Decarbonising transport: are additives the answer?

Transport emissions is a hot topic that we’ve considered from many different angles and that continues to be a big challenge for distributors on the journey towards net zero. As Stephen Marcos Jones, director-general UKPIA, commented in his exclusive blog for Fuel Oil News from COP26: “Transport is the largest emitter of CO2 in the UK. We believe we must look at all technology options available to reduce emissions as quickly as possible, especially with no regret solutions in the near term.”

The challenge is how to decarbonise now. Liz Boardman speaks with those in the industry to consider the role of additives and to hear how they can contribute to decarbonising transport in the distributor sector.

How additives can help reduce emissions

ElimiNOX chairman, Tony Granger, believes that additives, in particular fuel conditioners, have a big role to play in decarbonisation.

“Much of the attention towards reducing carbon emissions has been on better-designed engines and vehicles, or the introduction of hydrogen-powered and electrification vehicles. However, these are costly alternatives that aren’t always efficient. The supply chain incurs carbonisation in manufacture, and most fleet owners are seeking immediate innovative solutions for existing vehicles, such as tankers and HGVs.

“Many accept the fact that they are polluters and will buy carbon credits for offsets. However, the alternative solution (reducing greenhouse gases from polluting vehicles, reducing fuel and maintenance costs and increasing fuel lubricity) is to focus on a low-cost fuel conditioner that’s proven to achieve these outcomes.”

He argues that there is only one product “that that will emulsify water with fuel to eliminate the effect of the diesel bug and enable a cleaner and more efficient combustion, while reducing engine maintenance and filter replacement”.

An instantaneous result

“Our ElimiNOX Eco™ fuel conditioner can save fuel and reduce soot and particulate matter, as well as carbon and other harmful greenhouse gases. It decreases fuel consumption and increases lubricity, reducing friction, improving combustion and resulting in reduced toxic emissions. CO2 reduction can be up to 30% while PM 2.5 and PM 10 can be up to 61%.

“Major benefits include improved performance and mpg (one fleet user achieved 8-10% fuel savings across 27 Volvo and Scania Euro 6 HGVs over 12 months covering 1.2m miles). Above all though, it provides an instantaneous result and is a cost neutral solution to achieving ESG and carbon reduction goals.”

Diesel for decades to come

Martin Lodge, of Environmental Fuel Technology agrees that additives are instrumental in reducing emissions. “Our products cut climate carbons and local particulates,” he explains. “So, they’re addressing climate issues, and issues of air pollution on motorways/in congested areas.

“Tankers are particularly important because, while consumer vehicles may electrify or go hybrid, haulage will be running on diesel for decades to come and represents a huge portion of vehicle carbon emissions. As such, ameliorating the carbon released by lorries in the supply chain will be a key step in any climate strategy – and the additisation of fuel to directly target the hydrocarbons is a fantastic way to do it.

“Our flagship products don’t just cut local particulates, they directly target hydrocarbon release,  both through increasing the efficiency of fuel burned and specific measures to target carbon emissions that are harmful to the climate. DiesoLiFT, our additive targeted at diesel haulage, tankers and rail, has been proven in field trials to directly reduce greenhouse gases, particularly NOX. It also saves a lot of money, because it improves fuel efficiency, so this is a win-win for fleet operators. They keep ahead of climate legislation and see a 3-7% reduction in their fuel costs.”

Not a new phenomenon

When additives were first introduced, the environmental angle wasn’t the big draw that it is now, as Neil Ryding of Fuel Additive Science Technologies (FAST) Ltd explains: “Fuel additives have always had significant environmental benefits, but it was never part of their original marketing, so only in recent times have we had to demonstrate these credentials specifically. Much data exists however, that illustrates fuel consumption improvements and emissions reduction when additives are used appropriately.”

“Fuel additives are not a new phenomenon and as a niche part of the wider oil industry, they have been around for over 100 years. They exist – and have always existed – to optimise fuel use in every respect and thus reduce the visible and gaseous emissions from an engine or boiler. In this respect, they have always contributed to a ‘green’ agenda. But for a given carbon content of the fuel mix this only happens if you reduce fuel consumption overall. Also – and let’s be brutally honest here – fuel additives are hydrocarbons themselves; they are by-products of petroleum distillation.”

He adds: “Decarbonisation is a word that is bandied around and repeated without people really stopping to think what it means.  This is especially pertinent in the transport sector as, unless we go to a fully hydrogen fuel source or to fully electric vehicles, then the future fuels mix will always need to contain carbon, regardless of where the fuels have their origins.”

Distributor benefits

There’s no doubting the green advantages of additives across the road transport sector, but what are the specific benefits for distributors?

“The benefits for distributors are enormous,” says Tony. “Fuel cost savings rank as a major priority alongside decarbonisation and meeting ESG objectives.”

ElimiNOX is a member of UKIFDA and is working with the trade body and a distributor on testing oil boilers and agricultural machinery using HVO with its products

“We were runners-up at the Innovation Awards in 2021, and believe we have an important message for the fuel distribution industry and its many transport and tanker fleets,” adds Tony. “We have ongoing trials with a number of fuel distributors, ranging from oil companies to HGV haulage, construction and tanker fleets, who want to test the product before they use it.”

