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12 January 2023

HVO – the fossil-free alternative to diesel fuel

An age-old wisecrack claims that the best replacement for oil would be oil – because oil is hard to substitute due to its high energy density, existing supply infrastructure and other good properties. Now, the new generation HVO or Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil promises to be the oil that replaces fossil oil. How does the HVO stand from the heavy machinery viewpoint?

Our ways of moving and working are facing their biggest shift since the inventing of the internal combustion engine. The evolving technology, stricter emission regulations and the need to disconnect from fossil fuels have created many new development trends from electric motors to hydrogen economy. Nevertheless, the diesel engine still has a lot to offer.

”It’s unfortunate that the internal combustion engine gets the blame for greenhouse emissions, even when it’s the fuel that is fossil, not the engine”, reminds Kari Aaltonen, Director of Engineering at AGCO Power. “Diesel is still the best solution for heavy machinery uses, and even the big global companies mostly estimate their next 10 to 15 years to be based on diesel engines.”

Mr. Aaltonen also reminds about the staggering development the diesel engine has seen during the past couple of decades. “The current diesel fuel burns really cleanly”, he states. ”It emits very few particulates and the aftertreatment gets rid of the nitrogen oxides much better than before.”

Biofuels are on the roll

The fast developments in world politics have sped up the goals to reduce our dependency from fossil fuels. What’s more, there are many ongoing major projects that promote alternative fuels both in EU and in the United States,

“The pressure to create alternative fuels has seen explosive growth, which is a very good thing for the planet”, Kari Aaltonen says. “The crucial factor is to invest heavily in the renewable, clean sources of energy.”

In this regard, HVO is excellent news for the environment. Its manufacturing can utilize recycled raw materials that would otherwise be discarded and it is readily available. The carbon footprint of the current equipment can be lowered 90% by replacing the fuel alone – when we count in the entire fuel production chain. This makes it one of the important tools for gradually lowering of the world carbon oxide emissions.

Fossil-free today?

If we are looking for a fossil-free fuel that is suitable for contracting machinery and available immediately without changes to machinery or infrastructure, HVO has the high ground.

”In machines such as tractors HVO has many technical advantages: it holds up well in storage, works in both new and old equipment, improves starting and running in cold conditions and even reduces the accumulation of soot in the particulates filter,” lists Pekka Nousiainen, Senior Project Engineer at AGCO Power. “However, its economic feasibility in the future depends on the coming legislation.”

Collaboration for compatibility

To ensure the best possible compatibility between the engines and the fuel, AGCO Power has been involved in a close collaboration with Neste for many years. Neste is one of the leading HVO fuel developers in the world, which makes the smooth dialog between the companies highly beneficial for the product development of both engines and fuels.

”The collaboration has spawned many things” Kari Aaltonen says. ”They can be sharing information and for example test driving that gives data about how the fuel works in our engines.”

Both Neste and AGCO Power have invested in the future solutions for many years. ”Neste has an excellent reputation in the world, while we are the forerunners in utilizing the SCR technology for removing nitrogen oxides,” Aaltonen lists. “Both have their roots in the excellent Finnish engineering know-how.”

Engine made for new fuels

The recently introduced AGCO Power CORE75 engine is a prime example of product development that prepares for the many different future possibilities.

”An engine is a whole, in which the carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced with a choice of fuel as well as with efficiency-adding technical solutions”, reminds Kari Aaltonen. “The new CORE engine family has better energy efficiency than the previous ones, and combined with the use of HVO fuel it achieves about 10% reduction of emissions when measured just from the tailpipe – and up to 91% reduction if the whole fuel manufacturing chain is accounted for.”

In addition to CORE engine platform being 100% HVO compatible by design, a prototype running on biogas is under construction – among other things. In addition, the engine can be modified to match the requirements of hydrogen use.

”Not one product can replace oil, but there will be many”, says Pekka Nousiainen. “In the big picture, we need to be prepared for all of them – particularly with the future legislation being still unclear.”