Paraffinic diesel fuels such as HVO fuel are leading the way to provide an immediate and straightforward solution to tackling air pollution.

As the global population continues to rise and we consume more energy, we face an increasingly difficult challenge: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions whilst allowing society to grow and function in a sustainable manner.

The significant reduction in air pollution levels during national lockdowns means eradicating greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 is now more attainable than ever. But reaching this milestone on a commercial level is not easy and will necessitate full backing from the government to help re-establish the levels of cleaner air seen during the shutdown periods.

The government’s current net-zero green plans contain little insight into the niceties needed to execute robust energy-efficient and low-carbon solutions for infrastructure systems and wider society. As a result, many people believe that air quality and climate change are being ineffectively managed.

Current policies include:

  • reducing emissions from both new and existing buildings
  • increasing the use of zero or low carbon fuels
  • reducing vehicle emissions to zero, with a proposed ban of fossil-fuelled vehicle sales by 2030

However, workable long-term solutions are yet to emerge – and given the current public health situation, we cannot simply sit around and wait for instruction with no clear date to come to fruition.

Are electric vehicles the answer?

Currently, electric vehicles (EVs) are the favoured route in government announcements to reduce air pollution levels. But while EVs cut emissions to zero at the tailpipe, there is substantial scepticism behind the logic of the move.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineer’s report on “Accelerating Road Transport Decarbonisation” adds to the debate over the government’s strategy, particularly the efficacy of EVs at reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

A crucial section in the report is the life cycle analysis comparison of traditional fuel technologies vs various “low emission” technologies, such as:

  • renewable liquid fuels
  • liquid petroleum gas (LPG)
  • plug in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV)
  • battery electric vehicles (BEV)
  • fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV)

The report concludes that current technology which runs on renewable liquid fuels outperforms new electric technologies in all cases concerning GHG emissions.

This is due to several factors, including:

  • the high production emissions from less optimised EV production routes
  • battery production and recycling
  • the comparatively high GHG emissions caused by UK electricity production

Furthermore, data published by BEIS (Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy) shows how they expect the GHG emissions from UK electricity to reduce over time. Currently UK electricity is generated at an average of 300g CO2e/kWh and is forecasted to drop to net zero by 2050. Crown HVO produces ca 32g CO2e/kWh which the grid is not projected to meet until 2041, accounting for projected increases in renewable energy and the building of new nuclear power.

What’s more, the government’s plans don’t take into account the emissions produced from building the infrastructure and the additional power generation capacity required to increase the production of charging points, which will undoubtedly be fuelled by fossil diesel.

Lastly, as of 2020 there are around 312 million passenger vehicles on the roads across Europe; 99% of these are diesel/petrol with an average lifespan of 12 years.

Due to the longevity of these initiatives, alternative paraffinic fuels such as HVO provide the opportunity to switch diesel vehicles to a cleaner fuel immediately rather than waiting for the infrastructure of EVs to catch up.

Paraffinic drop-in fuels

Until recently, the UK lacked a drop-in fuel that combined the same performance qualities of diesel with green credentials. Less reliable, early-generation biofuels were the only option which has resulted in both industry and the government omitting liquid fuels in its plans for net zero.

However, advances in modern chemistry and a drive for cleaner air have led to an increase in the production of Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO). This low-emission fossil fuel alternative has superior operational performance over fossil diesel, with significant environmental benefits that also supports current logistical infrastructure.

Paraffinic fuels such as HVO represent the future of liquid fuels and offer a reliable solution to tacking air pollution whilst overcoming many of the obstacles standing in the way of decarbonisation.

HVO: the future of liquid fuels

HVO fuel has been designed to tackle the environmental and performance problems of earlier generation biofuels and conventional fuels. This is the result of a hydrogen-based process, leading to a completely different paraffinic diesel product, with low aromatic and naphthenic hydrocarbon content and zero sulphur.

The advanced renewable diesel fuel is derived from 100% renewable waste streams through hydrotreatment and isomerisation. It meets legislated biological content requirements with no FAME included and therefore avoids the instability and operability issues seen by many low blend diesels and high blend biofuels.

The proven benefits of HVO are numerous, making it a comprehensive replacement for mineral diesel.

  • Long-life renewable diesel
  • Year-round performance
  • Faultless drop-in solution
  • Up to 90% lower GHG emissions
  • A simple step towards “net zero” with no CAPEX requirement

Its excellent environmental and operational credentials are being increasingly applauded, proven by a 100% increase in UK uptake in the last 12 months.

But despite this surge in use, HVO still only holds a minority share in the global biodiesel and larger biofuels market, and the increase in EVs poses both challenges and opportunities.

Reducing emissions from construction and non-road machinery

Although the government has outlined long-term measures for road transport, it has yet to consider how it will tackle the high levels of greenhouse gas emissions produced from construction and non-road mobile machinery (NRMM).

The UK must take immediate action to allow the adoption of clean alternative fuels for all high polluting sectors, particularly from NRMM and diesel generators.

Advanced fuels such as HVO would provide an immediate reduction in greenhouse gases and improved emission control whilst supporting the legislation and long-term objectives that are already in place.

Challenges of adopting cleaner fuels such as HVO

HVO sourcing misconceptions

HVO production has historically been associated with the use of palm oil as a feedstock, leading to some scepticism. However, whilst palm oil can be used, changes in legislation within the UK and Europe mean that palm derived HVO is no longer a viable commercial option.

At Speedy Fuels, we do not condone the use or sale of HVO from palm oil and supply only ISCC verified waste-derived product into the market. The Proof of Sustainability (POS) produced and verified by the ISCC verifies the origin of raw material and ensures that we can authenticate the credentials of our product and what it’s derived from.

The HVO that we supply does not contain any products that contribute towards global deforestation, land use changes or virgin raw materials and is thus accepted by the RTFC credits as a waste derived product.

General lack of awareness

Consequently, as a fairly new fuel to the UK market, HVO is still met with some uncertainty due to concerns over its sourcing. Therefore, scaling the market and improving awareness are paramount as a general lack of awareness hinders its ability to tackle the legislative, reputational and environmental consequences of fossil fuel dependency.

Nonetheless, these hurdles can be overcome, as has already been the case in several European countries. HVO is already widely available at the pump in Finland and Sweden; they saw its potential and quickly introduced excise duty relief to help drive uptake. This is now being phased out as the market has developed to the point where its self-sustaining.

Cost

Currently, the economies of scale seen with the manufacture and supply of fossil fuels means they are significantly more attractive to the average consumer. Therefore, investing in alternative fuels is a commercially challenging case to argue.

But with low upfront costs needed from the consumer and government support in place, such as excise duty rebate for alternative fuels as discussed above, the price difference would prove far more desirable than alternative low carbon options. EVs require high investment, complex maintenance and disruption to operations, whereas the switch to HVO is effortless, vastly improving the success rates.

A straightforward solution to tackling air pollution

Even with evidential obstacles, HVO provides a fast and simple step towards achieving net zero by 2050. There is no time to waste when it comes to tackling GHG emissions. While there is no single answer when it comes to air quality, the obtainable short-term wins of low-emission fuels are paving the way to a cleaner and healthier future. With a robust infrastructure and existing supply chain, HVO can play a key role in tackling climate change.

We are already seeing an increasing number of sectors that are switching to the renewable diesel and seeing direct, tangible results. So why wait? To find out more about HVO fuel, call us today on 0330 123 3773 or alternatively visit our HVO FAQs.