Financial savings

For Martin, the financial element is key: “First off, additives save you money through a direct boost to fuel efficiency. Trials on HGVs show a 3-7% improvement in mpg so, as long as you’re spending less than 3% of your total fuel budget on additisation, you’re saving potentially tens of thousands of pounds.”

DiesoLiFT has been trialled with London and Leeds Midland Rail, the City of York Council, and Morrisons supermarkets – all familiar names, all with fantastic results. Morrisons HGVs running on fuel additised with DiesoLiFT recorded a 40.7% drop in NOX, and a 23% drop in other particulates.

“For distributors, we think this represents an easy cost-benefit proposition – you can cut your carbon footprint but, as every trial we’ve participated in shows, you can also save a significant amount of money on fuel.

“DiesoLiFT and Vulcan are formulated with a protective package that prevents corrosion and water contamination in storage issues caused by high ethanol biofuels, saving you more money on servicing and waste. And, by cutting CO2, NOX and particulates, they help distributors keep ahead of climate legislation – allowing you to broadcast to customers that you’re doing your bit for the environment.”

Essential to cost control

FAST acts as a technical resource, in terms of fuel testing and fuel consultancy, for many of the UK’s fuel distributors and played a key role in the fuel filter blocking issues of 2019-20.

“We know that distributors value our input and our products – the stumbling block is often with the end (fuel) users,” says Neil.

“Fuel additives have technical and economic benefits for fuel distributors. They are not – as some would have it – an admission that the fuel being sold is sub-standard. More, they are a way of providing legitimate enhancements or of solving problems often associated with poor storage conditions, rarely the fault of the distributor.

“Given that it is widely accepted that the internal combustion engine will remain the primary motive driver for a few years to come, the potential for engines to foul up, the need to optimise fuel use and, critically, the need to maintain fuel in storage, means that fuel additives will be essential.  This is very relevant in a fleet environment where cost control is critical and where, as well as the potential to save on fuel costs, additives will also reduce the maintenance load.

“There can’t (or should I say, shouldn’t) be many fuel distributors whose business is not significantly enhanced by the inclusion of a premium fuel brand or of discrete fuel additives in their product range.”

A quick fix or a long-term solution?

While some may see additives as a short-term solution, the reality is that diesel won’t be going anywhere for a while.

“While fuel additives can be a short-term solution, the facts are that fossil fuels will still be with us for a very long time,” emphasises Tony. “We first saw ElimiNOX Eco™ as a shortterm solution, bridging the gap between fossil fuels and alternatives such as electrification or hydrogen-powered vehicles, but now we see it as a longer-term solution too.

“The world focus has been on the fossil fuel producers being the cause of climate change and increasing CO2 levels. However, if the fuel produced can be treated to significantly reduce, or eliminate, harmful and toxic emissions, then it has a long-term future.

“Businesses are driven by cost savings and our proven Greentech innovation fuel conditioner is a driver for this. We see ElimiNOX playing a key role in providing a credible solution to the oil industry in the transition to clean fuelsnet zero over the coming decades.”

Martin agrees that additives are here for the long term: “Additives allow diesel to work as a ‘transition’ fuel. We’ll be using diesel vehicles for decades to come, and in the case of lorries and heavy haulage, that’s especially true. The transition to electrification is a seismic ripple for consumer vehicles, but it won’t be touching HGVs any time soon. Our diesel products – DiesoLiFT, Vulcan, and Nanothene – are a way to handle the emissions issues that arise.”

Fuel additives around as long as hydrocarbon fuel

It’s a subject that Neil is passionate about: “To what problem are fuel additives in the transport sector a short-term solution? Aviation fuel contains specific and regulated fuel additives. Tetraethyl lead is/was a fuel additive used extensively to enhance the performance of petrol in the period after WWII. Fuel additive ‘packages’ as we know them today, containing fuel detergents, corrosion inhibitors, combustion enhancers, antioxidants, stability additives, demulsifiers, etc., have been commonplace in road fuel since the late 1970s, introduced initially at the behest of the premium car brands.

“The world’s leading engine and vehicle manufacturers, via their World Wide Fuels Charter, now make the use of recognised fuel additives virtually obligatory, if fuel is to meet their requirements. And let’s not forget that the latest revisions to our national road fuel standards allow and encourage the use of recognised fuel additives as performance enhancers.

“I would suggest that fuel additives will be around for as long as hydrocarbon fuel and, as we move inexorably towards a more bio-based mix, the need will be accentuated, certainly in terms of storage stability and water content control.”

It seems there is agreement that not only do additives offer many operational and financial benefits to distributors, but they are also a perfect example of a progressive measure to reduce emissions until a greater uptake of vehicles fuelled by electric or other zero-carbon transport fuels eventually emerges at scale. We may not be certain of what the future fuels mix will look like, but we do know that additives are here to stay and will play a vital role in decarbonisation – great news for both manufacturers and distributors.