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Neste to focus research on waste plastic as feedstock

Finland-headed oil refiner and renewable fuels producer Neste has announced that it is putting "a large amount of resources into research" on waste and residue raw materials including research on waste plastics as a substitute for crude oil in the manufacturing oil products.

A wide variety of waste and residue based materials can be used as feedstock (photo courtesy Neste).

According to a statement, the idea of “one’s waste is a valuable raw material to another” is central to the circular economy, and, for over a decade, it has inspired Neste’s development and production of renewable fuels. Underpinning this progress is the company’s patented NEXBTL technology for refining low-quality waste fats into high-quality, fully renewable fuel. The same technology can be used to produce other renewable products such as renewable aviation fuel and raw material for bioplastics.

In practice, our business, based on renewable products and circular economics, is eating away at our traditional business operations. This is a sacrifice that many did not believe in at first. But when it comes to the question of what kind of planet we will leave to future generations, the transition to sustainable lifestyles cannot be held back, said Matti Lievonen, President and CEO of Neste.

Focus on future raw materials today

Fat-containing wastes and residues currently account for nearly 80 percent of the raw materials of Neste’s renewable products. Examples of the raw materials Neste uses include waste fats from the meat and fish processing industries and used cooking oil (UCO).

However, the situation in a decade’s time may be very different, as the waste and residues that are currently used by modern refineries are limited. Therefore the company says it is investing “a large amount of resources” in research on renewable raw materials with the primary aim of finding increasingly lower grade waste and residue raw materials that have no other significant uses.

Among the most important new raw materials of the future that Neste is interested are residues from the forestry industry, algae, and waste plastics. The research on waste plastics is focused on how to introduce it as a raw material in oil refining processes. For example, plastic packaging materials could be recycled, instead of being disposed of in waste incinerators, and could replace crude oil in the manufacture of petroleum products.

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