Your questions answered: Reducing genset emissions with HVO

HVOs help use today's technology to reduce emissions both onsite as well as throughout the full carbon cycle. This CSE webcast discussed both the performance and environmental impact of a generator set fueled by HVO.

By Consulting-Specifying Engineer November 10, 2023

In this webcast from May 23, 2023, the presenters discussed how to use today’s technology to reduce emissions both onsite as well as throughout the full carbon cycle. The presenters, Matt Leuck and Brian Ponstein, explained the benefits of using hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) while diving into the performance and environmental impact of a generator set fueled by HVO.

Additional questions were answered by Matt Leuck, technical manager, Neste, and Brian Ponstein, product manager for North and South America, MTU Solutions.

Question: What is needed for retrofits? Are the HHV and LHV the same as diesel?

Answer: Generally speaking there is no retrofit required. It is always advised to check with your engine manufacturer for a full detail.

Question: One of the bigger concerns I have is how bio-available this fuel may be, or what toxins may be introduced to avoid microbial consumption of the fuel. Are specific containers and/or polishing techniques required to maximize the life of the HVO?

Answer: Due to the polar/hydrophobic nature of the fuel, the risk of microbial growth is quite low, similar to that of biodiesel-free fossil diesel. If issues do come up, the same biocides available for fossil diesel will work in renewable.

There are no specific storage needs, RD should be handled and stored the same way as fossil diesel.

Question: Is HVO available on the East Coast?

Answer: Due to the lack of carbon credit legislation, any RD currently available on the East Coast would be procured through special agreements and transportation. I would recommend reaching out to Neste directly to discuss any specific needs.

Question: Is HVO one of the renewables?

Answer: Yes.

Question: What is the cost of HVO vs. #2 diesel?

Answer: The cost of HVO in areas where local offsets are available is on par with diesel fuel.

Question: The term “renewable diesel” is being used. What is it about HVO that is renewable or a fuel that can be replenished at the same rate as it is used?

Answer: HVO/RD is renewable because the carbon used is of biogenic nature rather than fossil, so it is introducing much less “new” carbon into the atmosphere (75-90% less depending on location and feedstock).

Question: We have to keep the diesel below 38 degrees Celsius where we store it. Should the same number be applied to HVO?

Answer: I’m unfamiliar with this regulation, but RD should always be treated the same as fossil diesel since it’s a hydrocarbon fuel that meets the same ASTM D975 standard.

Question: Can you add HVO to a partially-filled #2 diesel tank?

Answer: Yes, HVO is a drop-in fuel.

Question: Did your cost-saving potential address reduced fuel cleaning and polishing needs?

Answer: As fuel polishing costs can differ from site to site, the costs are different from site to site. That was not taken into account.

Question: How readily available is HVO vs. diesel? Asking in the context of a hospital needing 96-minimum-hour emergency power runtime and relying on a fuel delivery agreement plan (i.e., not all fuel is stored on site).

Answer: HVO is readily available. In the event there happens to be a disruption, diesel fuel can be simply added into the tank.

Question: Could HVO be used in existing engines or are modifications required?

Answer: It is always recommended to check with your manufacturer.

Question: What happens to the EPA certification? Is HVO the same as diesel?

Answer: The EPA views HVO as diesel fuel.

Question: How available is HVO currently in North America? Will this change over time?

Answer: Currently, the West Coast is the main RD market due to the low carbon legislation in place. As more states/regions follow with their own programs, the fuel supply will follow.

Question: Does HVO have a different filtering requirement than fossil diesel?

Answer: The filtering requirements for the engine will always remain part of the engine requirements for what that engine needs.

Question: Can those customers that desire to use renewable diesel fuel/HVO find any financial incentives to lower the cost of the fuel?

Answer: In states that have low carbon programs in place, RD is typically sold at near parity with fossil diesel. In other markets, there will be a price premium until legislation changes.

Question: Who are HVO suppliers, and where are they located?

Answer: Check out this link.

Question: What type of vegetable oil would need to be used, or can any vegetable oil can be used? Wouldn’t this encourage deforestation in the future once popularized?

Answer: RD production can use a wide variety of feedstocks. While virgin plant oils can be used, Neste’s focus is on animal fats, used cooking oil, etc., with a goal of being 100% waste and residue by the end of 2023.

Question: What about jelling during winter months?

Answer: This can vary from one producer to another, but Neste MY RD will have a -4 F cloud point in the winter.

Question: If HVO is from waste oils, then the supply is limited and cannot completely displace diesel fuel, especially with greater demand.

Answer: Current technology is using waste and residue fats and oils, but there is quite a bit of technology development happening for lignocellulosic feedstocks, municipal solid waste feedstocks, algae, etc.

Question: What are some examples of which applications it’s been used in?

Answer: HVO has been used in many applications. We have seen this fuel used in a wide range of applications.

Question: What’s the most important point you want the audience to take away from this webcast?

Answer: Renewable diesel is a direct drop-in replacement for fossil diesel that can provide amazing carbon reduction benefits, with no performance impact, TODAY. There is no waiting for new technology development, no engine replacement cost, etc.

Question: Does the fuel system of the generators require less maintenance, such as fewer fuel filter changes, since the HVO is cleaner than diesel #2 fuel?

Answer: The biggest adjustment is the reduction in fuel polishing requirements when using HVO.

Question: What vendors are commonly used for testing if the fuel in the tank meets ASTM D975? Is there any guidance as far as whether the sample needs to come from the bottom or the top of the tank?

Answer: Testing fuel to the ASTM D975 standard is very costly. NFPA has updated the fuel testing requirements a few years back. It is recommended to follow the updated guidance.