A diesel super fuel revolution has begun as paraffinic diesel emerges as a favorable alternative to standard mineral diesel. The new fuel promises to deliver both an increase in efficiency and a reduction in carbon footprint without the addition of new technologies or additional costs.
The new paraffinic diesels come in three forms, GTL - gas to liquid, BTL - biomass to liquid, and HVO - hydro-treated vegetable oil. The potential market for the fuels is an estimated 10+ billion litres a year in the UK & Ireland. Green Biofuels Ltd (one of the many UK suppliers), estimate that they will be turning over volumes of 150 million litres of the super diesel in 2019.
The key advantage of paraffinic diesels compared to other fuel products, such as CNG or LNG , is that when you are running on paraffinic diesel you can switch back to regular diesel at any time. You are not tied down to the paraffinic diesel super fuel. The appeal of this is obvious, not least that when you are out on the road and running low you can just top up with standard mineral diesel. The manager of Volvo and Renault UK has confirmed that both brands can be run on GTL and HVO without any impact on vehicle warranty or servicing.
GTL & BTL - HOW IT'S MADE:
GTL is produced using the fossil fuel natural gas so it is an unrenewable fuel. BTL production involves using methane gas produced by rotting biomass matter (manure, wood pulp, vegetable waste) over time. GTL and BTL are produced using a technique know as the Fischer-Tropsch process.
- image showing standard diesel burning on the left with black smoke, and paraffin diesel burning cleanly on the right
MORE BANG FOR YOUR BUCK:
GTL differs greatly from normal diesel in the fact that it is almost entirely parafinnic composed almost completely of paraffin and iso-paraffin molecules. This molecular structure delivers a greater calorific value to GTL super fuel than diesel and means you get greater energy per unit mass of fuel. Additionally GTL contains very low levels of aromatics, olefins, sulphur and nitrogen. BTL is currently not being produced in commercial quantities.
HVO - HOW IT'S MADE:
HVO is produced by using waste cooking oil as its feed stock but can also be produced by using virgin plant oils, palm oils or animal fat. It utilises hydrogen gas as a catalyst to remove oxygen in the refining process and convert vegetable oils into paraffins. The properties of HVO are very similar to that of GTL and it also delivers excellent energy per unit mass values.
GTL is being commercially produced by Shell, Petronas, Sasol, Petro SA, Chevron, Qatar Petroleum, Calumet, NNPC and Oxford Catalysts. HVO super fuel is currently being commercially produced by Finnish company Neste who hold over 50% of the global HVO market share. They have established four refineries around the world and are turning out 2.5 million tonnes annually. Also, an Italian company called ENI has begun production on plants in both Sicily and Venice and aims to produce 1.2 million tonnes per year when fully operational. French company La Mede plan to turn out 500,000 tonnes per annum.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE:
Will these new diesel super fuels ultimately replace conventional diesel on the market? Only time will tell. But it is clear that a significant investment has already been made by the world's leading fuel producers. The advantages are obvious - greater fuel efficiency and a cleaner more environmentally friendly fuel. It will be interesting to see how consumers adapt to the new alternative 'Diesel Super Fuel'.
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