British provider of fossil-free fuel Green Biofuels has teamed up with construction and engineering company VolkerFitzpatrick in an attempt to reduce carbon emissions across VolkerFitzpatrick’s whole UK rail enterprise.
As per the terms of the project, the construction company will use Green Biofuels’ hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) as an alternative to traditional diesel. The HVO is in fact expected to bring about a 77% reduction in particulates, as well as 29% less nitrogen oxide emissions.
Green Biofuels CEO William Tebbit explains why fuels such as GreenD+ are an efficient solution to the industry’s need for decarbonisation.
Ilaria Grasso Macola (IGM): How has the project with VolkerFitzpatrick come about?
William Tebbit (WT): We have been working with VolkerFitzpatrick for about 12 months or so now, looking and helping it identify areas where the company could decarbonise [its] business.
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IGM: What was the rationale behind the project and why did you decide to join it?
WT: As you probably know, a lot of these large construction companies, particularly in the rail sector, are looking for ways in which they can decarbonise.
This was really the rationale behind it, to decarbonise without any capital expenditure while making a real difference.
IGM: GreenD+ is a hydrotreated vegetable oil. Can you tell me what it is and how it works?
WT: It’s a renewable fuel made from waste products that qualify under RED II, the renewable energy directive, as good wastes to use.
The fuel works because [it allows] a complete drop-in replacement for standard diesel, which enables you to put GreenD+ into any diesel engine without having to make any alterations.
As a result, you get a huge reduction in particulates and emissions including NOx and CO2.
IGM: When did Green Biofuels start producing GreenD+?
WT: My business partner Magnus and I bought the business in 2017 when we started to develop our own additives and go into that product and make GreenD+.
At the beginning, it was a very small business but now the business has grown very strongly.
IGM: What are the pros of using GreenD+?
WT: Other than the fact that you don’t have to change anything in order to use GreenD+, there are some important workplace-type of improvements.
Firstly, there’s very little smell. Unlike diesel, GreenD+ has a faint whiff of paraffin, a very light aroma.
It also does not flour on water or damp surfaces and it’s biodegradable, as it will break down in the soil in 58 days. It’s a very safe product to use, and it really does improve the working environment.
IGM: What challenges have you encountered while developing GreenD+?
WT: When you first mention a product like GreenD, everyone thinks it’s biodiesel but it’s not. So one of the biggest challenges was educating people that GreenD+ is a bio liquid, which may sound a small difference but there’s actually a huge difference.
The other thing, ironically, was just telling people how simple it is to use.
I think everyone assumed they needed to make changes and when you explain [how easy it is to use], it just sounded too good to be true.
As for the price, GreenD+ is more expensive than standard diesel but if we have learnt anything from this pandemic, it is that people value air quality and a green economy which will drive us back out of this hole that we are in.
IGM: Has the current pandemic impacted the project in any way?
WT: Not really, it just made it slightly harder in some of the logistics. Obviously, we move fuel around the country and things such as staffing levels at terminals, making sure there are enough drivers to move lorries and trucks around to move the fuel were more complicated.
It’s things like that that have caused some challenges but nothing that we can’t manage our way through.
IGM: GreenD+ is aligned with policies from the Mayor of London, TfL and Network Rail. In your opinion, how will it impact the railway industry in the UK?
WT: I think, potentially, it has a huge impact. If you just look at railway stations, the air quality in and around railway stations is very poor.
By putting clean fuel in trains, which doesn’t cost anything in terms of CAPEX, companies will save a huge amount of money, as the air quality in those railway stations will improve dramatically.
Obviously decarbonisation targets that have been set can be achieved without having to invest huge amounts of money in electrification.
The immediacy of using clean fuel is the most dramatic effect.
IGM: What is the future of GreenD+? Will you export it to the European/international market?
WT: To answer the second part of the question first, I don’t think we’re going to export to Europe. We’re Brits living in Britain and we want to do something about our own air quality and our own carbon emissions first.
I think our main focus is on the UK market as we’re passionate about what we do and this is the country we live in and we’d like to do something to help here.
As regards GreenD’s future, there are 34 billion litres of diesel fuel used every year in the UK, twice as much as petrol, which is about 16 billion litres.
So, there are diesel engines running every day and you are not going to change those overnight. There’s going to be a transition period to new technologies, whatever that may be.
The importance of doing something has never been more obvious. By looking at the air quality improvements, it resonated with people that you don’t pollute if you don’t burn filthy fuels.
I think that what will happen to GreenD and similar fuels is that they have to be adopted now. We target them in areas where they have the most effect, specifically the rail industry.
We’re not saying that we’re the answer forever but we are the answer right now.