Hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) is a biofuel produced from vegetable oils and animal fats. It is often referred to as HVO, or as renewable diesel, and is distinct from biodiesel. A major benefit of HVO is that it can be used as a drop-in replacement for traditional diesel with no engine modification. It is an ideal option to reduce the emissions of motor vehicles in a simple and cost-effective way.

Cummins Inc. recently announced approval of unblended use of HVO for all high-horsepower engines, applicable to industrial and power generation uses.

Performance

Mining operations are generally in remote locations, often with harsh conditions that require reliable equipment. For onsite use, diesel is normally the fuel of choice as a cheap, readily available and reliable option. It’s a great choice for big jobs like providing back up energy with generators for a whole site, or powering heavy duty vehicles like at the Julong copper mine using Cummins QSK60 engines.

HVO can match diesel’s performance in almost all areas. In fact, no impact to mining operations were observed through customer trials of unblended HVO fuel used in mining applications like haul trucks. When used in backup generators, mining operations teams can expect the same fast start up performance they are used to enabling continuous power generation. Although performance is comparable, a 1-2% power loss can be expected.

Emissions compliance

One of the primary benefits of using HVO is the reduced emissions. Particulate matter emissions are reduced dramatically, potentially by up to half. Beyond that, as a renewable energy source, the net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can also be reduced by up to 90% when considering the whole lifecycle.

Carbon intensity is the amount of carbon emitted per unit of energy consumed, while “well-to-work” refers to the carbon intensity coming from the production and distribution of the fuel (“well-to-tank”), as well as from burning or consuming the fuel (“tank-to-work”). With HVO, the “tank-to-work” pathway emissions are comparable to diesel, while emissions reductions comes primarily from the “well-to-tank” pathway. That said, not all HVO fuels are created equal, so miners should look closely at fuel suppliers.

The exact feedstock used affects the associated GHG emissions. For example, research suggests using corn oil emits less than canola oil . It is important to consider where the HVO comes from. Provided the supplier complies with EN15940 then the HVO can be used in Cummins products. However, some suppliers offer more robust sustainable credentials than others, such as only using 100% verified waste products and never using palm oil.

As mentioned, HVO can be used as a drop-in substitute for diesel in terms of performance, but another advantage with HVO is that it meets all the requirements for emissions certifications, including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certifications. It should also be noted that standard emissions data sheets should be used for any technical submittals or for permitting and application requirements. With no additional paperwork compared to diesel, switching to HVO is an efficient way to immediately reduce emissions.

Operation and maintenance

With similar performance to diesel and lower emissions, HVO can be the ideal alternative fuel for the mining industry. The good news is that HVO can be incorporated into current operations with ease. There are no big changes to technologies, processes, or training for engineers. There are also no changes to planned maintenance schedules due to the use of HVO.

HVO also has the benefit of being more stable than standard diesel. This may be particularly helpful for mining operations in remote locations that need back-up generators. HVO has the potential to last up to ten times longer than standard diesel and unlike biodiesel it does not suffer from the same problems around bacterial growth and oxidation. Operations managers can be confident in storing HVO for longer with no adverse effects. This can also reduce the amount of testing required for generator sets. However, for standby applications, it’s important to be sure that the HVO used does not contain any blend of biodiesel, regardless of compliance with EN15940.

Another consideration is how well the fuel performs in colder weather. It is important to check with suppliers what the acceptable ambient conditions are as anti-gelling agents used to prevent cold weather problems with standard diesel may not work as well with HVO. Fortunately, this is unlikely to be a problem as HVO has a higher cetane number than alternatives, meaning start-up performance is already superior and on top of that, HVO is suitable for use with fuel heaters. HVO can be used in temperature as low as -40 degrees F.

Beyond anti-gelling agents, many additives are compatible with HVO but it’s important to note that Cummins does not generally approve or disapprove of any potential additives. HVO is a direct replacement for standard diesel, but it’s always best to check supplier details, ambient conditions, and engine type to ensure it’s the right fit for your operation.

HVO as a fit for mining

There is a lot of focus on HVO right now given the advantages. As interest and customer demand increases, so will HVO production and availability. As a drop-in alternative fuel with all the same advantages of diesel, using HVO to reduce carbon emissions at mining sites is an easy and beneficial transition. For more information, please look at our frequently asked questions about HVO.