Vegetable oil used as main fuel for converted diesel trawler saving tonnes of CO2

In the same week as the report from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) blaming bottom trawling for the destruction of ocean habitats, the UK’s first vegetable oil powered trawler is undergoing trials in the North Sea.

The conversion of the 21m 50-tonneJubilee Questbased in Grimsby, from diesel to vegetable oil had financial backing from The Sea Fish Industry Authority, a government agency involved in the fishing industry.

Environmental benefits
According to the BBC website, vegetable oil does emit CO2 if it is used as a fuel, but the plants used to make the oil absorb the gas while growing, so the hope is that far less CO2 is pumped into in the atmosphere.

The environmental benefits of using biofuel on vessels would be vast, as a typical diesel-powered trawler on a 10-day trip emits 37 tonnes of the greenhouse gas.
In contrast, running a family car for a year would result in a comparably small emission of two tonnes of CO2.

The boat runs on a dual fuel system. It starts on diesel, switches over to vegetable oil when the engine has warmed up, then flushes itself out with diesel again before switching off.

Interestingly, the economic case for using cleaner fuel for marine transport is complicated by the very low taxation of marine ‘red’ diesel.

“It’s quite tough to compete on price with fresh oils at the moment, because there’s no road fuel duty to pay on marine fuel,” Mike Lawton told the BBC ‘Working Lunch’ programme.

“Where we want to get to is run vessels on tallow oil… the thick oil left at the bottom of your frying pan after you’ve cooked some sausages,” he said.

The waste cooking oils would be a cheaper fuel to get hold of in comparison to other biofuels currently in use.

Photo: From Fleetwood Trawlers website. Credit: Peter Brady.