Green Diesel: A New Industry Built Entirely on Sustainability

Authors: Meha Jha and Julie Valentine

It isn’t often that we get to see a new industry being born, but in many respects, the growth of green (renewable) diesel is just that event. The idea of manufacturing diesel, indistinguishable from the conventional product, using only non-fossil feedstocks, and in meaningful quantities, is a pretty big deal, especially in terms of sustainability.

Green dieselGreen diesel is a post-digital industry, in that it has developed coinciding with today’s digital transformation tools and technologies. This is very important because green diesel is dedicated to sustainability by reducing carbon emissions as its primary function through the use of the lowest fossil-related feedstocks possible. The ways green diesel producers can apply digital tools to do this is the leading topic of our new white paper: Automation Technology Supports Growing Demand for Green Diesel (register to download).

Today’s alternative fuel projects now hinge on reducing carbon footprint. This is quantified via a carbon intensity (CI) score, calculating all total hydrocarbons consumed, or greenhouse gases released, per unit of energy produced. Therefore, the lower the CI score, the better. So, we must ask, when all factors are considered, how much does manufacturing and consumption of an alternatively sourced transportation fuel represent a lower CI score than conventionally produced crude oil?

Fortunately, green diesel producers have all of today’s sophisticated digital tools available, and these are critical to implementing production units with the highest possible efficiency. Sometimes this means going above and beyond what might have been installed initially, even for a production unit that might be only a few years old.

The process and its associated equipment are normally designed and constructed under the supervision of a technology licensor. A production unit will include the automation hardware and instrumentation necessary to run the process effectively, but instrumentation choices and automation technologies may not be optimized to meet the specific challenges of future renewable fuel demands. A more in-depth analysis and application of the instrumentation and control technologies available today can improve process flexibility, decrease maintenance costs, and deliver lower lifecycle costs. Many producers find it necessary to make instrumentation and control system improvements incrementally after the unit is in operation when it would have been better to implement them at the outset.

Emerson can help with this part. We have the tools and know-how to make the improvements necessary to optimize production.

Emerson’s engineers have this experience firsthand, working on more than 20 new green diesel projects in 2021 alone. It has helped formulate a growing list of best practices for automating, optimizing, and future-proofing these operations while improving speed to market. Ultimately the process can become more efficient, while reducing the CI score, so the fuel produced actually reduces the overall carbon footprint, rather than making the problem worse.

The white paper goes into more detail, with practical suggestions on making improvements for:

  • Providing flexibility for variable feedstocks
  • Simplifying safety system testing
  • Improving asset monitoring
  • Expanding emissions monitoring
  • Advancing energy management
  • Optimizing production
  • And more.

Any company considering construction of a new unit, or an upgrade/expansion of existing capacity, should take the time to understand all the possible options, evaluate the available digital technologies, and select the best ones for maximum operational improvements.

To assist in these efforts, Emerson offers innovative technological solutions and long-term experience working with renewable fuels. When adopting sustainable technology, a partner with experience can help ensure success. Our deep, global expertise in creating a digital foundation, advanced analytics, and mobile collaboration capabilities for our customers makes the adoption of green fuels production seamless and more cost-effective.

As a case in point, here’s a story of how Emerson is helping Neste, the world’s largest producer of renewable diesel, complete a major expansion in Singapore. The enlarged plant will produce more than two million tons of renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel annually.

Visit the Sustainability Pages at for more on technologies and solutions for optimizing green diesel production. You can also connect and interact with other engineers in the Oil & Gas and Chemical groups at the Emerson Exchange 365 community.

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