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Neste Oil to invest in producing bio-propane at Rotterdam refinery; off-gas from #NExBTL

Neste Oil will build a biopropane unit at its refinery in Rotterdam. In addition to the unit itself, the investment will include storage tanks and pipework. The project will start immediately and the plan is to begin sales of bio-propane at the end of 2016. The total value of the investment is approximately €60 million (US$77.4 million).

Propane is produced during the NExBTL renewable diesel process; the gas is usually recovered during the Stabilization and Recycle stages of the process.

Usually, the propane off-gas from the Recycle section is used in the steam methane reformer (SMR) plant for the production of hydrogen and the propane off-gas from the Stabilization section is used in a natural gas boiler to raise process steam.

The new unit will purify and separate bio-propane from the sidestream gases produced by the refinery. The process will increase the added value of this sidestream significantly.

When the new unit is complete, bio-propane production is expected to total 30,000-40,000 t/a. Bio-propane has a comparable set of properties to fossil propane and is suitable for use in existing liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) applications.



Propane can also be fumigated (co-fueled) in diesel engines, which is reputed to improve power and cut smoke emissions.  There's another possible use for the lightest of NGLs, and I don't see any move to exploit it.


Most likely this anticipates new GM production of butane, butanol, and perhaps other low end aliphatics by Imperial University in Finland (Neste is also Finnish). These are still valuable in freestanding heaters and generators, outboard boat engines and commercial equipment like harvesters. Can't throw away that market just for diesel.


Neste's propane comes from the hydrogenation of glycerol.  Since triglycerides have no 4-carbon backbones, there won't be any butane byproduct.

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