Neste commits to 100 percent sustainable palm

By Susanne Retka Schill | May 11, 2009
Posted June 4, 2009

Neste Oil Corp. announced a commitment to exclusively use certified palm "when sufficient volumes become available." The company states it believes this will be possible by the end of 2015. In its announcement released June 4, Neste said it recently received its first cargo of 5,000 tons (600,000 gallons) of palm oil from certified sources, and it expects to use at least 50,000 tons of certified palm oil this year.

"Neste Oil has developed a system for the full traceablity of the palm oil it uses, all the way from plantations to NExBTL plants. We believe that responsible companies can make a difference. As a forerunner, Neste Oil is putting a lot of effort into establishing exemplary procedures for its operations, ones that we believe could also act as a model for other companies and industries using palm oil," said Jarmo Honkamaa, executive vice president, renewable fuels and deputy CEO.

Neste is a member of the Roundtable for Sustainable Palm Oil, an organization that brought palm oil producers, users and environmentalist critiques of palm oil expansion together to develop a set of sustainability criteria and certification. The World Wildlife Fund released figures in mid-May that showed only 1 percent of the sustainable palm oil available on the market had been bought. "So far, around 1.3 million tons of certified sustainable palm oil have been produced, but less than 15,000 tons have been sold," said David McLaughlin, vice president of agriculture for WWF, a founding member of the RSPO. "This sluggish demand from palm oil buyers, such as supermarkets, food and cosmetic manufacturers, could undermine the success of sustainability efforts and threatens the remaining natural tropical forests of Southeast Asia, as well as other forests where oil palm is set to expand, such as the Amazon."

WWF announced its plan to monitor the world's major users of palm oil over the next six months and publish a Palm Oil Buyer's Scorecard. It asked that all companies buying palm oil to make public commitments that they will use 100 percent certified sustainable palm oil by 2015.

Neste's public commitment to purchasing certified sustainable palm also followed a May 12 Greenpeace demonstration held the same day as WWF's announcement. Greenpeace activists from Finland and Sweden locked down the Neste Oil renewable diesel refinery in Porvoo, Finland. Greenpeace urged the Finnish government to use its influence to stop Neste Oil using palm oil, and not to subsidize palm oil for fuel in the future. "The most significant way to reduce transport emissions is to make cars more energy efficient and to develop a low-energy and low-carbon transport system," the organization said. Greenpeace added that Neste's announcements to scale up its NExBTL production with new plants in Finland, Singapore and the Netherlands potentially will make Neste the world's largest single consumer of palm oil at about 1.5 million metric tons of palm oil a year. "Palm oil biodiesel is not a solution to climate change. It actually makes the problem worse if rainforests are cut down to grow the palm oil to fuel our cars. Greenpeace is also calling on the Indonesian government to implement an immediate moratorium on further deforestation, including further peatland conversion for palm oil. The solution to climate change lies in developed countries making deep emissions cuts at home and helping to finance forest protection in developing countries like Indonesia," said Joko Arif, Greenpeace Southeast Asia forest campaigner.

Neste is currently doubling the capacity of its first renewable diesel refinery in Finland to 340,000 metric tons per year (120 MMgy), has a plant in Singapore that began construction earlier this year and recently broke ground in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The Finnish oil company developed a feedstock-neutral refinery-scale process using hydrogenation technology to convert fats and vegetable oils into renewable diesel, calling it NExtBTL. The company said the renewable diesel offers between a 40 to 80 percent lowering of greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil diesel fuels, depending on the feedstock used. In announcing the commitment to sustainable palm oil, it also said its research and development efforts are looking at other new industrial-scale renewable materials susch as algae, other microbes and wood residues.
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