Antrim and Newtownabbey vegetable oil pilot set to continue despite fuel cost

Antrim and Newtownabbey councillors have agreed to continue an alternative fuel pilot which is one of the first of its kind in Northern Ireland.

Fifteen vehicles in the borough council’s waste and parks fleet are involved in the pilot using hydro-treated vegetable oil as a replacement for diesel to reduce carbon emissions as part of the authority’s Climate Action Plan and Fleet Management Strategy.

An update presented to the borough council’s Operations Committee on Monday evening says that the use of this fuel has “no effect on performance” of its vehicles and has reduced carbon dioxide by 90 per cent on diesel emissions, the equivalent of 255 tonnes.

To offset that amount of carbon, Antrim and Newtownabbey Council would need to plant 1,530 trees.

Cllr Billy Webb MBE, former Antrim and Newtownabbey Mayor,  at the launch of a low emission pilot.

However, councillors have been told that HVO fuel costs almost one third more than diesel, amounting to an increase in cost of £46,000 for the 15 vehicles in the pilot.

Hydro-treated vegetable oil is a low-carbon fuel and is derived from used cooking oils, residue animal fats from food processing and non-food grade crops.

It is estimated the use of HVO also delivers a 30% reduction in nitrogen oxide and 85% decrease in particulate matter, the report continues.

The local authority has also trialled an electric bin lorry for trade waste services. Elected representatives have been advised of concerns over its “operational effectiveness due to lack of range”.

The council has not trialled a hydrogen-powered vehicle to date.

Further Discussion

The Operations Committee approved the officers’ recommendation to continue the trial with a report on potential for decarbonisation of the fleet expected to be completed in March and presented to the council for further discussion.

Glengormley DUP Councillor Alison Bennington asked if it would be possible for other types of fuel to be used.

An officer for the local government authority said that the vehicles involved could switch between HVO and diesel without modification although both have emissions.

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“We will be looking at the environmental benefits of different fuels. The feeling in the marketplace is that large vehicles are better suited to hydrogen.”

Michelle Weir, Local Democracy Reporter