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    Swapping To Biofuel:
    What Is HVO Fuel?

    Browse HVO Storage Tanks

    The substantial swing to remote working and a recent pandemic may have decreased personal car journeys, but commercial road transport continues to be highly active. It also continues to have a serious negative impact on the environment. This makes it vital for any organisation with a fleet - or even with a few vehicles or other equipment for business purposes – to consider swapping to biofuel.

    For organisations currently using red diesel to fuel vehicles and equipment, the switch to using biofuel alternatives, such as HVO fuel, are even more pressing. With some industries being unable to use red diesel after April 2022, the cost of using white diesel may have significant financial implications. HVO fuel therefore represents an attractive alternative in many sectors.

    The Fuel Problem Demands An Urgent Solution

    Before we go on to look at HVO fuel in more detail, let’s first examine the claim that this is a compelling consideration for any organisation that operates commercial vehicles. 

    According to the Department for Transport, the transport industry is the biggest source of domestic greenhouse gases in the UK. It also produces 124 million tonnes of CO2 and accounts for half of the UK’s nitrogen oxide emissions.

    These figures are primarily for 2019. Of course, public transport took a big dip in 2020 and 2021. However, moving household goods and industrial supplies around during the pandemic continued to bring huge reliance on commercial road vehicles. In fact, 79% of domestic freight makes its way across the UK by road. Add this to the global urgency of moving away from fossil fuels, and many individuals would claim that inaction is not an option to protect the environment.

    The switch to electric vehicles in the UK is not an immediate and practical way forward, for UK logistics, transport and fleet management sectors. Instead, there is a growing appreciation that biofuels can form a core part of any company’s sustainability agenda. This includes agricultural and similar enterprises that rely on vehicles and machinery, and therefore fuel. But what exactly is biofuel, and what benefits does it offer?

    Biofuel Basics

    The fundamental definition of biofuel is that it is a fuel created from a living biological material (biomass). So, things like plants or animal waste. This contrasts with fuel traditionally used in all forms of transport and machinery which depend on refined crude oil and therefore ever-dwindling supplies of fossil fuels. Fossil fuel is ancient plant and animal matter, in the form of hydrocarbons.

    One of the most common examples of biofuel is plant-derived ethanol. This is an alcohol-based liquid. The other main category of biofuel is biodiesel, which is derived usually from plant oils.

    Biodiesel is sometimes created from new plant oils and liquid animal fats. It is therefore renewable fuel, as replenishing the crops used is straightforward compared to creating new fossil fuel sources!

    However, you may see the term “Advanced Biofuels”. This refers to the green fuel that some would argue is even more sustainable and superior. It is produced via modern methods to recycle pre-used animal fats and cooking oils.

    When the concept of biofuel was first developed for commercial use, there were some concerns about efficiency and performance compared to traditional petrol and diesel. The earliest types of biofuel were also prone to storage issues due to microorganisms contaminating and degrading them.

    Fortunately, the science behind biofuels has advanced a great deal. Contemporary versions of clean, green fuels are an attractive prospect for companies operating commercial vehicles. Also, as we explain below, storing biofuels correctly is not as tricky as people sometimes imagine.

    Definition of HVO Fuel

    Biodiesel and HVO fuel are sometimes used as interchangeable terms. In fact, HVO is a superior and distinctive form of biofuel.

    The title is an abbreviation of Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil and the clue to what makes HVO fuel special is in the name. The process to make HVO is more complex than normal biodiesel, and produces a cleaner, more refined end result. Leading to some people referring to this as true Green Diesel or advanced biofuel.

    The purest form of biodiesel is categorised as B100.

    HVO fuel is a 100% effective alternative to traditional diesel. It doesn’t reduce vehicle performance and may in fact improve it. For example, some research has shown that HVO fuel provides a much better starting performance in comparison to traditional diesel.

    Here’s the big take-home though. HVO fuel reduces greenhouse emissions by 90%. Multiply that by the number of commercial vehicles on UK roads and you can see why it offers such an exciting prospect for sustainably conscious fleet management.

