A richer mix of biodiesel is arriving on the forecourts in a pioneering move by supermarket fuel retailer Morrisons, but you must check whether your car can use it yet, as Sue Baker reports
Orange is the new black. An orange pump handle tells you where to find biodiesel pumps on a filling station forecourt, and this year we’ll be seeing a lot more of them. That is because supermarket chain Morrisons, the fifth largest fuel retailer in the UK, has decided on a proactive green initiative to install biodiesel pumps at many of its 288 forecourts, stretching from Penzance to Inverness and from Haverfordwest to Lowestoft. Already more than 110 Morrisons sites have the orange pumps that dispense B30 biodiesel manufactured and supplied by Harvest Energy. The roll-out began late last year and is continuing across the country through the spring and into summer.
B30 is a mixture of standard diesel and plantsourced biodiesel. It comprises up to 30 per cent biodiesel in a blend of virgin rapeseed oil and recycled vegetable oil that have been chemically modified to comply with the rigorous European biodiesel standard EN14214. The vegetable oils used in the fuel are UK-sourced. The recycled vegetable oil is collected from industry, a more dependable and higher quality source than the much-vaunted but small-scale recycling of restaurant and chip shop oil.
The rapeseed oil comes from crops grown on UK farms, many of them using land released from the old EU set-aside policy to allow the growth of ‘energy’ crops, and the Morrisons’ B30 biodiesel is backed by the National Farmers Union. This gives a carbon saving of 15 to 18 per cent compared to the 1 to 2 per cent from B5 fuels and has the highest sustainability standards.
It has the same viscosity and flow characteristics of normal forecourt diesel complying with European standard EN590. It meets all the current specifications of the EN590 standard, apart from a differing chemical composition: technically, the Fatty Acid Methyl Ether (FAME) content is higher, at up to 30 per cent, than the 5 per cent normally allowable under the standard.
There are no worries about winter ‘waxing’ problems, because the biodiesel blend has a specialist Cold Flow Pour point improver added to it. This ensures that there are no filter blockages caused by cold temperatures. An oxidation stabiliser is also added to the fuel to prevent it from degrading, and ensure a good ‘shelf life’ of at least six months.
B30 costs the same as normal diesel, and fuel consumption is unchanged. Although duty is lower on the bio element of the fuel, that saving is offset by its higher price and additional blending costs, so the price at the pump comes out the same. It is possible that as demand increases, B30 could actually become cheaper than normal diesel. The fuel is a little ahead of its time, in that the majority of motor manufacturers have yet to approve its use in their engines. So unless you happen to drive one of a limited number of makes of car or commercial vehicle, you can’t simply make a switch to B30 without invalidating your vehicle’s warranty or risking worries about long-term effects on the engine.
“THE RAPESEED OIL COMES FROM CROPS GROWN ON UK FARMS…”
All Peugeot and Citroën vehicles – cars, vans and people-carriers – with HDi engines dating from 1998 are already equipped to run on B30 without any modification. But it’s not quite that simple. PSA Peugeot-Citroën have analysed Morrisons’ B30 at their laboratories in France, and confirmed that it meets their quality criteria and is compatible with their diesel engines without the need for any alterations. But the official line from Peugeot and Citroën is that if B30 is used in their cars, an oil change is required because a specific engine oil must be used, and service intervals need to be shorter.
Ford, sharing many similar engines with Peugeot and Citroën, takes a different stance and does not yet approve B30 for use in its vehicles.
Volkswagen says it is “100 per cent pro-biodiesel”, but currently endorses only a five per cent mix. This is confirmed by labelling inside its vehicles’ fuel filler caps. Five per cent biodiesel is the mixture widely accepted across the car industry.
Vauxhall does not approve B30 for its car range, but does do so for Vivaro and Movano vans. Mercedes- Benz and Daf trucks are approved to run on B30, but with changes to the servicing intervals. Currently, then, the majority of cars are not yet approved to run on such a rich bio mixture as B30. But that is expected to change over the next year or so as more motor manufacturers conduct their own tests on the fuel with existing engines. B30’s compliance with the key regulations suggests that it will be more widely adopted once car companies have carried out their own independent tests. New engines under development for launch in the next few years will almost certainly be able to run on it. So why is the supermarket forecourt chain driving ahead with B30 now? Morrisons Fuel Director, Phil Maud, says it is in keeping with the company’s history of pioneering lower carbon fuels. Already 57 of its sites sell LPG (liquefied petroleum gas), which like diesel emits lower CO2 than petrol. It is the only forecourt retailer selling E85, the high blend bioethanol alternative to petrol.
B30 is the equivalent high blend biofuel for diesels, and joins the other two fuels as the latest environmental alternative to standard diesel or petrol. Its arrival on the forecourts is an interesting development that we will be watching closely and reporting on further as the Morrisons roll-out progresses. I’ll be running our Peugeot Partner Tepee long-term test car on Morrisons B30, and letting you know how we get on.