Green Fuel boats – HVO

The Nov 2021 edition of Towpath Talk reports on the successful trials of HVO by the Inland Waterways Association in Britain, as a viable alternative to diesel and the dramatic reduction of carbon emissions.  It is deemed an alternative fuel for boat propulsion, cooking and heating. 

HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil) is a second generation bio-fuel which appears to have all of the necessary requirements:  it mixes well with other diesel fuels, is already approved by most engine manufacturers, has none of the diesel bug issues that have plagued first-generation biodiesel, is stable when stored, reduces CO2 emissions by 88%, remains free flowing to -25°C and brings a 10% drop in fuel consumption.

The article points out that there are still some supply and tax issues to be solved.  The IWA campaign is documented at Green Boating on Canals and Rivers.  The Canal and Rivers Trust in their Boaters Update section discuss Going Green on your Boat. There has also been some interesting discussions by members of the Barge Organisation (DBA) on their blog regarding usage and pricing.  Tests are complete or underway for a variety of engines that represent a wide range in age, including a Bolinder, Gardiner, DAF and Beta. 

Until electrical or hydrogen solutions are practical and cost effective for boats, and there is a climate friendly justification for scrapping the 16,000 plus engines on the inland waterways in Ireland, HVO with solar energy, may be the immediate solution to reducing CO2 emissions from private and hire boats.  In the south of Ireland, Inver appears to be the distributor for HVO (as of Feb 2022). 

Note:   HVO is being used successfully by ships out of Rotterdam and barges/boats on EU and UK inland waterways.  Among the organisations promoting HVO as a sustainable energy fuel for recreation and tourism transport, on inland waterways, are the Canals and Rivers Trust UK, the Barge Association (DBA), the Inland Waterway Association UK (IWA), the National Association of Boat Owners (NABO), the Port of London Authority (PLA), and Inland Waterways International.  With what appears to be minor changes, it is also being used as green solution for home heating boilers.