Features & Interviews

Plugging the gap: How HVO fuel is helping operators decarbonise

29 February 2024 #Features & Interviews

As greater numbers of zero emission HGVs come to market, some logistics companies still planning to make the change are finding that using Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) is playing a useful role in helping them decarbonise.

HVO is a fossil-free, drop-in, non-toxic biofuel, produced from vegetable oil, tallow or used cooking oil and which does not need any engine or fuelling infrastructure modifications to be carried out.

Designed to be used with the latest Euro-6 trucks, and as a sustainable fuel source with a significantly lower carbon footprint than diesel, manufacturers believe it can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 90%.

In addition to investments already made in deploying vehicles running on biogas and electric vehicles, DHL has now rolled-out HVO fuel across all its on-site fuelling stations throughout the UK, enabling it to assess operational processes and the performance of the fuel.

Last year, more than six million litres of HVO fuel were added to DHL’s on-site fuelling stations, replacing diesel in 20 locations across the UK.

The company estimates that transitioning to HVO fuel will deliver 80 to 90% carbon savings compared to diesel – with an estimated total of 15,000 tonnes of CO2e savings being expected to be delivered.

In 2024, the business plans to install additional fuel bunkers across its network, increasing its use of HVO fuel to more than 24 million litres, and with the effect of a full year, the firm says the carbon savings impact will be even greater.

DHL’s recently announced Green Transport Policy, includes an investment of about 200 million euros in alternative technologies and fuels to reduce close to 300,000 tons of CO2 emissions in the next three years in partnership with customers.

Saul Resnick, CEO, DHL Supply Chain UK & Ireland said: “The installation of HVO fuel across our bunkered sites represents a critical moment in our multi-fuel decarbonisation strategy.

“HVO improves our service to customers by introducing a low-carbon renewable alternative fuel with minimal disruption.

“As an industry leader, we are rolling out HVO at scale and with impressive pace, to deliver immediate and substantial carbon savings while we continue to work towards viable zero-emission alternatives.”

Meanwhile, Menzies Distribution, who operate a national fleet of over 500 HGVs, has successfully introduced HVO onto its Ball Packaging contract.

As part of the agreement, an HVO fuel tank has been installed at the Menzies Ball Packaging site in Milton Keynes.

Starting last October and running for 12 months, the trial is estimated to reduce supply chain CO2 emissions by about 300 tonnes per year.

Approximately 5,000 deliveries will be powered by HVO, with deliveries being made into the Coca-Cola site in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

Menzies has been a partner of Ball Packaging for more than 13 years, providing warehousing and transport services across multiple sites.

Ian Hicks, Menzies Head of Operations, said Ball Packaging is the launch customer of HVO for the logistics operator.

He added: “The transition to HVO is part of the business wide drive to reduce carbon emissions to be Net Zero by 2035.

“HVO offers a flexible solution with immediate savings, and allows us to meet the demands of our customers to reduce emissions.”

Also, more than 200 of Belfast Council’s fleet vehicles previously powered by diesel, are now running on HVO, following a trial of the fuel on a selection of vehicles during the summer of 2022.

Vehicles – which include HGVs and street sweepers – have now switched to HVO, with no modifications to vehicles needed.

Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Ryan Murphy said: “This switch not only reduces carbon emissions but aims to improve air quality across the city.

“Additionally, HVO is odourless, improves fuel efficiency, has zero palm oil content and is completely biodegradable.

“There is work still to be done, but we are moving in the right direction and this progressive switch to HVO aligns with the commitments we made as part of our climate action plans for the city.”

FedEx Express Europe launched the use of renewable diesel to fuel long-distance HGVs in the Netherlands in November 2022, as a more environmentally favourable alternative to fossil fuels.

It is now trialling HVO diesel in five trucks within its UK operations.

The company has outlined its goal to transition to a fully electric fleet by 2040, but believes HVO is a viable energy alternative to fossil fuels in the meantime for its bigger vehicles that travel longer distances.

Meanwhile, sustainable freight management specialist Zeus has partnered with multinational beverage company Diageo to begin HVO fuel trials in the UK.

Zeus currently handles more than a third of Diageo’s UK bottle-to-recycling plant distributions, and the trial is estimated to save Diageo approximately 1,800,000 kg of CO2 per year.

The company will initially handle 50 trucks per week, fuelled by HVO, across 14 major UK transport routes, with plans to expand operations into Europe this year.

In 2022, Zeus launched Freight Connect, a fully managed, low-carbon multimodal solution with emission reporting, backed by the Global Logistics Emissions Council (GLEC).

Sam McGuirk, Zeus Chief Commercial Officer, said: “Zeus is dedicated to delivering environmentally responsible solutions and advocating for investments in alternative fuels to address the ongoing climate crisis, and our partnership with Diageo reinforces our shared allegiance to a greener future.”

Battery electric and hydrogen trucks provide major opportunities for hauliers currently running traditional internal combustion-engined trucks to decarbonise.

However, in the meantime, alternative fuels such as HVO can offer a practical and quick way for operators to reduce emissions in their existing fleets as they plan their longer-term transition.

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