Tuffa Tanks are a leading storage tank manufacturer. With have over 30 years’ experience manufacturing tanks and boast a huge product range including steel and plastic tanks designed for fuels, AdBlue®, chemicals and water.
Our guide to HVO fuel tanks has been made to educate fleet operators, those using electricity generators, oil-heated homeowners and anyone with an interest in reducing their carbon footprint. Topics discussed include the benefits of HVO, regulations, storage options and more.
What is HVO?
Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) is a sustainable, low-carbon biofuel that derives from waste products. The fossil-free fuel is currently available as a drop-in alternative to mineral diesel (DERV & gas oil), however, it will likely become commercially available as a replacement for kerosene to help decarbonise off-grid properties.
How is HVO made?
Hydrotreated vegetable oil is produced by treating oils with hydrogen. This involves adding hydrogen to oil’s molecules and removing esters and contaminants from the fuel. The process makes a paraffinic fuel that is almost chemically identical to mineral diesel or kerosene but with many additional advantages over the fossil fuels.
What can HVO be made from?
HVO can be made from a mixture of vegetable oils and animals fats. HVO from reputable suppliers does not contain virgin palm oil and has been certified by the ISCC (International Sustainability and Carbon Certification) as a sustainable fuel. Waste products that HVO can be made from include:
• Animal waste:
o Fat from food industry waste
o Fish fat from fish processing waste
o Tallow – a rendered form of beef or mutton fat
• Vegetable waste:
o Residues from vegetable oil processing
o Used cooking oil
o Technical corn oil
o Tall oil pitch palm oil
o Palm oil mill effluent (POME)
What is the difference between HVO, diesel and FAME?
Mineral diesel is a fossil fuel made from refined crude oil. FAME is a first generation biofuel made from fresh organic matter. HVO is a second generation biofuel which is derived from sustainable waste products and emits up to 90% less CO2 emissions than mineral diesel. While the chemical composition of all three fuels is very similar, certain properties of HVO makes it cleaner, safer and improves the storage life. For example, HVO has higher cetane levels which means the fuel ignites
faster and more completely giving the engine higher performance and producing fewer emissions.
Check out the table below to compare the properties of HVO with diesel and FAME:
What is a first generation biofuel?
First generation biofuels are produced from fresh organic matter such as rapeseed and cereals. Effectively, first generation biofuels use land to grow crops that could otherwise be consumed. Additionally, first generation biodiesel is made up of fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) so is also more susceptible to oxidisation and diesel bug.
What is a second generation biofuel?
HVO is a second generation biofuel as it is produced from 100% waste products such as used cooking oils and animal fats. As HVO derives from waste products it is considered 100% sustainable and renewable. With no FAME or sulphur content HVO is a more stable than first generation biofuels which are susceptible to oxidation and diesel bug.
What is a third generation biofuel?
There is currently greater research into and production of third-generation biofuels comprising of microalgae. If commercially viable, this could be particularly beneficial to carbon targets as microalgae can ‘absorb’ more carbon than trees. This process then creates more algae which can be converted into fuel suitable for industries including aviation.
What are the benefits of HVO?
There are many benefits of HVO when compared to mineral diesel, kerosene or even first generation biofuels. The advantages of fueling your machinery with HVO doesn’t just stop at making a smaller carbon footprint or improving corporate social responsibility, there are tangible benefits to your business and equipment too. The advantages of HVO include:
A reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and harmful byproducts
When compared to diesel or kerosene, HVO fuel reduces CO2 emissions by almost 90%. HVO usage also reduces nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions by up to 27% and particulate matter (PM) emissions by up to 84%. This not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions but contributes to overall cleaner air.
HVO fuel is 100% renewable and has been certified by the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) as sustainable. It is also a second-generation biofuel which means that it derives entirely from waste products that would likely otherwise go to landfill. It should also be noted that the production of HVO from reputable suppliers does not contain any products which contribute to deforestation.
Pure hydrotreated vegetable oil is odourless, non-toxic and biodegradable. Therefore, leaks and spills of HVO have a considerably less detrimental impact to the environment than diesel or kerosene. The flash point of HVO is also higher than mineral diesel which decreases the risk of a fire hazard.
Long storage life
HVO fuel is perfect for long-term fuel storage and can be stored for up to 10 years which makes it ideal for applications where long-term storage is required such as backup generators. As the hydrogenation process removes oxygen from the fuel, there is a significantly reduced risk of degradation or oxidation. HVO does not absorb water like first generation biofuels so does not provide an environment where diesel bug can thrive. This also removes the need for regular fuel testing and maintenance programs to remove water.
Cold weather performance
HVO has a considerably lower freeze point (-40°C) than diesel (-8°C). While this isn’t often a concern in the UK, it is one reason why HVO is so suitable for the decarbonisation of the aviation industry.
For most applications HVO is completely interchangeable with diesel and can completely replace diesel or be blended with diesel in any ratio. Many Original Engine Manufacturers (OEMs) including popular passenger car manufacturers, freight vehicle manufacturers and non-road vehicle manufacturers have approved the use of HVO fuel in their vehicle’s engines. If your vehicle has an OEM that has approved the fuel then there is no risk of voiding the warranty.
