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The Biofuel Evolution

10 July 2019

We’re fully committed to supporting our clients as they engage with the challenges and opportunities of the transition from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy.

The drive towards a more sustainable, low-carbon economy to tackle the threat of climate change continues to build momentum – something that's underlined by the UK government's pledge to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 20501.

Switching to renewables is growing in importance, not only for our clients in the energy sector, but across all industries. We believe that one of the best ways we can help is by bringing our diverse network of clients together to pool insight and information on 'green' issues.

Largest growth area in renewable energy consumption

For example, at our recent Biofuel Evolution forum we heard from businesses that supply and have transitioned to biofuel. Although biofuel is just one of many alternative power sources, the International Energy Agency predicts that bioenergy will be the largest source of growth in renewable energy consumption over the next five years2.

Kent-based Green Biofuels Limited (GBF) is supplying its brand of biofuel, as a direct replacement for diesel. The company sources the basic ingredient – hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO) – from Europe and then mixes it with its own proprietary additives at its UK premises. The fuel is a total ‘drop-in’ replacement for diesel that requires no adaptation to existing diesel engines and can have the following benefits:

  • Greenhouse gas reduction of up to 100% 
  • Airborne particulates reduction of more than 70% 
  • Nitrogen oxides (NOx) reduction of 30% 
  • It is a renewable and sustainable raw material 
  • It is odourless with no smoke on engine start-up.

Magnus Hammick, Chief Operating Officer at GBF, told attendees at the biofuels event: "Our biofuel is a high-quality liquid that doesn’t smell like diesel, doesn’t go off in the tank, doesn’t start to solidify until -45°C and doesn't produce smoke from the engine at start-up.

“It is biodegradable and all major motor manufacturers recognise the fuel as a straight drop-in replacement for diesel – in other words, you don't need to spend money on converting existing equipment." These are just some of the reasons why biofuels are becoming more commonplace within the construction industry, the static generator market and fleets of road vehicles.

Case Studies range from London office building to music festivals

Another biofuels advocate is Madeleine Pugh, Operations Manager at Moor House, a 320,000 sq ft office building in the City of London. Occupied by financial services companies that trade 24/7, an emergency back-up supply of energy, provided by generators, is vitally important.

Our generators used to run on diesel, which would produce a plume of black smoke that went up the side of the building. Quite often a passer-by would call 999 because they wrongly thought the building was on fire!

Madeleine Pugh, Operations Manager at Moor House

Switching to biofuel not only means no more smoke but subsequent generator tests have shown NOx emissions are down 25% with particulates down 95%. Says Madeleine: "Those are fantastic results in a built-up area that includes the neighbouring Barbican residential estate. It costs a little more, but I think it’s worth it."

Leigh Preece, of Power Electrics Generators, agreed the cost impact of switching to biofuel is offset by the emissions gains. His company has a fleet of 1,200 generators, which provide temporary energy at locations ranging from construction sites to outdoor music festivals and events.

He said: "High-profile events using biofuel helps to spread the message, but there's a real momentum, not only at festivals but also in construction, to find an alternative to diesel because of the legislation around emissions." A trial using generators supplied by Power Electrics and powered by biofuel proved a success at the construction site of 21 Moorfields, an office development above London's Moorgate rail station.

Carbon was cut by close to 70 tonnes, the equivalent of 14 personal flights from London to Sydney, while there was a 29% reduction in NOx and a 77% reduction in particulates..

Leigh Preece, of Power Electrics Generators

William Tebbit, GBF Chairman, revealed that although a lack of "joined-up thinking" around emissions legislation is an ongoing challenge, the company has ambition to expand. It is developing its own ‘green’ generator service and has plans for a UK-based HVO refinery in three to five years.

Speaking about the biofuels event, Thomas Wilkinson, Head of Energy and Infrastructure at Barclays, said: "We see a lot of opportunity in connecting clients who are developing sustainable energy solutions with our diverse customer base.

“It's a part of our commitment to help customers through their energy transition and proactively support companies aiming to solve environmental challenges."

Sources:

1 UK passes net zero emissions law: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-becomes-first-major-economy-to-pass-net-zero-emissions-law^

2 Bioenergy is the overlooked giant of the renewable energy: https://www.iea.org/renewables2018/^

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