Neste at The Rubicon

September 20, 2022 |

News arrived from Finland that Neste has begun a “strategic study” on transitioning its refinery in Porvoo, Finland to non-crude oil refining and into a globally leading renewable and circular solutions site.

7 years ago Neste got rid of Oil — at least in the company name. But here’s where the rubber meets the road, the moment of truth, the kairos, the climax, crunch time, the hard yards, the moment when you stare across the Rubicon and the Rubicon stares into you. What have you got? What’s in your heat, mind, and gut? To this point, Neste’s been the Gold Standard in transition, and that’s why they are the world’s largest producer of Renewable Diesel and Sustainable Aviation Fuel today — it’s the reward for bold action combined with a balance sheet.

The addition in capacity could be large — the company is talking in terms of 2 to 4 million tonnes of added capacity. Translating from the European weight-based standard for fuels into a liquid measure, think 600 million to 1.2 billion gallons of new capacity. 

It’s more than that, though, This is Cortés landing in the new world and burning his boats to show his men that there is no turning back in their quest — then it was conquer or be conquered, now it is renewable or nothing. Low-carbon or nothing. Do, or die, as I think Cortés put it, though around the corporate halls at Neste I expect they will use gentler terms.

The Neste rationale

We aim at helping customers to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions with our renewable and circular solutions by at least 20 million tons annually by 2030. Our ambition is to make the Porvoo oil refinery in Finland the most sustainable refinery in Europe by 2030. We are introducing renewable and recycled raw materials such as liquefied waste plastic as refinery raw materials. We have committed to reaching carbon-neutral production by 2035, and we will reduce the carbon emission intensity of sold products by 50% by 2040. 

Neste added: “Transformation of such scale would create the need for significant investments over the coming decade. Separate investment decisions would be taken as the planning proceeds. As the time span of the plan is more than a decade, it would be built on modularity and flexibility and could be adjusted to reflect variations in the pace of change in both the renewable and circular businesses as well as in traditional refining. Independently of the planned transition, Neste will continue to provide access to fossil fuel products for its customers.”

Let’s look at other action on the Neste front.

NOTM (Neste On the Move): The Kiwis

Air New Zealand said they are awaiting with excitement the first shipment of Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel into New Zealand ready to power the airline’s fleet. The shipment of SAF is imported into New Zealand in partnership with Z Energy.

The 1.2 million liter (937 tons) import of neat SAF is equivalent to fueling around 400 return flights between Auckland and Wellington. Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel use in its neat form reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 80%* over the fuel’s life cycle compared to fossil jet fuel use. The first shipment will be used to help test and set up the supply chain for importing SAF into New Zealand. As SAF is a drop in fuel, it will be put into the fuel system at New Zealand’s Marsden Point harbor, where it will make its way down to Auckland Airport and will be delivered to Air New Zealand through the regular jet fuel supply chain.

NOTM (Neste On the Move): The Greeks

Let’s not forget the heroic Hellenes. News arrived that Neste and Hellenic Petroleum Group entered into an agreement for the commercial distribution of Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel on flights by Aegean Airlines, the leading air carrier in Greece.

Hellenic Petroleum Group, through its subsidiary EKO, will ensure the supply of Neste-produced sustainable aviation fuel  on Aegean flights departing from its Thessaloniki Airport “Makedonia” hub. Flights from Athens International Airport are expected to follow soon.  Hellenic set a goal to become a provider of low-carbon energy solutions and to reduce its carbon footprint by 50% by 2030. Clearly, big progress on that,

NOTM (Neste On the Move): The Blockchain

This week, we read that Circularise announced a pioneering joint project with the certification scheme ISCC, material suppliers Neste, Asahi Kasei, Borealis, Trinseo and Shell, original equipment manufacturers, brands Arcelik, Philips Domestic Appliances and EVBox, as well as trading companies Marubeni and Itochu, in which partners tested a blockchain system to complement the ISCC Plus certification. These parties were brought together by Circularise and Marubeni. This is the first time that 10 chemical industry players and appliance companies got together to test a blockchain-based digital system as a complement to a sustainability certification process of complex value chains.

Circularise’s blockchain-based digital system was tested with the ISCC Plus certification to make auditing of certified parties more efficient, and to strengthen integrity of certified data. Participants utilized a public blockchain enabling authentication, decentralization and encryption of data verifying material flows and related sustainability attributes.  

“At Neste, our purpose is to create a healthier planet for our children. We aim to drive a positive impact on biodiversity, while achieving a nature-positive value chain,” says Isabella Tonaco, Vice President Strategy Execution & Marketing from Neste’s Renewable Polymers and Chemicals business unit. “To make sustainability a shared benefit to society, transparency along complex value chains is required. This is currently not easily available. Our goal in this project led by ISCC, Circularise and forerunner companies is to enable complex value chains to learn and take full advantage of innovative digital solutions, aiming to efficiently share data and validate sustainability characteristics of their products. Transparent product sustainability attributes will benefit industry, consumers and society,” 

The Bottom Line

We’re not exactly sure what a strategic study is, when we get right down to it. Don;t all studies relate to strategy? Meanwhile, studies are studies, they are commitments to think about something.  In our experience, if it makes dollars, it will make sense.  So, we’re reasonably thrilled to see that the process is underway, the study is on, and Neste may do something that no one else has ever done. Which would not surprise, isn’t that what they’ve been doing for 15 years now? The copious servings of fame, money, glory they have earned have flowed doing what no one else was doing — so we wait as Neste gazes across the Rubicon and considers casting the die. 

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