Somerset's bin lorries could be run on vegetable oil in bid to cut carbon emissions
By Daniel Mumby - Local Democracy Reporter
30th Sep 2022 | Local News
Somerset's bin lorries could end up being run on vegetable oil in a bid to cut carbon emissions.
The Somerset Waste Partnership (SWP) is looking at ways to gradually replace its existing diesel-powered vehicles with more environmentally friendly alternatives.
Waste bosses announced in late-June that it would spend more than £5.5m replacing 22 waste vehicles, either by swapping them out for electric vehicles or refurbishing them to extend their service life.
The SWP has now confirmed that the remainder of its fleet may soon be run on hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO) instead of diesel in a short-term bit to cut carbon emissions before a large number need to be replaced outright.
A report on the proposal came before the Somerset waste board in Taunton on Friday morning (September 23).
The SWP has 108 recycling trucks and 43 refuse trucks at its disposal – ranging from standard Romaquips to more specialist vehicles for narrow or steep streets – which operate out of four depots, in Bridgwater, Evercreech, Taunton and Yeovil.
Of the 22 vehicles which need replacing by 2024, ten will be replaced with electric vehicles, eight by like-for-like diesel trucks and a further four will be refurbished and redirected to school and communal collections – at a total cost of £5,566,000.
The remaining trucks – which were ordered in 2019 ahead of the Recycle More roll-out – are expected to last until 2030.
SWP managing director Mickey Green said in his written report: "We are currently exploring using hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO) in our front-line vehicles – either across the contract or at one or more depots.
"This is not a long-term solution (it lowers emissions significantly, but is still based on an internal combustion engine), but it may significantly help us achieve our de-carbonisation goals in the short- to medium-term."
HVO is created from waste material and residues from food production – such as waste oil from restaurants and takeaways
The fuel can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 90 per cent, as well as delivering a reduction in NOx and particulate emissions.
Any diesel vehicle can run on HVO without any need for mechanical conversion – with fast food giant McDonald's using cooking oil from its copious UK restaurants to power its delivery lorries.
However, the price of HVO is around 20 per cent more expensive than normal diesel 'at the pump', with vehicles using around ten per cent more fuel to make the same journey compared to diesel.
Following a successful experiment at its Evercreech depot, the SWP is currently trialling HVO on a number of front-line waste vehicle, with the costs being split equally between the SWP and its contractor Suez.
If HVO was implemented across all the waste vehicles, a new fuel bunker would need to be installed at the SWP's Yeovil depot to ensure enough vehicles could be successfully fuelled there.
The SWP's contract with Suez would also need to be amended, with the SWP being expected to subsidise any additional fuel costs that using HVO may bring.
Switching to HVO is expected to cost an additional £1.2m for the SWP – but it will save more than 4,100 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Mr Green said: "At current HVO and diesel rates, the expected cost per tonne of carbon saved is £294, which is more cost effective than that achieved by electrification of the fleet.
"As we would fund the increase in fuel required and the difference between the prices of fuel, then there are risks, given the volatility of the fuel markets.
"The ongoing trials will ensure that the key assumptions on consumption and CO2 reduction are robust, and contractual negotiations will also continue in order to develop a full business case – a final decision is not yet being sought."