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DRAFT: Safety of Alternatives to Onsite Diesel: Things to Consider - HVO

Date Posted: 3 March 2023

The drive to reduce carbon and other airborne emissions from onsite diesel requires alternative sources of energy. In the context of safety, a series of 'Things to Consider' guides are being produced for various alternatives. These are currently drafts, for industry input. This draft covers onsite use of Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO).

The following information is currently a draft for industry consultation* – the initial deadline for comments (to is 1 September 2023.

Hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO)

Hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) is also known as ‘renewable diesel, or 2nd generation biodiesel’.’ It is based on raw materials such as cooking oil and food/plant waste and covered by Standard EN15940 for paraffin fuels.

While other types of non-fossil liquid fuels are available for use onsite, HVO appears to be the most commonly used type. HVO is regarded as a ‘drop in’ replacement fuel for diesel, and it can be used to fully replace, or for blending with, conventional diesel fuel.


Broadly speaking, HVO does not present significantly different hazards to the use of conventional onsite diesel. As with conventional diesel, HVO hazards include:

  • Fire and explosion – including electrical and static ignition sources
  • Increased pressure in containers due to ambient heating
  • Contact dermatitis
  • Vapour intoxication
  • Harmful to the eyes
  • Slipping hazard (ground conditions if spilt).

Using HVO may also require less use of Adblue (corrosive urea solution) than conventional diesel.

Fire/explosion hazard

While HVO and diesel have broadly comparable fire characteristics. As with diesel, the characteristics includes:

  • vapour heavier than air - potentially flammable concentrations may flash back
  • burning readily if ignited/sufficiently heated
  • contaminated materials may combust.

A HVO fire will give rise to harmful gases and particulates.


All electrical storage and fuel transfer equipment must be intrinsically safe, preventing sources of ignition, including static build-up, and ensuring suitable earthing and bonding.

All electricals must be installed and maintained by a competent person.

Site planning

Broad similarities to conventional diesel mean that - in the context of safety - sites already safely using conventional diesel should be well prepared for adapting to any diesel alternative. Factors to consider include:

  • How handling, storage and other equipment can be safely delivered onsite
  • Ground siting – a ground level (not low lying), stable and resilient base
  • Storage location – segregation from other flammables and onsite mechanical damage, and away from other site/external areas at risk
  • Containers and piping – design, suitable materials (notably steel) and integrity, pressure relief, gas detection (if enclosed)
  • Temporary/small quantity storage – fire and security
  • Deliveries – onsite routes, designated delivery areas, site lighting
  • Emergency planning for both small and larger fires.
  • Onsite insurance notification/conditions.

Competency, training and information

All operatives involved in fuel-related operations and any emergency measures must be fully trained and competent to carry out their activities.

Ensure suitable signage, notably for fire and electrical hazards.

Staff must be aware of fire safety measures and emergency procedures.

Operational measures

As with storing and using conventional diesel onsite, using HVO requires a safe system of work and staff training to cover factors such as:

  • Fuel transfer – e.g. enclosed fuel handling, designated pump dispensing areas, safe fueling procedures
  • Storage – protection from site mechanical damage, ambient heat and sources of ignition, ventilation
  • Site security – including fencing, CCTV, secure storage with locked access/authorised persons
  • Emergency measures – fire protection and response
  • Protective equipment – e.g. eye protection, nitrile gloves, dealing with contaminated clothing
  • Minor spillage, leaks, losses
  • Major spillage/safe disposal – bunding, clean-up, water pollution and hazardous waste provisions.

Ensure that equipment, particularly safety critical equipment such as stand-by generators, can (and continues to) work properly with HVO or blends.

Emergency measures

Fire emergency measures should include shut off fuel supply, cordon off area, evacuate site/surroundings as necessary.

For small fires, enable rapid onsite firefighting (where safe to do so)

  • In the event of fire use foam, dry chemical, CO2 or sand extinguisher - and/or water spray/mist for cooling. Do not use water jets (to avoid spread of combustible liquid).

For larger fires, ensure sufficient onsite fire-fighting provision and/or an effective means of calling the emergency fire and other services, and for clean-up and environmental protection .

References/sources of further information

(to develop based on consultation - example below, this should include links).

Fire Prevention on Construction Sites: Joint Code of Practice on the Protection from Fire of Construction Sites/Building Renovation- Tenth edition: August 2022


To follow at end of consultation.

© ECA 2023 CONIAC: *draft - not for reproduction or adaptation without written permission. This content is solely to highlight various safety issues for consideration. None of this content constitutes official/industry guidance or in any way seeks to replace or supersede existing official/industry guidance.