Using HVO for heating with existing oil-fired boilers will likely require only minor modifications to the boiler. Trials have shown the process is quick and relatively inexpensive at around £500.
Better for machinery
HVO’s clean-burning properties significantly reduced particulate production (up to 84%) which helps to improve the engine cleanliness, prolong the lifetime of emission control systems (where fitted) and decrease the ageing of engine oils. Additionally, as HVO does not react with water or oxygen, storage of the fuel avoids sludge build-up and diesel bug so prevents filters from blocking and contaminants entering your equipment.
Which manufacturers have approved HVO in their vehicles?
Due to the chemical composition of HVO being near identical to diesel, HVO works as a direct diesel replacement or blend in the vast majority of vehicles. Many Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) have tested HVO in their vehicles and have approved HVO as a valid fuel. This means HVO100 can be used in the vehicle without invalidating the warranty. Here is a list of OEMs who have approved HVO in their vehicles:
Vehicle manufacturers who have approved HVO
Heavy duty road vehicles
While not all OEMs have approved HVO100 in their vehicles it should be noted that some blends of HVO meet EN590 fuel specification (the same as diesel) and can be used without requiring OEM approval.
To check whether your model of vehicle has been approved to use HVO100 please check your handbook or contact the manufacturer. To check whether a HVO diesel blend meets EN590 check with your fuel supplier.
Can HVO be used as a heating oil?
The short answer is yes. After a year of successful trials converting domestic and commercial oil-fired boilers to burn HVO, a second phase of trials is underway to test the logistics of making it available to the mass market. Like HVO biodiesel, HVO heating oil (the same fuel but different application) reduces greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 90%. While not yet commercially available, HVO heating oil has been recognised in the UK’s Heat and Buildings Strategy (2021) as a route to decarbonise off-grid homes. Many boiler manufacturers such as Worcester Bosch and Grant have developed HVO
compatible boilers in anticipation of the biofuel’s use in UK heating. HVO used for heating has numerous financial and practical benefits particularly when compared to heat pumps. The cost to adapt an existing boiler to burn HVO is around £500. Comparatively, a heat pump installation can cost around £11,000 or £25,000 if retrofitting work is required to make the property’s insulation sufficient for the heat pumps low heat output.
For more information about the benefits, legislation and availability of HVO for heating check out our article The route to off-grid heating.
What are the HVO storage regulations?
In the UK there are no regulations specifically for HVO biodiesel. Although HVO is safer than mineral diesel or kerosene (as a non-toxic and biodegradable fuel) it follows the same regulations as regular oils. Everyone in the UK storing oil (including diesel, biodiesel, kerosene and blends) in a container with a capacity of over 200 litres must follow oil storage regulations.
Oil storage regulations specify that oil storage tanks above a certain capacity (depending upon the industry and country) must have a secondary containment system with the capacity to store a minimum of 110% of the primary tank’s contents. This is to capture any leaks from the primary tank and prevent oil from contaminating waterways and the environment.
Additionally, you will require a secondary containment if the tank is sited in a location where oil spills could reach public water sources, including:
o Where oil spills could run over hard ground and reach coastal waters, inland fresh waters or a drinking water source.
o Where oil spills could run into an open drain or a loose manhole cover.
o Where the tank vent pipes cannot be seen when the tank’s being filled, for example, because the delivery tanker is parked too far away.
o Within 10 metres of coastal waters or inland fresh waters like lakes or streams.
o Within 50 metres of a drinking water source, for example, wells, boreholes or springs.
o In the inner zone of groundwater source protection zone 1
Do I need a bunded HVO tank?
Use the below table to identify whether you need a bunded HVO fuel tank.
We always recommend buying a bunded tank or constructing a secondary containment for good environmental practice. Not only is it safer for the environment, but many insurance companies will not cover you for spills and leaks if the tank does not have an integral bund or external secondary containment.
What types of HVO fuel tanks are available?
Just like our standard diesel tank, HVO fuel tanks are available in plastic and steel, as a storage only tank or with dispensing, and in capacities from 900L to 100000L. Unlike diesel, HVO is not currently available at UK fuel stations so it must be stored in private bulk tanks.
HVO dispensing tanks
HVO dispensing tanks are forecourt-style fuel dispensers that contain all the equipment needed to store, measure and dispense HVO or HVO and diesel blends. These self-contained dispensers are integrally fitted with all the required dispensing equipment so all that is required is a solid concrete base and an electrical connection. However, we do manufacture plastic tanks with 12/24V pumps charged directly from your vehicle, so even mains electricity isn’t necessary.
