DAF: ‘trucks can reduce CO2 emissions by 90% on HVO diesel’
Today’s modern trucks can almost all drive on renewable ‘blue’ (HVO) diesel made from waste vegetable oils without modifying the diesel engine. When used purely (HVO100), instead of mixing with fossil diesel and made from the right feedstock, it can reduce CO2 emissions by 89%, fine particles by 30%, and NOx by 9%, the industry claims.
Dutch truck manufacturer DAF advocates its use and demonstrated the latter this week with eight of its clients’ trucks during an HVO event at the Maes service station in Londerzeel. Belgian fuel supplier Maes is offering HVO in two new truck fuel stations in Puurs and Londerzeel. International Diesel Service (IDS), a Kuwait Petroleum daughter, has three stations operational in Belgium.
Pioneers in Belgium
Several Belgian transport companies didn’t wait for the HVO to be available at public filling stations to start using it. Maes Energy & Mobility already delivers regularly to companies like Snel Logistic Solutions, headquartered in Deinze, and Tailormade in Ghent.
Snel Logistic Solutions started already in 2018 and has driven 400 000 km on HVO since, used by 20% of its fleet and filling up at a home-based station in Weert (Netherlands). Tailormade has its own filling stations in Ghent and Glin (near Mons) and has 400 trucks on the road using HVO.
And since the Maes station opened in Londerzeel, Duvel Logistics (from brewery Moortgat), Van Dievel (transport), and Roefs Group (industrial cleaning) started to use it as well. Maes considers offering HVO in fifteen of its stations shortly.
No truck has ever had a problem
All truck fleet owners are enthusiastic and no truck has ever had a problem, they assure, according to DAF’s press release. And when the HVO tank gets empty, you can always switch to regular diesel on the fly.
Although still minimally used in Belgium, there is a growing interest in renewable HVO diesel in the transport sector. Their clients are asking for more sustainable transport, especially in last-mile deliveries in cities with restrictions.
But being still 70% more expensive than regular diesel, HVO isn’t a popular choice yet and it isn’t zero-emission after all. However, it could be an intermediate step to electric or hydrogen driven trucks becoming economically affordable later.
Especially if the government would consider lowering taxes, which in Belgium are still the same as for regular diesel today, contrary to the Netherlands. As HVO is a so-called ‘drop-in’ product and can be used with current diesel engines, it doesn’t require expensive investments as other renewable energy sources do.
HVO or ‘Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil’ is the so-called biodiesel of the second generation. Both are produced from ‘renewable’ biomasses like vegetable oils and animal fat among others. In the production of classic biodiesel (also known as Fatty Acid Methyl Ester or FAME), methanol is used in the esterifying process. It is an esther, which may cause problems in some diesel engines, depending on the feedstock used.
HVO is made by ‘hydrogenating’ plant-based oils and waste using hydrogen. Finnish HVO-pioneer and world leader, Neste Oil, says when producing premium HVO diesel “impurities are removed from the raw materials, which are then hydrotreated at a high temperature. The outcome is a colorless and odorless fuel of an even quality that has an identical chemical composition with fossil diesel. It is also often called an advanced biofuel or second-generation biofuel.”
However, one can question whether the feedstock Neste uses to produce its HVO is 100% waste material and residues? On its own website, the company states that this is the goal toward 2025 and currently, on average, 80%.
Ten different sources
Waste and residues, says Neste, can come from ten different sources like “used cooking oil, animal fat from food industry waste, vegetable oil processing waste, and residues (e.g., palm fatty acid distillate, spent bleaching earth oil, palm effluent sludge), fish fat from fish processing waste or technical corn oil (a residue from ethanol production)”.
With the feedstock used, the claim of reducing CO2 by almost 90% can vary, too, Neste says. “Diesel produced from any of our renewable raw materials offers 50-90% smaller greenhouse gas emissions over the fuel’s life cycle compared to emissions from fossil diesel use. The smallest carbon footprint, and an emission reduction of 85 to 90% compared to fossil diesel, is achieved when fuel produced 100% from wastes and residues is used.”
Grey or green hydrogen used?
As hydrogen is extensively used in the process, the question is how this hydrogen itself is produced initially? Today, the EU’s hydrogen production of 9,8 million tons originates for 95% from natural gas, a process that still emits CO2, and is called ‘grey hydrogen’ for this reason.
For ‘green hydrogen’, electricity from renewable sources like wind and solar energy or hydropower is used in the electrolysis process. And as 30% of the energy is lost in the process, one can question its efficiency. It makes ‘green’ hydrogen expensive.
In Finland, Neste’s home base, hydropower accounted in 2019 for 14,3% of the countries’ electricity production mix, wind for 9%, and solar for only 0,2%. Nuclear’s share was 26,6%, and fossil fuels 28,7%. Neste currently is the only one in northwestern Europe to produce it. Having refineries in Finland and the Netherlands, prices remain high by a lack of sufficient competition.
Burning hydrogen instead?
Prices are expected to drop in the future, making HVO a wider spread alternative fuel for the time being. But after all, one could question whether burning hydrogen directly in diesel engines like BeHydro is demonstrating for use in ships, trains, or UPS power systems wouldn’t be a better ‘zero-emission’ solution in the long term?
The joint venture of engine manufacturer Anglo Belgian Corporation (ABC) and the Belgian shipping giant CMB have presented their new engine that can run on hydrogen and diesel at the same time, in September this year.