The fuel used in conventional cars is not considered environmentally friendly due to the products it is made from, the processes used to create the fuel and the emissions created from using this fuel. Because of this, a great deal of research has gone into creating greener fuels. Today green fuels are available to be used. You can find more information about green and non-green fuel types here.
Different fuel types
Different cars use different types of fuel to power their engines; some fuel types are more environmentally friendly than others:
- Petrol: This is the most common type of fuel used in cars today, and is one of the major causes of global warming. Petrol produces toxic exhaust chemicals such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and different types of nitrogen oxides. These not only contribute to global warming but also to acid rain and can damage human health. Petrol is also made from crude oil which is non renewable and will probably run out one day. Unleaded petrol is the most environmentally friendly form of petrol, but other fuels are now available that will save you money and help the environment.
- Diesel: Diesel cars have about a 30% better fuel efficiency than petrol powered vehicles. Diesel cars also last longer reducing the need to repair or purchase a new car. Diesel vehicles release less carbon dioxide than petrol powered cars, but release more volatile organic compounds and nitrous oxides contributing to ozone smog. Diesel is also produced from the non-renewable energy source of crude oil, using up the world’s natural resources.
- Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG): Most cars powered by LPG in the UK are hybrid vehicles and are much more environmentally friendly and fuel efficient than petrol engines. They produce fewer emissions of carbon dioxide, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitrous oxides than both petrol and diesel powered vehicles. LPG also causes less wear and tear to the vehicle and is more fuel efficient, saving you money.
- Compressed Natural Gas (CNG): CNG powered vehicles are more fuel efficient, operate quietly and emit fewer toxic chemicals than conventional cars. Many petrol and diesel engines can be converted to run on CNG.
- Bio-diesel: This is produced from renewable energy sources such as sugar beet, rape seed, palm oil and sunflowers. It is a biological substitute for regular diesel. Bio-diesel cars are more environmentally friendly than conventional cars which run on petrol and diesel for many reasons; for example it is not toxic and doesn’t produce as much damaging exhaust emissions. Even though bio-diesel produces carbon dioxide as a by-product, the plants grown to create the fuel absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere during photosynthesis. This means that the net carbon emission into the atmosphere is much less than non bio-fuels such as petrol. Although there is a danger of deforestation in rainforests to create space for plantations needed to create bio-diesel. Bio-diesel is not available at all petrol stations but can usually be purchased for less than the price of diesel and unleaded petrol. You could even get free bio-diesel if you collect old oil from restaurants and filter it yourself.
- Bio-ethanol: This is a biological fuel substitute for petrol and is made from renewable energy sources. It has much the same benefits as bio-diesel but is less common. Its popularity as a bio-product is increasing especially in countries like Brazil. Read our article, for more information on whether ethanol would be a viable alternative to petrol in the UK.
Green Fuel Types
Ethanol and Biodiesel are the greenest fuels available at the moment:
Rising oil costs and environmental concerns have increased pressure on the motor industry to develop an alternative and greener fuel to power Britain’s vehicles. But would ethanol be a viable alternative to petrol in the UK?
What is Ethanol?
Ethanol is largely seen as a environmentally friendly alternative to petrol. It is made from the fermentation of crops such as sugarcane in Brazil and soybean in the US.
Why is Ethanol used as Fuel?
Ethanol is significantly less polluting than petrol because it doesn’t produce sulphur dioxide or lead emissions. Any carbon dioxide it produces can be offset by growing more sugar plants. Cars in the UK can currently run on about 10 per cent of ethanol in petrol, but the corrosive effect of ethanol means increasing levels above this can damage the engine if the necessary changes have not been made.
Brazil and the use of Ethanol
The technology for creating ethanol has been around since the 1920s, but production took off in Brazil in the 1980s when the government looked around for alternative sources in the wake of the 1970s oil crisis and rising oil prices. During the 1980s more than 75 per cent of motor vehicles and around 90 per cent of cars were run on ethanol. But a drop in oil prices and an end to government subsidies meant that ethanol was no longer a practical alternative to petrol. However, rising oil prices caused the popularity of ethanol to rise again two years ago, and now over 50 per cent of new cars in Brazil are flex-fuel cars that can be run on either pure petrol, pure ethanol or a mixture of the two.
Recent moves by Brazil to bring biofuels to the UK on a bigger scale have increased interest in ethanol as a possible replacement for petrol. Since signing agreements with Sweden and Japan, Brazil is now interested in developing partnerships with British companies. In Brazil ethanol is widely available and it makes up around 40 per cent of fuel consumption and powers over 50 per cent of vehicles. Having spent the last 30 years refining the production of ethanol from sugarcane, Brazil has now become the largest producer and exporter of ethanol in the world.
