Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Biofuels for transport

Road transport is a significant source of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions. Using biofuels for transport can help your business reduce its vehicle emissions and control costs. The two types of biofuel most used in the UK are biodiesel and bioethanol. The use of biogas, another type of biofuel, is currently limited within the UK.

Biofuels come in various blends and may require your vehicle engine to be modified. If you want to produce your own biofuel you may need a pollution prevention and control permit or waste management licence.

This guide explains the different types of biofuel available to businesses in the UK and where you can buy them. It also covers the legal requirements for businesses that produce, store and use biofuels.

Additional resources

       

Useful Links

Energy Saving Trust: Buying a fuel efficient vehicle tool

Video Case Study: How to Manage Transport Impacts From Your Business

Transport biofuels are a renewable alternative to limited resources of fossil fuels. They can be liquid or gas and can help to reduce your business transport emissions. The impact that biofuels have on reducing CO2 emissions will depend on where they come from and the way they are produced.

What is biodiesel?

Biodiesel is a substitute fuel produced for diesel engines. It is a renewable fuel made from vegetable oil crops, for example rapeseed or soybean. You can also make biodiesel from waste cooking oils. It doesn't contain petroleum and is biodegradable.

Biodiesel can be mixed with normal diesel to make a blended biodiesel. This is available in a variety of blends including:

  • B5 - 5 per cent biodiesel with 95 per cent ultra-low sulphur diesel, most commonly available
  • B30 - 30 per cent biodiesel blend, only available from a limited number of outlets
  • up to 100 per cent or pure biodiesel (B100), available from specialist suppliers.

You can use the 5 per cent blend with no engine modification and it will not affect your vehicle warranty. You should contact your vehicle manufacturer before using a higher blend as it could affect engine performance and warranty if your engine is not modified.

Energy Saving Trust: Buying a fuel efficient vehicle tool

What is bioethanol?

Bioethanol is a renewable fuel used as a petrol substitute for vehicles. It is made from starches or sugar, for example corn or sugar cane. It is biodegradable and less toxic and explosive than petrol.

You can use bioethanol in different blends to fuel vehicles:

  • E5 - 5 per cent bioethanol with 95 per cent unleaded petrol, most commonly available
  • E85 - 85 per cent blend, from a limited number of outlets.

You won't need to modify your engine to use a 5 per cent blend of bioethanol. Some car manufacturers are starting to sell vehicles that can run on all blends of bioethanol up to 85 per cent. Bioethanol is also becoming more available at filling stations in the UK.

Energy Saving Trust: Buying a fuel efficient vehicle tool

What is biogas?

Biogas is a renewable fuel made from biodegradable materials including maize crops and wastes, such as municipal or food wastes. The main component of biogas is methane. Biogas can be purified to produce liquid biomethane (LBM), which can be used as a vehicle fuel. You can also purify landfill gas to produce biomethane.

Using biomethane can greatly reduce CO2 emissions compared to diesel. It also reduces nitrous oxide emissions and has no particulate (dust) emissions.

Biomethane can be stored as a compressed gas for road vehicles. Any vehicle that can operate on compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG) can run on LBM.

Some commercial vehicles operate on biomethane, for example heavy goods vehicles, vans and buses. However, a number of new models are due to come onto the market in the next few years.

Energy Saving Trust: Buying a fuel efficient vehicle tool

Other alternative fuels

For details about other alternative transport fuels, see the page on how to use alternatively powered vehicles in our guideline: Reducing your vehicle emissions

Further information

Energy Saving Trust: Buying a fuel efficient vehicle tool

Renewable Energy Association: Renewable transport fuels

Renewable Energy Centre: Biodiesel and bioethanol fuel suppliers

Biodiesel filling stations: Biodiesel outlets

Only some biofuels are commercially available in the UK for use in vehicles.

Biodiesel and bioethanol

Most of the fuel you buy at petrol stations will already have some biodiesel or bioethanol added to it. Large fuel suppliers have increased the amount of biofuel content in their fuel each year and standard pump fuel in the UK will now contain 4.75 per cent biodiesel or bioethanol.

There are mandatory sustainability criteria that must be met before a biofuel can be given a renewable transport fuel certificate and count towards this total.

