What is HVO?

Dominic Farrer
3rd May 2023

Biodiesel is a first-generation biofuel, with HVO a second-generation biofuel. It is synthesised from renewable raw materials such as vegetable oil, animal oil, and fats.

How is HVO made?

HVO is not only made from vegetable oils and animal fats, it has recently also been made from algae. The ingredients are mixed with hydrogen at high pressures and temperatures in a refining process. Studies show that it is possible to produce HVO solely from algae, because it doubles in size every 24 hours in the right conditions. It can easily be grown in tanks and does not compete with food crops or farmland.

However, with the relatively small production of oil from algae the commercial viability is just not there yet. Every square meter of algae needs to produce 15g of oil to be viable and at this moment only 10g are being produced.

But there is hope as funding has been committed by some well-known organisations to continue research. For now, we can only use vegetables and fats to produce HVO, but it is predicted that in 10 years this will change.

Why are we talking about HVO?

HVO is also called ‘renewable diesel’, it is a direct replacement for the diesel that we put in our cars or generators. It emits between 75-90% less greenhouse gas emissions than diesel on combustion and has a longer shelf life of 10 years. This removes the need for six monthly or annual fuel samplings and regular disposal of unused fuel.

The only drawback currently is the higher price in comparison to diesel by up to 20-30%. HVO is a fuel source that we are now seeing being introduced to buildings. The flash point for HVO is 10 degrees above the flash point of diesel, so it is much safer in this regard. 

What else should you know about HVO?

Biodiesel has a few issues associated with its use:

  • Not operating at cold temperatures;
  • Requiring structural changes to engines and other components; and
  • Reducing equipment lifespan and making equipment difficult to maintain.

HVO does not share these operational issues, in fact, HVO has been approved by many vehicle producers to be used in their cars. It is also a direct replacement meaning that there are no changes required to the car, besides removal and replacing the existing diesel in the tanks as well as other routine maintenance such as fuel filters.