Why switching from diesel to HVO is a more seamless process than you might think

May 2021

First-generation biodiesels have historically caused operational and performance issues for early adopters. But Prema HVO removes all of these problems, providing superior performance from day one.

This guide provides:

  • A basic science lesson in the differences between biodiesel and Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO)
  • A summary of common operational problems with biodiesel, and how HVO overcomes them

We speak to a lot of businesses who want to switch to a cleaner, greener diesel alternative to reduce their carbon footprint and demonstrate their environmental credentials to customers. But many are hesitant because of perceived concerns over operational performance.

This is understandable.

First-generation biodiesel certainly caused a lot of reliability problems for early adopters. But our next-gen Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) is a fundamentally different fuel and has proven for more than a decade that it suffers from none of biodiesel’s shortcomings.

#1 A quick science lesson

First-gen biodiesel, also known as FAME (Fatty Acid Methyl Esters), is manufactured by ‘esterifying’ vegetable oils or animal fats with methanol. These ‘esters’ are hygroscopic, which means they can absorb moisture. That’s bad news for a biofuel – it means it can be attacked by microbial bugs and oxygen. In other words, it can ‘go off’.

In contrast, HVO is manufactured through a complex two-stage high-temperature process known as hydrotreatment. The result is a hydrocarbon that’s very similar to regular diesel and there are no esters present, meaning no oxidation or bug risk.

#2 Solved: Short shelf-life

Because of the risks of oxidation and bug build-up, FAME biodiesel degrades over time and is difficult to store long-term. In contrast, HVO is extremely stable and has a shelf-life of up to ten years, so you can store it away with confidence.

#3 Solved: Cold weather issues

Enter the next generation: Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO). HVO is not biodiesel. It is 100% used cooking oil that is put through a much more complex refining process , producing a superior, cleaner fuel that is 100% interchangeable with conventional diesel.

Depending on the application, using HVO can translate into up to 90% fewer greenhouse gas emissions from well-to-tank, as well as fewer particulate emissions from the tailpipe.

#4 Solved: Lower performance

HVO is almost unrecognisable from conventional diesel when it comes to its performance properties. In some cases, performance is even superior – our own independently tests show that Prema HVO can deliver the same energy output as conventional B7 forecourt diesel (which contains 7% FAME) with 10% less fuel.

The cetane rating (a measurement of the combustion speed of fuel in ignition) of HVO is also higher than both FAME biodiesel and mineral diesel, providing a much better starting performance. 

#5 Solved: Time-consuming to switch

Prema HVO is seamlessly interchangeable with conventional diesel and can be blended at any ratio. That means there is technically no need to drain and clean your fuel tank before switching (although we always recommend customers do so as part of good fuel management practice). Nor is there any need for special ‘filters’, ‘seals’ or other fandangled bits of kit.

You can drop it straight into your tank and continue with business as usual.

#6 And if that wasn’t enough…

HVO also outperforms conventional diesel in two other respects. It has a higher flash point, making it even safer in terms of handling and storage, and is both biodegradable and insoluble in water, which means lower risk of environmental damage in the event of an accidental spillage. It’s as robust and reliable as fuel gets.

Want to Learn More about Prema HVO?

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If you would like assistance with managing this transition, learning more about specialist heating fuels or ultra-low carbon fuels, don’t hesitate to get in touch here.

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