You can buy fuel with a higher concentration of biodiesel and bioethanol at some outlets:

Renewable Energy Centre: Biodiesel and bioethanol fuel suppliers

You should only use biodiesel that conforms to the recognised European quality standard EN14214 and meets the current diesel specification EN590.

Other transport biofuels

If you want to use other biofuels, for example biogas, you will need to consider installing your own refuelling facilities. There is a limited supply of biogas for road transport and no public refuelling outlets in the UK.

Several HGV biogas refuelling stations are planned for the future and biogas will become more readily available for this industry.

You may also be able to use valuable tax breaks for refuelling equipment.

HMRC: First year allowances for natural gas and hydrogen fuelling equipment

Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO)

Most fossil fuel used for road transport in the UK is refined or imported by one of about 14 suppliers and the RTFO puts certain obligations on these suppliers. An obligated supplier must prove to the Secretary of State that a percentage of the fuel they supply is made of renewable fuel by producing Renewable Transport Fuel Certificates (RTFCs) at the end of the year. One RTFC is awarded for every litre of biofuel reported, and an obligated supplier can obtain them either by supplying biofuel, or by trading with other biofuel suppliers.

The RTFO programme does not apply if the annual volume of fuel you supply is less than 450,000 litres. However, you can trade RTFCs with obligated suppliers, providing a potential revenue stream to support the production of biofuel

Further information

Renewable Energy Centre: Biodiesel and bioethanol fuel suppliers

Biodiesel filling stations: Biodiesel outlets

Department for transport: Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation

You may need a pollution prevention and control permit or waste management licence if you produce your own biodiesel. See the page in this guideline: Do you need a permit or licence to produce biofuel?

There are two ways of producing biodiesel using waste or virgin vegetable oil:

  • Chemical production using transesterification - where the oil is heated, filtered and combined with an alcohol (usually methanol) and a catalyst. The mixture will separate producing biodiesel and a by-product, glycerol.
  • Physical production - where the oil is heated to melt the fat and remove water. It is then filtered and blended with hydrocarbons to alter the cetane rating (how easily a fuel ignites and how fast it will burn).

Store and use hazardous chemicals safely

When producing biodiesel you will use potentially hazardous chemicals such as methanol, an organic solvent. Organic solvents are a type of volatile organic compound, which can cause significant air and water pollution and land contamination.

You must not release methanol into the environment. If substantial quantities of methanol are released you should report the pollution incident as soon as it happens to the UK wide Pollution Hotline on Tel 0800 80 70 60.

Solvents emissions

If you make biodiesel for your own personal use you should follow the advice from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).

HSE: Domestic production of biodiesel – health and safety warning

Manage by-products correctly

If you manufacture biodiesel you will produce glycerol as a by-product.

Contact your environmental regulator to find out if the glycerol you produce is classed as waste.

Contact your environmental regulator

If the glycerol you produce is waste, you must only send it to a Waste Incineration Directive (WID) compliant plant to be burned. See our guideline: Waste incineration

If you dispose of glycerol then you must also follow your duty of care for waste. See our guides:

Duty of care – your waste responsibilities

Waste carriers, brokers and dealers

SEPA: Guidance for small scale biodiesel manufacture

Quality protocol for making biodiesel from waste cooking oil in Northern Ireland

The Environment Agency, the NIEA and the Waste and Resources Action Programme have created a quality protocol for biodiesel produced from waste cooking oil and rendered animal fats. If you follow the protocol you can produce a high-quality biodiesel which you can sell without following waste management controls. For example, if it is not classed as a waste, you do not need to transport it using a waste carrier or with a waste transfer note, making it easier to sell your biodiesel.

GOV.UK: Biodiesel Quality Protocol

Quality standards for biofuels

You must meet quality standards to sell your fuel in countries within the European Union. These standards apply to biofuel and blends containing biofuel. For example, the standard EN14214 specifies the requirements and test methods for biodiesel produced for use in diesel engines.

Biodiesel Filling Stations: Specifications and standards for biodiesel

The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) promotes standards for the safety of workers and consumers and to protect the environment.

