EPO announcement: Neste team from Finland proceeds to European Inventor Award final
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the global transport sector emits approximately 7.3 billion tonnes of CO2 a year, around 20% of global CO2 emissions. The IEA estimates that medium-to-heavy lorries and aviation alone are responsible for 30% of that total. To secure a more sustainable future and mitigate the effects of climate change, global greenhouse gas production must be reduced.
Neste’s team from Finland, consisting of Pia Bergström, Annika Malm, Jukka Myllyoja, Jukka-Pekka Pasanen and Blanka Toukoniitty, participated in the development of an innovative process to convert waste and residue raw materials into renewable products for road transportation, aviation and other sectors. The Finnish team was chosen as one of the finalists in the ‘Industry’ category of the European Inventor Award 2023 in recognition of its promising work.
The team was chosen for the final from over 600 candidates.
Cleaner and more efficient fuel
The inventors from Finland participated in the development of Neste’s NEXBTL technology and related processes to turn a wide variety of renewable fats and oils into premium-quality renewable products.
Solutions produced with the technology include Neste MY Renewable Diesel, which is compatible with all diesel engines and can reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by as much as 75–95% over the life cycle of the fuel compared to fossil diesel (calculation methods: EU RED II 2018/2001/EU for Europe and US California LCFS for the US). Neste MY Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) can replace fossil jet fuel and, unblended, can reduce GHG emissions by up to 80% over the life cycle of the fuel compared to fossil jet fuel (calculation method: CORSIA).
Neste uses a wide variety of globally acquired raw materials, such as animal fat waste, used cooking oil and vegetable oil processing waste and residues, to produce its renewable products. Turning diverse waste and residues into pure hydrocarbons requires several phases. In the first phase, impurities are removed from the raw materials in the pre-treatment process before further refinement in a catalytic process, where oils and fats from renewable origins are converted into hydrocarbons. Next, the pure hydrocarbons are isomerized to refine them into final products, such as diesel and aviation fuel. The hydrocarbon composition is then divided to create the desired qualities. This step ensures that an aeroplane or car engine also runs smoothly in cold conditions.
Currently, Neste produces approximately 3.3 million tonnes of renewable diesel and other renewable products each year and plans to increase its production capacity to 5.5 million tonnes by the end of 2023. It also plans to introduce liquefied waste plastic as a drop-in feedstock for petrochemicals.
No innovation without collaboration
Innovation is a team effort, drawing on expertise across the company and with partners, including from chemists, engineers, research and development professionals, and experts in renewable raw materials.
Blanka Toukoniitty says the following about disruptive ideas:
“Everything is possible – the impossible just takes more time. We believed in our idea and worked hard. In times of challenges and disbelief, it is important to remain focused on the goal. In research and development, you have to have patience and really just keep going.”
Pia Bergström, who holds a master’s degree in organic chemistry, previously worked as a researcher and is now a senior feedstock specialist.
Annika Malm is a Master of Science in chemical engineering. After a research career at Neste, she currently works on the development of raw material utilisation.
Jukka-Pekka Pasanen holds a master’s degree in bioprocess engineering and food engineering and focuses on researching renewable fuel processes and renewable feedstocks.
Jukka Myllyoja is a synthesis chemist by training and an experienced R&D Fellow who has worked for new technology development at Neste R&D for more than 30 years.
Blanka Toukoniitty holds a PhD in chemical engineering and a broad knowledge of developing value chains for processing renewable and circular economy feedstocks into valuable products.
Myllyoja describes the difficulties and their collective motivation to reduce transport carbon emissions:
“Climate change is a huge challenge. All possible solutions are needed to reduce the GHG emissions of transport. No individual technology can solve this issue. We have to use all the capabilities and the different paths to get rid of energy sectors based on fossil crude oil and coal.”
Bergström adds: “We consider ourselves the forerunners in the field of renewable fuels. We have frequently had to find solutions to challenges, or actually opportunities. A lot of hard work, many great colleagues, talent, and good luck are behind our innovations and success”.
The team was shortlisted by an independent international jury. The winners of the 2023 European Inventor Award will be announced at a hybrid ceremony on 4 July 2023 in Valencia (Spain). This ceremony will be broadcast online hereOpen link in a new tab and will be open to the public.
European Patent Office
Luis Berenguer Giménez
Principal Director Communication / EPO spokesperson
EPO press desk
Tel.: +49 89 2399-1833
About the European Inventor Award
The European Inventor Award is one of Europe's most prestigious innovation prizes. Launched by the EPO in 2006, the award honours individuals and teams who have come up with solutions to some of the biggest challenges of our time. The finalists and winners are selected by an independent jury comprising former Award finalists. Together, they examine the proposals for their contribution towards technical progress, social and sustainable development, and economic prosperity. All inventors must have been granted a European patent for their inventions.
About the EPO
With 6,300 staff members, the European Patent Office (EPO)Open link in a new tab is one of the largest public service institutions in Europe. Headquartered in Munich with offices in Berlin, Brussels, the Hague and Vienna, the EPO was founded with the aim of strengthening co-operation on patents in Europe. Through the EPO's centralised patent granting procedure, inventors are able to obtain high-quality patent protection in up to 44 countries, covering a market of some 700 million people. The EPO is also the world's leading authority in patent information and patent searching.