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UK Exploring Use of Biodiesel and Straight Vegetable Oil in Commercial Fishing Vessels

The UK’s Sea Fish Industry Authority (Seafish), a cross-industry non-departmental public body (NDPB), has launched a project to develop biofuels for the commercial fishing industry.

The UK fishing industry has seen its fuel prices double in the last 24 months, which, along with the increasing pressure to find greener alternatives to conventional fuels, is an important impetus for the project.

The project brings together technical expertise in biodiesel technology from the Camborne School of Mines and in control electronics from Oxfordshire-based technology company, Regenatec. It is partly funded by the European Union through the Financial Instrument for Fisheries Guidance (FIFG), and Seafish will manage the project on behalf of the UK’s Defra.

This project will investigate two different approaches which offer distinct choices for fishermen. The project being run by Camborne will produce a form of biodiesel which can be used directly in existing engines. The other approach by Regenatec, is to make minor modifications to a marine engine to allow it to run on straight vegetable oil—the same oil you can use to fry fish and chips.

Straight vegetable oil is likely to prove cheaper per liter than biodiesel, but there are upfront costs involved in modifying the engine, so each solution will be attractive depending on typical fuel usage patterns of individual vessels.

—Tom Rossiter, Technical Implementation Manager at Seafish

Marine diesel fuel contains higher sulfur content than land-based diesel fuel, resulting in substantial sulfur dioxide emissions at sea. These emissions lead to the formation of acid rain. Biofuel use would reduce those emissions by more than 99%.

In addition, marine engines are generally lower revving and more tolerant of different types of fuel than on-road engines. This tolerance should allow marine engines to run lower grade —and potentially less expensive—biofuels.

Testing will begin on two fishing boats in the next few months, with potential widespread commercial use by the end of 2007, assuming all goes according to plan.

Regenatec designs, develops and manufacturers technology that allows commercial diesel engines to operate from pure plant oils (PPOs) such as vegetable oil. The company is due to launch the technology for commercial road vehicles in April 2006.


Rafael Seidl

There's nothing - other than price - stopping operators of marine diesels from using low-sulphur varieties where available.

My primary concern would be contamination of the fish we eat. That is why running a modified engine on straight vegetable oil is problematic - they generate a lot more particulate matter. Also, vegetable oil has a high cloud point, making it hard to use in cold weather.


Note that all triclycerides, including those from fish, can be converted to biodiesel.

Sid Hoffman

While SVO does have a very high gel point, fishing vessels always have one engine or another running at all times. If not the primary motor, they'll have an auxiliary generator running even when the primary engine is off. You could incorporate two coils in the SVO storage tank; a coolant coil so that when the primary engine is running, engine coolant keeps the fuel heated, and an electrical coil so when the main engine is off and the APU is running, it can supply electrical power to keep the fuel heated.

Alternately, you can have two fuel tanks; a large SVO tank and a small petro-diesel tank. Start up and shut down the engine on petro-diesel and it can generate enough heat to thaw out the SVO tank, then switch over from petro-diesel to SVO. Several VW "grease cars" use this method to switch between the primary fuel tank and auxiliary SVO tank. The latter option seems to be described as the two-tank option on the website link provided above.

Lance Funston

Doesn't adding H2 or LPG injected into a diesel engine increase the volatility of the fuel even in colder conditions or is the viscosity in the fuel system more the issue?


Yep, they're just building a giant Grease Car system for these boats. Put simply, any diesel engine will run off of straight vegetable oil if it is first heated to at least 150F. Yep, no modifications to the engine are necessary, just the ability to heat the VO up before feeding it to the engine, then the ability to run the engine back on diesel a bit before shutdown to purge out any VO. Thing is, B100 has a problem with cold temps, so it would need a heated system too if they wanted reliability in cold weather.

Hell, if my 2005 VW TDI has no trouble with it (18,000 miles on grease so far), these brutes won't have any.


And its not like ships do as many stop-start trips as cars.
This looks like a realy good idea.


wether bio fuels are a good thing or not i dont see how testing bio fuel marine engines in a not brilliantly well ventalated chamber (the first time i walked in there with the engines running i had troubly breathing) at the camborne school of mines "test mine" is really a fair environment to test them in. surely an open air test bed on the coast would be more appropriat environment but to the saltyness rather than a mine in the countryside 3-4 miles from the nearest coast?
why dean millar got the funding to set the test bed up in the mine i'll never know!!


I wish to know what has happend to the biodiesel experience in fishing vessels that was done in 2007. Thank you very much.

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