Our HVO dispensing tanks are all bunded, compliant with UK regulations and are available in capacities from 1,350 to 100,000 litres as standard. Optional extras are also available to adapt the tank to individual site requirements. These include hose reels, higher flow rates, flowmeters and fuel
HVO storage tank
HVO storage tanks are a simple bunded tank available with a top or bottom outlet or with a bespoke layout if required. Our range of standard HVO fuel tanks come in capacities from 900 to 100,000 litres and are manufactured in plastic and steel. This is a cost-effective solution where integral dispensing isn’t required, for example for oil-fired heating, electricity generators or sites with existing external pumps. HVO storage tanks are ideal when used as a backup power supply with a UPS (Uninterruptible Supply System) such as the one in our case study Test, Trace & Tuffa: Providing emergency power for NHS Lighthouse Lab. This is because HVO has a longer storage lifespan than diesel (up to 10 years) and does not require regular fuel maintenance to remove water or sludge.
Currently around 100 homes and businesses around the UK are trialing HVO as a drop-in alternative to kerosene. We can confirm that our range of heating oil storage tanks are compatible with HVO and HVO blends.
At a time when HVO becomes commercially available as an alternative to kerosene for heating, our range of HVO storage tanks will be ideal for the safe and cost-effective storage of HVO heating oil.
Steel HVO fuel tanks
Steel HVO fuel tanks are very strong and hard-wearing with a long design lifespan of at least 30 years. These solid constructions provide more protection from fuel theft and impacts than plastic tanks. As they are hand fabricated (rather than using moulds) they are adaptable and can reach a high capacity.
However, the cost of the material and additional skilled labour required makes steel storage tanks more expensive than plastic. Also, while the design lifespan is longer than plastic tanks, steel tanks do require regular maintenance to prevent rust and keep them in optimum condition. For a full comparison of steel and plastic tanks, read our article Steel Vs Plastic Tanks – Virtues and Pitfalls.
Tuffa’s steel HVO fuel tanks are available in capacities from 900 litres as storage only or from 5,000 to 100,000 litres with dispensing equipment. As standard, our steel HVO dispensing tanks are fitted with a high-security cabinet with a roller shutter door (walk-in from 20,000 litres) which houses premium ancillary equipment including a C2020 contents gauge with bund alarm, K33 mechanical flowmeter and 10 micron water and particulate filtration. Optional extras include a high-flow rate, hose reel, and a fuel management system.
Plastic HVO fuel tanks
Our plastic HVO fuel tanks are bunded and rotomoulded using a durable, UV stabilized and corrosion-resistant polyethylene which makes a strong and safe single unit. These are available in capacities from 1,350 to 15,000 litres as a single tank or 30,000 litres using interlinking. Our plastic HVO storage tanks are designed to be simple to install and maintain with robust and easily replaceable ancillary equipment. Plastic HVO tanks are more cost-effective than steel but have a shorter design lifespan of 20 years and are an easier target for fuel theft.
Our plastic tanks come with a high-spec as standard including a high polymer shot weight (which creates a thicker tank wall) and premium ancillary equipment including flowmeter, 10-micron water and particulate filter and FMS gauge and bund alarm all housed within a lockable lid or cabinet. While the rotomoulding process creates a fixed tank size and shape, we do offer a variety of options to adapt the tank to the site’s individual requirements. These include a 12V/24V dispensing, a pulse meter, high flow rate pumps and fuel management.
What maintenance does my HVO tank require?
Fuel tank maintenance is usually the responsibility of the homeowner in domestic properties or the business owner in commercial premises. By conducting regular inspections and maintenance you can prolong the lifespan of the tank and reduce the chances and damage caused by a leak. While visual inspections can be conducted by homeowners or untrained staff, servicing and maintenance should be conducted by a Competent Person.
Checking your oil tank
It’s recommended that you check your HVO tank on a monthly basis and after any episodes of extreme weather. Some of the visible signs you should look for on the tank include:
• The fill point arrangement for soundness and leaks
• Any outlet valves should be checked for leaks and operation (open and close successfully)
• The testing of contents gauge, any high level / overfill alarm and bund alarm.
• If vents can be seen that they are clear and unblocked and free of debris.
• A visual inspection around the tank with emphasis on the base of the tank. The inspection for plastic tanks should include any deformation of the surface of the tank such as:
o Excessive bulging
o Change in colour due to chemical attack
o Crazing or stress fractures.
• The inspection of steel tanks should include looking for evidence of:
o Rust and heavy corrosion
o Damp patches on seams & seam fractures.
• The bund to be visually inspected for soundness and integrity, water, spilt product, or other
If your HVO tank is connected to an oil-fired boiler then we recommend that you use a competent technician to maintain your tank every year – this can be done at the same time your boiler is serviced. Your technician should check the tank, bund and pipework and remove any condensation water. Upon completion, you should receive a written report on the state of the tank and any work done. This service can be performed by members of Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) or the Association of Plumbing & Heating Contractors (APHC).
One way we have worked to reduce the costs of oil tank maintenance is by supplying all of our bottom outlet fuel tanks with an Ultra Compact Isolation Valve. As the valve provides safe isolation as the very first component it can save technicians hours on jobs such as replacing the filter valve. With basic valves usually supplied with oil tanks this would require draining and refilling the tank.