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Hydrotreated vegetable oil [HVO] is an alternative fuel produced from vegetable fats and oils, and has attracted a lot of interest, especially from the construction industry. But this product has become a little controversial, some think it’s the bees knees, while others are unconvinced. In fact contractors carrying out work for the Environment Agency have been instructed not to use HVO fuel on EA sites. They are reviewing their use of HVO, due to concerns about how environmentally friendly the fuel actually is.
HVO is more costly than ordinary diesel, but many consider the environmental gains that do exist, justify this cost. HVO is sold as 90% net carbon neutral fuel, which reduces particulates by 85% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 30%. It is also biodegradable, just one of the reasons that numerous companies have switched to HVO. These companies include Bam, Kier, Skanska, Amey, McAlpine, Tarmac, Sisk, Lovell, GAP Hire, Ainscough Crane Hire and Aggreko.
In late 2021, the National Federation of Demolition Contractors (NFDC) directed its 140 members to switch to low carbon fuels such as HVO. The fuel was not initially taken seriously, but is becoming big business, especially after BP invested millions in a 30% stake in Green Biofuels Ltd, a major producer of HVO in the UK. All this seems to be yet another example of a lack of joined up government. The Environment Agency looks at banning HVO, while the Department for Transport is encouraging its use.
Many of the objections relating to the use of HVO centre around its production, which again differ depending on who you listen to. Some reports maintain that HVO is created from palm oil extracted from deforested rainforest plantations on the other side of the world. Other statistics say that all UK biodiesel comes from waste feedstock or used cooking oil. Whatever the eventual result, it looks like the jury is still out on HVO.
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