Neste Oil building pilot plant to produce waste-based microbial oil for NExBTL renewable diesel fuel; commercial production possible by 2015
Neste Oil will build a pilot plant to produce waste-based microbial oil at its Porvoo refinery. It will be the first pilot plant in Europe designed to produce microbial oil for use in manufacturing renewable fuel from waste-based raw materials.
Neste Oil applied for patents covering its microbial oil technology in fall 2010. (Earlier post.) The technology enables the production of microbial oil with the help of fungi using waste and residues as a source of energy and carbon. The microbes break down waste and residues into sugars to grow and produce oil. Microbial oil production can be carried out in the bioreactors widely employed by today’s brewers and biotechnology companies.
Neste Oil collaborated with Aalto University School of Chemical Technology on developing microbial oil technology. Aalto University researchers concentrated on the initial phase of identifying which microbial strains are the most suitable for industrial use and developing the systems technology needed to ensure that microbes generate sufficient levels of oil. Neste Oil, for its part, focused on leveraging its expertise to extract the microbial oil produced from the biomass.
Neste Oil has already produced NExBTL renewable diesel from microbial oil at laboratory scale. The new pilot plant is an important step on the way to scaling up the technology to commercial capability.
The 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 plant will support Neste Oil’s goal of using microbial oil to produce NExBTL renewable diesel in the future. The facility is due to be completed in the second half of 2012 and represents an investment of approximately €8 million (US$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. The decision very much supports Neste Oil’s strategy aimed at extending our raw material base.
The next stages in our development work will concentrate on tuning the production process and enabling it to operate on an industrial scale. Commercial production of microbial oil is likely to be possible by 2015 at the earliest.—Neste Oil’s Vice President, Research and Technology Petri Lehmus