    Costs Of Swapping To Green Fuel

    The next question when considering swapping to biofuel is probably going to be the cost implications. You may also be wondering whether you need biofuel tanks in vehicles, new HVO fuel storage tanks, or whether you can just ‘go green’ immediately?

    The common wisdom is that the switch can be seamless. Contemporary versions of biodiesel and HVO have been formulated to offer a seamless transition, without making any adjustment to standard, unmodified diesel-driven engines. In fact, you can even blend traditional and green diesel if you need to, as part of your transition to a more environmentally-sound supply. For example, mixing a small amount of biodiesel with a petroleum-based version, or going right to 100% biofuel straight away.

    However, it is recommended that you drain and clean fuel tanks before making the switch. It’s a general housekeeping recommendation to do this periodically with commercial vehicles, so cleaning your fuel tank prior to the switch makes sense.

    As the above indicates, it is not a 'given' that you need special filters or additional equipment to convert to using biofuel. As long as you already use specialist fuel handling equipment, you can switch as soon as you make this sustainable choice for commercial vehicle management.

    Though it is important to consider the last section in this guide to swapping to biofuels, which covers storage issues.

    Biofuel Vs Red Diesel

    Around 15% of the diesel used in the UK is ‘red diesel’. This is rebated gas oil fuel, provided by a controlled supply chain. The name comes from the fact it is dyed to distinguish it from other forms of fuel.

    It is commonly used for heating and other machinery, rather than road vehicles. Though the HMRC does issue licences for red diesel and kerosene to be used as vehicle fuel in certain circumstances.

    Like biofuels, red diesel had its rebate entitlement lifted from April 2022.

    There have been concerns that biodiesel and red diesel have been mixed in a way that can affect machinery performance.
    Such fears are being managed by advances in the way biofuels are produced, improved awareness of biodiesel’s vulnerability to low temperatures and general moves to make biodiesel a reliable and attractive alternative to red diesel.

    Do You Need Specialist Biofuel or HVO Storage Systems?

    In the interests of keeping your biofuel stored safely – and to separate out different grades of green fuel – it is wise to invest in a biodiesel storage system, and separate HVO fuel storage.

    Browse HVO Storage Tanks

    It’s all about keeping your green fuel in a contaminate-free tank and ensuring no water can get into it. This simply makes it important to source fuel storage and transfer equipment that’s bespoke to your site, operations and fuel of choice.

    It is always essential to store diesel in an appropriate vessel and use specialist handling systems to transfer it from delivery tanks or into your vehicles.

    However, on the topic of storing green fuel, biofuel does offer important storage advantages, compared to traditional alternatives.
    Firstly, HVO fuel has a higher flashpoint. This reduces some of the risks around storing it. Also, it is biodegradable. This means if you do experience spills when transporting or storing biofuel of this kind, the damage to the environment is substantially less.

    Are There Other Steps To Storing Biofuel Safely, And Efficiently?

    It depends on the type of biofuel you are using.

    For example, the purest forms of green diesel made from vegetable oil (like HVO) should be in storage tanks kept at 45° to 50°F. Also, B100 is particularly susceptible to low temperatures and may cloud and clog fuel filters if you don’t store it correctly.

    This makes it worth considering installing HVO fuel storage tanks that sit underground, to stop this liquid from becoming a gel or decreasing in its efficiency.

    Plus, for some organisations it is also advisable to operate both HVO fuel storage and standard biofuel tanks. That way you can manage the different environmental issues with storing these biofuels. Also, keep in mind that most biodiesel has a life cycle of 6 months.

    Beyond that, storing biodiesel requires all the measures you would normally take when handling fuels in fleet yards, company car parks, construction sites and farms for instance. You need opaque containers to protect the liquid from sun and heat, and minimal headspace to avoid water condensation.

    You should also replace fuel storage and transfer equipment periodically to offset corrosion risks, as even the best fuel handling systems don’t last forever.

    As the reasons to swap to HVO are so compelling, and the storage and use procedures are so clear, it only leaves one more question when considering swapping to biofuel use. Why on earth not?

    Browse HVO Storage Tanks

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