Greener fuel for charity's workboat

We've begun a trial of HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil) fuel in our workboats. We see this as a step towards zero emissions on the waterways and is supporting the fuel as a greener alternative for boats and boating businesses.

Two people enjoying a canal boat ride around Birmingham Boating past the Revolution Walk walking route

We believe that the rapid adoption of greener fuels such as HVO would reduce carbon emissions from the running of existing boat engines in the short-term while not requiring changes in either engines or supply infrastructure.

Where is it being trialled?

The fuel is currently being trialled in the urban litter boat Berkswell in Birmingham and will start to be introduced to other craft operating out of Icknield Port, continuing until the end of March 2022. During this time, the Trust will be monitoring the effects of using the HVO fuel. Initial reports indicate that the craft is operating well, with no reported issues. If successful, there will be a gradual rollout across the whole Trust fleet from April 2022, to coincide with the withdrawal of commercial red diesel.

The trial is being supported by funding raised by the players of People’s Postcode Lottery through its Postcode Climate Challenge Initiative, which is supporting 12 charities with an additional £24 million for projects tackling climate change.

We're considering the short-to-medium term solution of a switch to HVO as a milestone on the way to any more fundamental change. We will be gathering feedback from fuel suppliers and boaters across our waterways who are now supplying or using HVO.

Additionally, the removal of the red diesel subsidy from fuel for propulsion has disproportionately affected boaters, particularly those who live aboard. We believe that the government has an opportunity to offer tax incentives for greener fuels such as HVOs, making fuel duty the same of lower than standard white diesel.

taking action to lower our carbon footprint

Matthew Symonds, our national boating manager, said: “COP26 highlighted the importance for all of us to take action to lower our carbon footprint. On the waterways, we hope that HVO will provide a ‘quick win’: a more sustainable, cost-friendly swap that will enable boaters and boating businesses to easily reduce their emissions. The trial of the fuel in our workboat fleet will provide valuable information on practicalities and performance, and we are also inviting feedback from the boating community on their experience.

“We are committed to working towards a zero-carbon future for boating on our inland waterways, recognising that this needs to be a collaborative effort involving boaters, businesses, local authorities and the government. Our boating customers have a very broad range of needs, and we want to find the right solutions to help them transition to zero-carbon without any significant changes to their use and enjoyment of the waterways.”

What is in the fuel?

HVO is made from waste oils from animal fats and vegetable oil and is more than 90% carbon neutral. It has 30% lower nitrogen oxide outputs than fossil fuel diesel and can reduce particulate emissions by nearly 90%. The fuel is stable when stored for up to ten years, is free-flowing down to at least -25°C and does not attract water. It also mixes with other diesel fuels.

The Government has set out a legal obligation for the UK to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 though amendment (in 2019) of the Climate Change Act. In addition, a route map for achieving net zero in the maritime sector (which includes inland and recreational boating) was set out in the Clean Maritime Plan.