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Neste Oil complete first phase of its microbial oil pilot plant; feedstock for NExBTL renewable diesel

Neste Oil plans to use yeast and fungi to convert waste into oil for NExBTL feedstock. Click to enlarge.

Neste Oil has completed the first phase of its project to build a pilot plant for producing microbial oil for use as a feedstock for NExBTL renewable diesel. Construction of the plant is on-schedule and on-budget. (Earlier post.) The first phase will enable the growth of oil-producing micro-organisms, and the following phases will concentrate on raw material pretreatment and oil recovery.

The technology is designed to produce feedstock for NExBTL renewable diesel by using yeast and fungi to convert sugars from waste and residues into oil highly efficiently. It utilizes bioreactors similar to those used in the biotech and brewing industries. Commercial-scale production is expected by 2015 at the earliest.

A wide range of different waste and residue materials can be used, such as straw and sidestreams from the pulp and paper industry, which makes feedstock optimization possible.

Work on the pilot plant has progressed according to plan and the technology has performed excellently. The plant is already generating microbial oil containing biomass, which is a great achievement.

Extending our feedstock base is a central component of our cleaner traffic strategy and our aim is to focus on making use of waste and residues with the smallest possible carbon footprint for producing our renewable fuels. The new microbial oil pilot plant will make a very valuable contribution to achieving these goals.

—Petri Lehmus, Neste Oil’s Vice President, Research and Development

The pilot plant is expected to be fully complete in the second half of 2012 and represents an investment of approx. €8 million (US$10 million) by Neste Oil.

Microbial oil technology represents an attractive option, both because of its efficiency and its sustainability. A number of partners have been involved in this work, including Aalto University. Neste Oil has been working on R&D in this area with Aalto University since 2007, and applied for various patents for technology that can produce microbial oil from waste using fungi in 2010.

The pilot plant currently employs 10 people and a number of other people indirectly.

Neste Oil first announced its decision to invest in a plant dedicated to producing microbial oil on 15 December 2011.

Neste Oil's NExBTL renewable diesel is compatible with all diesel engines, either used at 100% content or blended with fossil diesel. Its chemical composition is the same as that of fossil diesel and offers either equivalent or better quality properties. The product has been tested extensively and successfully around the world in trucks, buses, and cars. Use of the fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% compared to fossil diesel and reduces tailpipe emissions significantly as well. The flexibility of Neste Oil's technology means that NExBTL renewable fuels can be produced from virtually any type of vegetable oil or waste fat.


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