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Alternative fuels to petrol and diesel for farmers

In this article, Niki Holt, Head of Commercial at Certas Energy, explores the benefits of the early adoption of lower-carbon fuel alternatives for the farming community and beyond.

Clean Air Day, taking place on June 16th, 2022, is an opportunity for us all to reflect on and recalibrate efforts to tackle air quality in the UK – and the farming community is no exception.

Agriculture has not been as affected as other industries by decarbonisation legislation, an example being the recent red diesel reform changes.

However, the sector has a key role to play in reaching the government’s ambitious carbon neutral targets, with funding increasingly weighted towards more sustainable farming practices, from renewable energy use to habitat protection.

The transition to cleaner fuel alternatives, therefore, is inevitable.

But the path is promising. Ongoing investment into emissions-reducing technologies and energy-efficient solutions is enabling farmers to better navigate the journey to Net Zero 2050.

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Fortunately, farmers do not have to wait to set the wheels in motion. From carbon offsetting to cleaner-burning fuel alternatives, there are immediately deployable options to make an instant positive environmental impact on your farm.

So, what are your options, and how can you choose the best cleaner alternative for your farming operation?

Switching it up

Petrol and diesel will continue to be essential to the energy mix for years to come. However, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and adopting diesel alternatives can help forge a more sustainable future for farming today.

Plus, cleaner alternatives can offer some additional benefits to traditional fuels, which can include biodegradable and renewable properties, fewer harmful NOx emissions and particulate matter, and contributing towards a lower carbon footprint.

Alternative fuels with drop-in capabilities are a great solution for farmers looking to reduce emissions immediately without causing too much disruption to day-to-day operations.

Two of the options with the highest potential are Shell Gas-to-Liquid (GTL) Fuel and Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO).

Shell GTL Fuel

Shell GTL Fuel is a cleaner and quieter drop-in diesel alternative with a longer shelf life than conventional diesel.

As a paraffinic fuel, it can instantly reduce the emissions created by your farm – enabling up to 37% fewer NOx emissions and 90% less particle matter when compared to diesel – and improve surrounding air quality.

It can be used for on- and off-road applications for all your farm’s needs and requires no modification for vehicles or engines to use it. Shell GTL Fuel is also perfect for keeping your vehicles running smoothly in winter, even in temperatures as low as minus 22°C.

As a winter-grade fuel, Shell GTL Fuel can reduce the risk of costly maintenance to vehicles, machinery and fuel tanks in colder months because it is free from fatty acid methyl ester (FAME).

This is a biofuel with hygroscopic properties that can result in diesel bug and a build-up of wax crystals in cold temperatures.

Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO)

HVO can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90%, helping to instantly lower your farm’s carbon footprint.

This low carbon diesel alternative works as a drop-in fuel solution, like Shell GTL Fuel, and is produced through the upcycling of biowaste matter – for example, ethically-sourced cooking oil and vegetable fats.

When sourced correctly, therefore, HVO is 100% biodegradable. However, not all HVO comes from a transparent supply chain or a sustainable source, so farmers should do their research and choose a reliable supplier who can evidence the fuel’s environmental credentials.

The sustainability potential for HVO is clear, and we expect significant growth in this fuel’s popularity as more agricultural businesses strive for net-zero.

Make your fuel go further

Although your choice of fuel is important, it is not the only way to reduce the environmental impact of your farm.

Carbon offsetting provides an opportunity to farmers who are not quite ready for the transition to cleaner fuel alternatives but want to make a positive change and lower their carbon footprint.

Through the purchase of carbon credits, farmers can invest in activities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions or absorb carbon dioxide, helping them to neutralise and compensate for unavoidable emissions from their own operations,

Fuel for thought

It is an undisputed fact that cleaner air is crucial for protecting people and the planet, but it is only through the collective efforts of industries, enterprises, and individuals that we can achieve this universal goal.

We are seeing an acceleration of sustainability objectives, and fortunately, technology development is following a similar trajectory. Cleaner fuel innovations continue to advance, offering viable routes to a more sustainable future for farming.

For farmers, this presents the ideal opportunity to kick-start their lower emissions journey – without disruption or delay.

As we mark Clean Air Day, now is the perfect time to sow the seeds of change and reap the benefits for your farm and the environment it relies on to thrive.

To find out more, visit

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