Facts about Renewable Diesel


First things first, what exactly is renewable diesel fuel? Carrie Song, vice president of sales and renewable fuels at Neste, the world’s largest producer of renewable fuels refined from waste and residues, says renewable diesel is quite similar to conventional diesel fuel from a chemical component perspective. However, the difference between the fuels is found in the way they are produced. Renewable diesel is produced by refining fish oil, animal fat, and cooking oil. The renewable diesel process is essentially recycling an already existing product. The process of producing conventional diesel introduces a new energy into the atmosphere.

Although renewable diesel and conventional diesel are chemically similar, renewable diesel carries an environmental benefit that conventional diesel can’t touch. Renewable diesel produces 75% fewer greenhouse gas emissions. It’s a fuel that can help fleets meet their health and safety goals as it contains no aromatics and is free of carcinogens, making it healthier for truck drivers and truck maintenance technicians alike. Renewable diesel is also a drop-in fuel, meaning it is compatible with conventional diesel powertrains today, giving fleet owners an alternative fuel option without requiring a powertrain conversion.

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Renewable diesel is not to be confused with biodiesel—another fuel produced from cooking oils and animal fats. Song says the production process of biodiesel is easier than the process of producing renewable diesel. The production process of renewable diesel requires it to be properly treated to meet strict criteria. In the end, regardless of the fuel stock, be it cooking oil, animal fats, etc., the final renewable diesel product is clear, containing no color and with a very consistent quality. On the other hand, the consistency of biodiesel is more likely to vary between batches.

Aside from the way they are produced, Song says another key difference between biodiesel and renewable diesel is a water component in the finished product. Renewable diesel contains no water, decreasing the chances of fuel contamination and prolonging its shelf life.


Neste projects both the demand and supply of renewable diesel to grow. Song says Neste produced more than 1 billion gallons of product in 2021, and it projects a production of 1.5 billion gallons this year. Song also says Neste has seen more and more investment flowing into the renewable energy side of the industry. Today, renewable diesel is available along the west coast at 1,400 fuel points, and Neste aspires to work with fleet owners as well as customers to continue to grow the renewable diesel business. But Song says Neste doesn’t expect to go it all alone. Neste’s industry peers are also on board with the desire to see demand for the alternative fuel to grow along with the awareness and importance of running “green” fleets.

Further, Neste and its peers are currently working on public affair efforts to increase demand beyond the west coast. The goal of these advocacy efforts are to promote awareness and support incentive programs like the ones introduced by California and Oregon. These efforts depend on how quickly other states are willing to introduce incentive programs to produce a higher demand and greater supply as quickly as possible.

But renewable diesel use isn’t completely dependent on incentive programs from state and local governments. Neste services customers in states along the east coast and nationwide through channel partners. Song ensures that Neste and renewable diesel has volume in the market, and that implementing the fuel in a fleet or on a nationwide scale requires no additional infrastructure because renewable diesel is compatible with the infrastructure that the United States currently has in place. This is due to the fact that renewable diesel’s chemical component is exactly the same as conventional diesel fuel and can work with current distribution networks.


One of the most common—or most popular—alternative fuels in the industry today is electricity. Electric vehicles are a great option for some work truck applications. But powering a fleet of EVs requires charging stations—which many fleet yards do not currently have. Then there is the cost of buying electric vehicles or converting existing vehicles to run on electricity. However, as mentioned above, renewable diesel operates on the infrastructure many fleets and towns already have in place. And the fact that renewable diesel can fuel existing diesel-powered vehicles negates any need for powertrain conversion. Therefore, from an infrastructure perspective, running a fleet on renewable diesel fuel requires no additional cost.

In fact, fueling a fleet with renewable diesel will actually save money in maintenance costs. Maintenance costs for renewable diesel-fueled vehicles are lower because renewable diesel doesn’t carry the pollutants of conventional diesel fuel. Fewer pollutants entering the engine causes fewer issues and reduces the need to clean the diesel particulate filter as well as the frequency and costs of regeneration. As a result, vehicles running on renewable diesel experience less downtime, which allows them to stay on the road and on the job earning money.

Song says that once renewable diesel is in use, customers immediately experience savings. One Neste MY renewable diesel fuel customer, Cox Petroleum Transport, experienced a maintenance savings of 90%, or $30,000 in yearly savings, after switching to renewable diesel fuel.


Today there are 11 million diesel-powered commercial vehicles on the road and in service, Song says. And those vehicles aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, as many fleets don’t have the capital or the time to offload diesel-powered vehicles and replace them with electric vehicles or convert their powertrain—much less, build on-site charging stations. But the reality is that the industry can’t wait until it is too late to make “green” decisions in their fleet operations.

Renewable diesel is the drop-in, “now” solution, Song says. It’s a fuel that operates on diesel-powered vehicles that fleets currently own, and it is compatible with the infrastructure currently in place across the nation. In fact, Neste MY renewable diesel fuel is already approved by major OEMs as fuel options for their diesel vehicles. In addition, renewable diesel already has capable distributors in place that are ready to work with customers with their fueling needs. 


CEMEX USA, a building material company, has used Neste My renewable diesel to fuel its construction vehicles since 2018. The company shared its sustainability and climate goals with Neste, and the companies worked together on a solution that helped CEMEX achieve its goals. Since then, the company has prevented more than 33,000 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Song says that the CEMEX case, although a real-world example of what can happen when using renewable diesel fuel, is just a reference as to how companies can implement changes in their operations while benefiting both their business and the environment. 

Song encourages companies in similar sectors and in the transportation sector to look at a cases like CEMEX and review their own climate goals to discover what changes they can implement to truly make a difference in the environment (and their bottom line) today.


Neste MY renewable diesel signed a pledge to be fully carbon neutral by 2035 and works to help others be carbon neutral. Neste was able to reduce 3 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions in North America last year. Find out more about renewable diesel fuel and how it can power your fleet, visit

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