Power from Renewable Biofuels

Biodiesel and HVO

Renewable Biofuels
Renewable Biofuels

Biofuel for Cat® Generators

Available for over 20 years in some markets, renewable liquid fuels, such as hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) and biodiesel, are becoming a more popular choice among customers seeking to reduce the impact of their operations on the environment in the near term. 

What is Biofuel?

Biodiesel and HVO are biofuels produced from renewable resources such as vegetable oils, including soybean oil, canola oil, and palm oil, as well as used cooking oils and animal fats. While the resources may vary globally, finished fuel specifications are independent of the feedstock. 

 

What is the Difference Between Biodiesel and HVO Fuel?

HVO and biodiesel are the two main renewable liquid fuels readily available for end users, but they have several differences:

  Biodiesel (FAME) Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) (Renewable Diesel)
Source Vegetable oils and fats Vegetable oils and fats
Process Transesterification Hydrotreating
Chemistry    
Product Oxygenated, ester Non-oxygenated, paraffin
Replacement for diesel? Yes, with some cautions Yes
Specifications ASTM D6751, EN 14214, Cat Spec EN 15940

 

  • Note that hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO)/renewable diesel (RD) is per diesel fuel specifications except for density. HVO has lower density than diesel fuels.
  • Biodiesel and HVO are sourced from the same feedstocks but differ in the processing and in the final product chemistry.
  • HVO can be used in both standby and prime applications, whereas biodiesel is better suited to prime applications.
  • Both fuels can be used “neat” or blended with conventional diesel to various percentages.

What are the Benefits of Biofuels?

  • Although HVO and biodiesel do not significantly reduce CO2 emissions at the tailpipe, switching to biofuels will reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions compared to diesel.
  • Lower visible smoke emissions when using biofuels.
  • HVO fuel is a drop-in replacement for diesel.
  • Running generators on biofuels provides similar performance to diesel.
  • Biofuels are available now and are easy to switch to.
  • Running on biofuel provides similar rated power output, transient response, start up time, and NOx emissions to running on diesel.
fuel types
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fuel types

Can Cat Generators Run on Biofuels?

Cat® diesel generators can run on biofuels and have accommodated the use of biodiesel and HVO for over a decade. These fuels are available now, and your local Cat dealer can provide guidance and recommendations for switching to renewable liquid fuels.

View diesel generators page
Renewable Liquid Fuels
Renewable Liquid Fuels

In the News

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Microsoft’s newest data centers in Sweden depend on Cat standby generators that can operate on renewable liquid fuel, supporting their sustainability goals and uptime commitments.

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Microsoft press release
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Considerations for Use of Renewable Liquid Fuels

There is a difference in applicability of biodiesel and HVO for prime and standby power:

Power Biodiesel HVO
Prime, Continuous Blend levels per Caterpillar guidance Any blend level with diesel
Standby B5 Maximum blend level Any blend level with diesel

 

The differences in applicability of biodiesel and HVO in standby power applications are due to the nature of the fuels. Biodiesel can age with storage and degrade in quality as it ages. As such, it does not support use in standby power applications and, particularly emergency generator applications.

Generator engines fueled by renewable liquid fuels have similar performance to those fueled with conventional diesel but may experience a small decrease in maximum power output. Fuel consumption may also increase due to the potentially lower energy content of the specific renewable fuel being used. The cold temperature properties of both HVO and biodiesel need to be appropriate for the ambient environment of the generator. Your local Cat dealer can talk you through any adaptations that may need to be made to your installation.

Performance
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Performance

Some regions or municipalities, particularly where mandates for renewable fuel use exist, may have abundant availability of biodiesel and of HVO. Other areas may not, which can mean fuels need to be transported to the location if needed. Transport over long distances may reduce the positive environmental impact of these fuels. 

Only purchase biodiesel and HVO fuels from reputable dealers selling commercial grade fuels that meet the relevant specifications.  

Availability
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Availability

The price of biodiesel blends varies depending on geographic area, base material (corn, soybeans, etc.), supplier, and government tax and other incentives. Although renewable liquid fuels can cost more than petroleum diesel, diesel generator set owners can transition to these fuels without purchasing new engines. In the case of fleets, managers can transition to renewable liquid fuels without acquiring new spare parts inventories.

Affordability
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Affordability

Detailed guidance on the use of renewable liquid fuels exists, and users should be aware of the differences in the maintenance requirements associated with them compared to diesel fuels and each other.

When switching from diesel fuel to biodiesel for the first time, shorter maintenance intervals are recommended with focus on fuel filters, hoses, pumps, and seals. Always consult your local Cat dealer for guidance and information relating to new or existing equipment.

HVO fuels have similar aging properties to diesel. Biodiesel, however, has a shorter shelf life due to its composition. Shelf life is based on the blend level.

Contamination control measures are critical for application of any fuel, diesel or renewable. Fuels must be protected from water and dirt.

Maintenance
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Maintenance

Specifications & Standards

Biodiesel is registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is legal for use at any blend level in both highway and nonroad diesel engines. In the U.S., the applicable blending spec for B100 is ASTM D6751. B20 blend specs in the US is ASTM D7467.

European fuel standard EN 14214 ensures that biodiesel is suitable for even the most modern engines. EN 16709 describes B20 and B30 biodiesel blends.

HVO fuels must be per EU 15940 spec. HVO fuels also satisfy the diesel fuels specifications ASTM D975 and EN 590, except for density. 

Only purchase biodiesel and HVO fuels from reputable dealers selling commercial grade biodiesel. 

Fuel container in a lab
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Fuel container in a lab

FAQs & Resources

Fluid Recommendations

Caterpillar engines have accommodated the use of biodiesel and HVO for over a decade across our mobile and stationary product lines. 

View Recommendations
Fluid Recommendations
Fluid Recommendations

National Renewable Energy Lab Guide

View Guide
Lab Guide
Lab Guide

Operation and Maintenance Manual

Cat Commercial Diesel Engine Fluids Recommendations

View Manual
Operation and Maintenance Manual
Operation and Maintenance Manual

Cat Machine Fluids Recommendations

Cat Machine Fluids Recommendations

View Manual
Operation and Maintenance Manual
Operation and Maintenance Manual

Get the Facts

Want to discover if renewable liquid fuels might be a solution for your power system? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions document featuring information on the use of renewable liquid fuels, primarily HVO and biodiesel, in the Cat 3500 and C175 series generator sets.

FIND ANSWERS
Operation and Maintenance Manual
Operation and Maintenance Manual

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Alternative Fuels for Electric Power generator sets
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Sustainability

For Caterpillar, sustainability is not a new concept. It’s part of who we are and what we do every single day. 

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Sustainability

Your reliable partner

Your local Cat dealer can provide additional guidance and recommendations for all our engine models referencing our fluid specification publications to facilitate the use of biodiesel. 

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