IN ALDOUS HUXLEY’S “Brave New World”, the human corpses in Slough Crematorium are turned into a phosphorous-based fertiliser. “Fine to think we can go on being socially useful even after we’re dead,” a character enthuses.
An engineer at Neste, a Finnish oil company, wryly echoes that observation while showing visitors around a novel diesel refinery in Porvoo, an industrial town 50km (31 miles) east of Helsinki. But the sickly-smelling brown gloop fed into the town’s pre-treatment plant has nothing to do with humans. It is made from the rendered fat of slaughtered cattle and pigs, transported by tankers in heated vats to stop it congealing. No reindeer, either. “Too lean,” he says.
In a triumph of the “circular economy”, Neste has found a way to make transport fuel more sustainable. After heating and filtering the gunk, what is left of it is mixed with hydrogen in a refinery, producing diesel-like hydrocarbons that are then tailored so that they can be poured straight into the tanks of everything from cars to passenger jets. “You could put this in your VW diesel and drive off,” says Joshua Stone of…Continue reading