Production of ethanol in Brazil is set to be increased over the next few years. In 2005 they produced 282,000 barrels of ethanol per day and the expectations are for production to rise to 442,000 barrels per day by 2010. Brazil currently exports 7,200 barrels per day to the US (who also produce their own ethanol from soybeans), and the question is whether or not the UK will become a new customer for Brazil’s growing industry in biofuels.
Biodiesels are environmentally friendly alternatives to traditional petroleum-based fuels. Biodiesels are mainly made from renewable resources such as animal fats or vegetable oils. A production process is used to convert the base oil to the desired esters and to remove fatty acids. After this process, bio diesels have similar combustion properties to petroleum diesel, and can replace diesels in their most frequent uses. Currently, bio diesels are most commonly used as an additive to diesel, improving the lubricity of pure, ultra-low sulphur diesel.
Biodiesels are currently the number one option in replacing fossil fuels as the world’s main transport fuel.
The production and use of biodiesel is increasing rapidly, and Europe, the US and Asia have the fastest growing production of bio diesels. An increasing number of fuel stations are selling bio diesels and some large transport fleets, councils and public transport fleets are using some proportion of bio diesel in their fuel.
Some people are even making their own biodiesel by collecting used vegetable oils from restaurants and takeaways, filtering it and then using it in their cars.
Only diesel engines can run on biodiesel and not all engines can cope with it, they may need to be modified first.
Green Fuels offers a wealth of information about the production and use of bio diesels as alternatives to petrol-diesel.
Visit the Biodiesel Filling Stations website to find out where you can fill your diesel vehicle with Biodiesel in the UK.
UK Green Fuel Producers
Greenergy was founded in 1992 to generate and provide fuels with a
lower environmental impact.
The company was the first low-sulphur fuel supplier in the UK, Germany and Switzerland.
Since the early 90s, Greenergy‘s range has included ultra-low sulphur and sulphur-free, mineral-based fuels,
designed to reduce emissions of air pollutants in urbanised areas.
Today, Greenergy is one of the UK’s largest independent fuel suppliers and has a 5% share of the UK fuel market. They supply 10 billion litres of petrol, diesel and biofuel each year, and this amount is growing as they increase their fuel storage facilities and transport options in the UK.
Greenergy have averaged a growth of nearly 60% over the past 3 years and won the Company of the Year in the CBI Growing Business Awards during November 2010.
Greenergy have paved the way for biofuels and improved the future of the fuel industry in the UK.
With the focus of environmental attention moving to the change in climate, Greenergy have developed a range of
low-carbon fuels called GlobalFuels. These fuels feature a blend of bio-fuels, such as bio-diesel or bio-ethanol, and mineral fuel,
which has attached carbon credits.
Greenergy and Tesco
One of Greenergy‘s biggest clients is supermarket giant, Tesco. Greenergy have been supplying Tesco with GlobalDiesel since
2003. They introduced the UK’s highest octane unleaded petrol, Super Unleaded 99 Octane. The Super-fuel was rolled out to
over 100 Tesco filling stations in London and the south in mid November 2005.
The Super Unleaded 99 Octane offers an increased octane level that is higher than any other petrol supplier and more environmentally
friendly. It also contains a special additive package that enhances engine cleaning, and as a result, delivers further long-term benefits.
Tesco are the first major petrol supplier to offer the most environmentally friendly petrol available in the UK. The fuel is a mix of high quality petrol components, blended to achieve 99 Octane. It includes 5% bioethanol, a renewable but also high-octane product which provides lower emissions of greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide.
Tescos are minority shareholders of Greenergy.
In 2006 Tesco also announced that it expected to be selling bio-diesel from 40% of its sites.
In June 2011, Greenergy was listed the third biggest private company in Britain by the Sunday Times Deloitte Top Track 100. This just shows how the company and their ideals has taken off since it began in 1992.
Greenergy also started creating biodeisel from waste fuel in 2011. The opportunity was an option due to the unique partnership with Brocklesby Ltd. This is a fantastic move for green fuels as now food, which was previously unsaleable and would go to landfill, can be reused to create fuel. Products being used to create bio-diesel are high fat solid fuels like pies, crisps and pastries that are passed their sell by date, misshapen or overcooked. It is the oil and fat from these food products which can then be converted into fuel. This could be a viable alternative for fuel in the future as the world looks for alternative resources.
Since 1992 Greenergy have also expanded their fuel storage facilities in South Wales, Teesside, Plymouth and throughout the UK.
In the future Greenergy aim to bring their customers high quality, low cost fuel using the best systems, controls and technology.