuel factories that can be harnessed to produce feedstock for industrial production of fuels and materials. As a means to fight climate change they are in a class of its own. Through photosynthesis microalgae contribute up to 50% of the breathable air on our planet.

  • Harnessing algae as part of Neste’s future raw material pool supports our growth and transformation towards innovative renewable raw materials. 

  • Sustainability drives the future for algae: it can be cultivated sustainably (low fresh water footprint), and it offers high biomass yield and opportunity to be developed on non-arable lands. 

  • Neste has over 15 years of experience in algae research and development, including numerous lab and field experiments. Our proprietary NEXBTL technology is fully compatible with this feedstock, yielding 100% renewable diesel and premium jet fuels

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Did you know?

There are hundreds of thousands of algal species, from giant kelp to tiny microorganisms in our oceans, rivers and lakes. But it is the microalgae that are of special interest in fuel production, since they use the energy of sunlight to synthesize the sugars, fats and other complex biomolecules that promote their own rapid growth. The lipids and fatty acids they make have a high energy density and are an excellent raw material for biofuels. 

Liggnocellulose icon

We believe that lignocellulosic waste and residues from existing forestry and agricultural production can make an important contribution as a new scalable raw material providing additional volumes of more sustainable fuels and materials to drive carbon neutrality.

  • Neste has been active in studying lignocellulosics as a potential raw material as well as lignocellulose conversion technologies for a long time, for over a decade.

  • Large amounts of waste and residues from existing forestry and agricultural production remain underutilized and could be transformed into valuable and highly sustainable new raw materials.

  • The structural parts of plants, including trees, are made of a complex mixture of carbohydrate polymers, called lignocellulose. These are the most abundant natural polymers found on earth. These polymers, cellulose, lignin, hemicellulose as well as the huge variety of extracts in plants, offer excellent replacement for fossil raw materials for making fuels, chemicals and materials.

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Did you know?

Forestry waste & residues are generated in harvesting operations (e.g. treetops & branches, pre-commercial thinnings). Forest industry residues, on the other hand, are streams generated in forest industry processing (e.g. bark and sawdust), and recycled wood streams are end-of-life materials i.e. from construction wood.

Municipal solid waste icon | Neste

Waste has always been seen as an opportunity for us at Neste.

By turning municipal solid waste into raw material for renewable fuels, a number of benefits are achieved simultaneously.

  • Municipal solid waste is household or industrial derived waste. Neste is mostly interested in those biogenic fractions (paper, cardboard, wood, greens, textiles) that do not have any other more valuable use and are not being recycled.

  • Municipal solid waste enables increased availability of lower-emission fuels to replace fossil-based products, reduction of waste, and reduced reliance on virgin fossil resources, as well as reduced emissions from treatment of waste thanks to circulation of waste into valuable use.

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Did you know?

Currently the world's population generates over 2 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste every year and The World Bank has estimated that this volume will increase to 3.4 billion tons by 2050.

Electric cable icon | Neste

Power-to-X is one technology pathway, which has the potential to unlock new raw material pools beyond biomass to accelerate emission reduction in transportation.

Replacing fossil fuels and petroleum-based products with renewables is one of the greatest challenges facing mankind. Power-to-X is one technology pathway, which has the potential to unlock new raw material pools beyond biomass to accelerate emission reduction in transportation. The Power-to-X process aims to produce fuels and raw materials for the petrochemical industry that can be used in existing infrastructure.

  • The key technology in Power-to-X is electrolysis, where hydrogen is produced from water using electricity. When using electricity from renewable sources, such as wind or solar power, the technology can be used to produce renewable hydrogen. 

  • Renewable hydrogen can be used as such or synthesized (Fischer-Tropsch or Methanol) together with carbon dioxide from captured CO2 emission (preferable from biogenic) sources to produce liquid or gaseous carbon containing fuels and feedstocks for petrochemistry.

  • Power-to-X based solutions, such as e-fuels, offer a way to expand the carbon-neutral transport fuel pool beyond biomass-based renewable fuels to replace fossil fuels in existing internal combustion engines.

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Did you know?

Sustainable synthetic fuels like e-fuels in combination with electric vehicles have the potential to substitute more than 50% of crude oil in the transportation sector by 2040.

Read about co-creating sustainable future - producting e-fuels from CO2 and green hydrogen

Green hydrogen icon | Neste

The transition to a renewable (green) hydrogen economy is just getting started, and the path to large-scale adaptation of renewable hydrogen needs pioneers to lead the way.

Focus on renewable hydrogen is an essential part of Neste’s strategy and our goal to reach carbon neutral production by 2035.

  • Hydrogen is used in large quantities in many industries, e.g. oil refineries to process fuels. A common way to produce hydrogen has been to produce it from natural gas and water in high temperatures, which leads to carbon dioxide emissions.

  • Renewable hydrogen is produced by electrolysis, where hydrogen is processed from water using renewable electricity, such as wind or solar, by splitting water molecules.

  • Currently, around 95% of all hydrogen is made of fossil natural gas, which leads to significant GHG emissions. Renewable (green) hydrogen is almost emission-free and that is why it holds a massive potential to help meet our rising energy demand and contribute to global climate goals. 

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Did you know?

Grey hydrogen = derived from natural gas and produced from fossil fuels.

Green hydrogen = hydrogen produced by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen using renewable electricity.

Blue hydrogen = grey hydrogen, but CO2 is captured and then stored.

Reaching for the frontrunner position in green hydrogen development 

At the moment, Neste is working on renewable hydrogen projects to decrease the carbon footprint of its refineries and in order to be able to offer its customers high-quality fuels with low emission intensity.

Case Rotterdam:

Demonstrating renewable hydrogen production at our Rotterdam refinery in the Netherlands within the MultiPLHY project is one of the initiatives enabling us to further drive the development of new sustainable technologies. The project is in the commissioning phase.

Case Porvoo:

In Porvoo, the renewable hydrogen project focuses on developing our first industrial-scale renewable hydrogen facility. The goal of the 120 MW electrolyzer project is to supply the refinery with renewable hydrogen produced with electrolysis technology. The project is in the basic engineering phase.

Read more about green hydrogen, and how can it be used to build a healthier planet?

Unlocking new raw material pools to accelerate emission reductions

Multiple raw materials can replace fossil raw materials in fuel production. Some are available already today, and with innovation we can unlock the future potential of many others

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