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HVO: working now on a site near you

Screenshot of Andy Powell's Environment Agency presentation at Seawork Connect

Posted on October 6, 2021

The first Marine Civils @ Seawork Connect session on Tuesday 5th October took the use of HVO (Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil) diesel out of the realm of theoretical discussion and into the real world.

With real case studies and actual proven results on display from all speakers, the Marine Civils component of Seawork attracted an audience of interested potential HVO users from tug operators to wet-side port civil engineers.

Following introductions from Andy Powell of CECA (Civil Engineering Contractors Association) and moderator Chris Cassley of CPA (Construction Plant Hire Association), Andy Powell of the Environment Agency introduced his organisation’s bold aim to get to a net zero carbon target by 2030.

For an organisation the size of EA, with its huge variety of activities and lots of machinery, nine years is a very short time. Actual construction activities make up a hefty 54% of the organisation’s footprint, and half of that comes from concrete, so poor is the environmental aspect of this ubiquitous material.

So, EA has been leading several research projects to find the lowest carbon concrete, and has also been looking at reinforcing materials that are alternatives to steel rods. 3D printing of small concrete structures, such as steps, offsite is also a possible option. With 3D printing, concrete structures can be designed using less material, without sacrificing strength or longevity.

But the organisation has not stopped there, with investigations into site office mains connections, site plant and transport, and alternative fuels.

Indeed Andy’s mention of using HVO in all diesel vehicles on a recent large sea defence project at Llyd Ranges, led neatly onto our next speaker.

Simon Lawford is Technical Sales Manager at Crown Oil, and had some interesting updates on HVO. As a main UK supplier, he was able to confirm the advantages once and for all:

  • Allows a Net 90% reduction in green house gas CO2 emissions
  • Made from 100% renewable and sustainable waste
  • It’s a true ‘drop in fuel’ with RTFO approval
  • Also gives a significant reduction in tail pipe emissions

Should it still be required, Simon once again dispelled any myths that HVO has any similarities to ‘biodiesel’ of old. The ester link that causes diesel bug and cold weather waxing problems with biodiesel blends is simply not present in HVO. It mixes perfectly with old diesel, so there’s no need to drain tanks or lines, and it lasts up to 10 years in tanks and is biodegradeable if spilt.

James Maclean of Land & Water Group was able to corroborate much of this. When the group took a look at its carbon usage last year (3846 tonnes- during a pandemic year!), they realised that they would need to plant nearly fourteen thousand trees to offset it and then let them grow for 40 years!

With lots of existing assets, the option of HVO was described by James as “a lever we could pull right now”. He went on to illustrate how at 66-70p per litre, it compares well with gasoil, and in a recent demanding 600 hour test in an excavator on the Rainham Marshes project, it used 14.1 litres/hour compared with a previous diesel figure of 15.6. That’s quite apart from the environmental benefits, plus the test was conducted in a piece of plant that moved constantly 21 hours a day, replacing drivers as it went.

James is now such a believer in HVO, he has committed to run all the group’s diesel vehicles, from onshore excavators to its marine tugs 100% on HVO by the 1st of November this year.

Future sessions at Seawork Connect cover USVs tug safety and the ever popular MoD Future Boats Programme update. Register here.

By Jake Frith


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