Why hydrotreated vegetable oil, trialled by a major UK ferry operator, is set to make inroads in the passenger ship sector
UK ferry operator Red Funnel has carried out a trial of a fossil-free fuel that consists of hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) – and I think we will see this alternative power take off in the ferry sector.
While there is a growing number of alterative energy options out there, not all operators want to take the leap and use technology without some degree of maturity.
Red Funnel is one such company. While its chairman Kevin George said the Isle of Wight ferry operator is “actively watching” what is happening in the development of propulsion power, he expressed some caution, emphasising that reliability is more important than being at the “leading edge of technology”.
But despite this, Red Funnel trialled Green Biofuels’ Green D+ fossil-free fuel on its ropax fleet of ships.
Green D+ fuel is formulated by Green Biofuels using a patented performance additive to HVO renewable diesel. The HVO is produced from waste material including used cooking oil, waste fats from the food processing industry and plant oils such as palm oil and rapeseed oil.
The fact that a ferry operator which is more conservative when it comes to alternative power is looking into HVO, suggests it will be attractive to other similarly cautious ferry operators.
I believe this is because HVO can be used as a direct replacement to diesel, meaning that changes to engines or infrastructure are not required. Indeed, the Red Funnel trial confirmed that the use of HVO led to no degradation within the engines.
HVO can be mixed with marine gasoil or used on its own (Red Funnell used both a 50:50 mix and used it on its own). This flexibility will make it attractive to operators.
A huge pull is the effect that HVO has on emissions. Red Funnel is still analysing the emissions results, but Mr George said “Without question, emissions were dramatically reduced.”
A drawback to the use of HVO is cost. But with the 2020 low sulphur deadline looming, there is a need for a range of alternative fuels. This, and the fact that HVO can directly replace diesel means there is a case for larger production of it, thus pushing prices down.