Biofuel, Bioplastic, Company initiatives, Video

Neste Oil expands in bio-naptha

A short post about Neste Oil’s renewable naphtha product before it gets buried in my draft box..

According to Finnish energy giant Neste Oil, it has launched commercial production and sales of bio-based naptha produced as a co-product of its NExBTL renewable diesel refining process at its sites in Finland, the Netherlands and Singapore.

Neste’s NExBTL renewable diesel is produced by hydrotreating fats and oils (via application of hydrogen and catalysts). This article from Green Car Congress provided a nice explanation of how naptha is produced from hydrotreated fats and oils such as Neste’s NExBTL.

According to the article, the type of catalyst and reaction temperature are important factors in determining yield and composition of liquid products such as  green naphtha (C5-C10), green jet fuel (C11-C13), green diesel (C14-20) and even liquid petroleum gas. A severe hydrocracking catalyst would lead to a high production of green naphtha whereas a mild-hydrocracking catalyst is prone to produce mainly green diesel.

Now I have the paper version of this petrochemicals flowchart from APPE (Association of Petrochemicals Producers in Europe) so I have an inkling of what chemical products can be derived from naphtha, and there are definitely a lot of them — olefins, aromatics or pyrolysis gasoline (which can be used as a feedstock to produce BTX).

According to Neste Oil, the mechanical and physical properties of plastics that can be produced using NExBTL naphtha are fully comparable with the plastics produced from crude oil.

“Bioplastic products produced from NExBTL renewable naphtha can be recycled with conventional fossil-based plastic products, and can be used as a fuel in energy generation following recycling.” – Neste Oil

The question here is, how important is this news to the bioplastics market given that Neste Oil already has a global commercial biorefinery using its NExBTL technology.

Currently, Neste has 800,000 tons/year NExBTL refinery in Singapore which came onstream in 2010. The refinery uses feedstocks such as palm oil, palm oil by-products (e.g. stearin) and waste animal fats. The company’s 800,000 tons/year NExBTL refinery in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, came onstream in September 2011, and also uses the same feedstock as that of its Singapore plant.

Neste Oil also has two renewable diesel plants with a combined capacity of 380,000 tons/year already operating in Porvoo, Finland.

In 2011, crude palm oil accounted for about 54% of its renewable feedstock use, 41% coming from waste and sidestream (animal fat, palm fatty acid distillate, stearin), and 5% from oilseeds such as rapeseed, jatropha and camelina oil.

With almost 2m tons/year biorefinery capacity, I wonder how much bioplastics you can get out of those naphtha! Although of course, you still need to do steam cracking or catalytic reforming before you can even start getting those olefins and aromatic building blocks.

According to Neste Oil, cumulative sales of their NExBTL renewable diesel this year (for the three quarters) totaled 1.23m tons.

In addition to naphtha, the NExBTL refining process also produces renewable propane, which can be used as a traffic fuel or for cooking and heating in the home. Neste Oil recently started a study on the feasibility of commercializing NExBTL propane.

Neste Oil also produces commercial volumes of NExBTL renewable aviation fuel.

Meanwhile, the company is also on its quest to use more waste-based feedstock and has recently inaugurated Europe’s first pilot plant for producing microbial oil from waste and residues such as straw. The aim is to develop a technology capable of producing microbial oil on an industrial scale. The company said it expects microbial oil is expected to enter commercial production in 2015 at the earliest.


About Doris de Guzman

Will Green Chemistry save the world or is it hype? Doris de Guzman examines alternative processing, new technology, R&D and other sustainability initiatives aimed at preventing pollution; replacing ingredients; and using renewable feedstocks in Green Chemistry. She has been covering the oleochemicals market for 15 years and spread her beat to inorganics, biofuels and green chemistry.


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