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New method for carbon handprint calculation reveals climate benefits from Neste MY Renewable Diesel

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Neste has been partnering in a project coordinated by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland and Lappeenranta University of Technology since 2016 to develop the world’s first science-based method for carbon handprint calculation and communication.

This new carbon handprint approach complements the existing carbon footprint methodologies by introducing new definitions and consistent guidelines for comparing two products available for the same purpose and illustrating the climate benefits of the advanced, lower-emission product.

Neste researchers in an active role

In the project completed in November 2018, Neste’s life cycle assessment experts together with the project partners applied the new handprint methodology to study Neste MY Renewable Diesel’s (100% renewable diesel) carbon handprint by comparing its greenhouse gas emissions to those of a fossil-based alternative available in the same geographic market, in this case a conventional diesel containing a 12% share of bio-based diesel. During the process, our researchers helped develop the methodology and its application guidelines to reveal real-life climate benefits that the user of the fuel could expect from switching from higher-emission fuel to a lower-emission fuel. The approach is founded on the standardized life cycle assessment methodology for carbon footprints.

The newly-developed methodology not only focuses on the positive impacts instead of the negative, it is based on a comparison of two products that have to fulfill the exact same purpose in the same geographic market. That means that renewable diesel studied in Finland was compared to a locally relevant diesel available in the very same market instead of comparing it to an average diesel fuel in the European market, for example. Additionally, the case calculation was made from the perspective of a potential real-life user in the market, and the study included the actual annual kilometers driven as well as the additional distance the user had to drive to get the advanced product. Yet the positive impact, the handprint, was clear. In the case calculation, the annual GHG emissions were reduced by 21 tons when a commercial transportation vehicle switched from fossil diesel to Neste MY Renewable Diesel. The amount corresponds to the annual carbon footprint of approximately three private persons in Finland, for example,

“Results of the calculation confirm that the user of a renewable diesel can expect a clear greenhouse gas emission reduction even when the comparison is made with locally available, high-quality conventional diesels. The handprint of the renewable diesel could be even greater if the advanced product was available even closer to the user or if the locally available fossil diesel had even higher carbon emissions to the climate, which is the case in many markets outside of Finland”, explains Asta Soininen, researcher and life cycle assessment expert at Neste.

According to VTT, the developed method to calculate and communicate the beneficial environmental impact of products and services offers both scientific and practical guidelines. Carbon handprint appears to be a useful tool for emphasizing the “do good” factor of an advanced lower-emission product or a service. Ultimately, the handprint could help decision making and guide consumers of these products and services towards more environmentally friendly options.

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