How can businesses use HVO as sustainable standby power?

With energy outages comes disruption and Kelly Cole from Finning UK & Ireland has the answer to limiting downtime while using a sustainable energy source

Standby power generation is crucial in various applications, including provisions during mains power outages or managing unpredictable energy supply. 

In industries like healthcare—where hospitals must be online 24/7—as well as utilities and online services, it’s important that organisations have the ability to receive power in the event of energy downtime. 

Kelly Cole, General Manager for Finning UK & Ireland’s energy and transportation division and exclusive dealer for Cat® engines and generators, shares her ideas on how hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) acts as a backup solution for low energy while retaining sustainable credentials. 

Ensuring energy reliability while remaining sustainable

The widespread use of diesel generators for standby power is well-established due to their practical benefits. Such solutions are easily accessible, reliable as a mature industry technology, and are capable of ramping up in scale to seamlessly provide backup energy for critical projects.

As high-profile standby power users, such as hospitals and data centres, must manage their risks, energy outages could threaten their work, and potentially lives. This is where standby energy solutions are paramount for achieving reliability and must be carefully assessed in order to eliminate the use of fossil fuels.

HVO proving a smart first step to sustainable contingenc

A first step in this transition is the growing use of HVO. Produced from certified waste fats and oils, HVO is manufactured using a synthesised process with hydrogen to offer a more sustainable alternative to fossil fuels. Although this method is not entirely carbon-free, HVO eliminates up to 90% of the emissions produced in comparison with the production and use of conventional diesel fuel.

Another key advantage is that it can be used as a drop-in replacement for diesel in many engines, as well as used with existing diesel or biodiesel stocks.

Given the ease with which they can be integrated into existing assets, we have seen growing interest in the use of HVO in tandem with diesel to lower the carbon footprint of standby generators. 

Although the common approach has been to use HVO in conjunction with diesel, there have been notable instances where a shift to 100% HVO is made, resulting in greater reductions in CO2. Microsoft recently announced that all Cat generators at its new Sweden-based data centres will operate on HVO to confirm emissions reduction.

“We have worked extensively to ensure that our new data centres in Sweden will be among our most sustainably designed and operated in the world,” says Noelle Walsh, Corporate Vice President, Cloud Operations and Innovation at Microsoft

“Caterpillar and the Cat dealer network have developed innovative power solutions that support Microsoft and our unwavering commitment to carbon reductions. Cat generator sets at Microsoft data centres help us keep availability promises to our customers even when grid power fails, providing continuous energy and uninterrupted cloud services.”

HVO provides an excellent next step to reducing carbon emissions. Crucially, it offers flexibility with any HVO to diesel ratio between 0% and 100% possible depending on the specific demands and preferences of each project.

The long term and future benefits of hydrogen power

Although HVO is a convenient and highly effective drop-in replacement for existing diesel equipment, it is not entirely carbon-free. Also, with the current amounts of vegetable oil, HVO would not be feasible to meet global demand. 

Therefore, could Hydrogen be a more likely candidate for long term energy demand? With advances in blue (the splitting of natural gas into hydrogen and CO2, with the resulting carbon captured) and green (splitting water by electrolysis into hydrogen and oxygen), production is set to help create the volumes needed to replace fossil fuels on a global scale.

Whilst those production volumes are yet to come, plans are in action and it is an area that should be explored when looking at the next generation of sustainable equipment. Similar to that of HVO and combined approach becomes the most feasible next step with gas gensets configured to allow for a blended fuel containing up to 25% hydrogen. 

Caterpillar and other manufacturers are introducing gas generators that are factory-configured to run on a blend of natural gas and hydrogen. Retrofitting kits are also available for certain equipment, making it an attractive and efficient option for sustainable standby power.


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