CEN: Search for European Standards

Further information

Contact your environmental regulator

You may need a pollution prevention and control permit or waste management licence if you produce your own bioethanol or biogas.

See the page in this guideline: Do you need a permit or licence to produce biofuel?

Producing bioethanol

You can make bioethanol fuel from a variety of sugar and starch-rich materials, mainly by fermentation and distillation.

When you produce bioethanol, the by-product is a residue called dried distillers grains with solubles (DDGS). DDGS are classified as a by-product and not a waste if they are used without further processing, either as animal feed or as a fuel. Waste management controls will not apply to your DDGS if you meet these requirements, eg you do not need to transport it using a waste carrier or with a waste transfer note.

Producing biogas

Biogas can be produced from biodegradable materials including maize crops and wastes, including municipal or food wastes. The biodegradable material is turned into a gas by anaerobic digestion, using bacteria to break down the organic matter without oxygen in specially designed digesters.

You can then upgrade the biogas, for example using a membrane separation technique, to remove the CO2 and impurities and produce biomethane. You can use biomethane as a vehicle fuel.

In Scotland

You should use guidance from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) to help you assess whether your biomethane is a waste or not.

SEPA: Is it waste? (PDF, 52K)

The solid waste from anaerobic digestion is called digestate and it can be used in a similar way to compost.

If you produce digestate from biodegradable wastes that meets a certain standard then it will no longer be classed as waste. If you don't achieve this standard then you must follow waste management controls when you handle, transport or apply the digestate.

In Northern Ireland

The Environment Agency, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and the Waste and Resources Action Programme have created a quality protocol for anaerobic digestate from biodegradable wastes. If you follow the protocol you can produce a high quality digestate which can be sold without waste management controls.

For example, if it is not classed as a waste, you do not need to transport it using a waste carrier or with a waste transfer note.

WRAP:The Quality Protocol for anaerobic digestate

If you don't achieve the standards in the quality protocol then you must follow waste management controls when you handle, transport or apply the digestate.

Quality standards for biofuels

You must meet quality standards to sell your fuel in countries within the European Union. These standards apply to biofuel and blends containing biofuel. The European Committee for Standardization (CEN) promotes standards for the safety of workers and consumers and to protect the environment.

CEN: Search for European Standards

Further information

Contact your environmental regulator

If you want to produce biofuel for commercial or personal use, you may need a pollution prevention and control (PPC) permit, waste management licence or, in Scotland, to register an exemption. This will depend on how much biofuel you want to make and the method you use.

Check if you need a permit or licence

In Northern Ireland

If you produce biodiesel or bioethanol by chemical means from waste or virgin vegetable oils you will require:

  • a PPC permit if you make more than 5,000 litres per year
  • a waste management licence if you make less than 5,000 litres per year.

If you produce small amounts of biodiesel by physical means you may also require a waste management licence. You will need a waste management licence if you make more than 100 litres per batch for business or personal use.

In Scotland

If you produce biodiesel or bioethanol by chemical means from waste or virgin vegetable oils you will normally require a PPC permit.

If you produce biodiesel by physical means from waste cooking oil you may need a waste management licence or to register an exemption.

You will need a permit or licence if you produce:

  • more than 200 tonnes of biodiesel per year
  • biodiesel for commercial use.

Animal By-products

If you produce biodiesel from waste edible fats and oils of animal origin that are not catering waste, you will also be subject to any relevant controls under animal by-product legislation.

For example, if you produce biodiesel using cooking oil from a food manufacturer or fat from animal by-products, your treatment operations will need approval from:

  • In Northern Ireland, the Divisional Veterinary Office.
  • In Scotland, Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency

DAERA: Animal By-products information

Defra: Approval of premises

If you produce biogas from the anaerobic digestion of waste you must also have a PPC permit or waste management licence.

PPC Permits

Waste management licences

Check if your activities are low impact

If you produce biodiesel by chemical means and need a PPC permit, your activity may be considered to be low impact. If you meet the criteria set out in the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) guidance you may be eligible for a low impact installation (LII) permit. The fees and charges you pay will be less to reflect the lower environmental impact.

For guidance on whether an installation can be classified as low impact:

  • In Northern Ireland contact the NIEA Industrial Pollution and Radiochemical Inspectorate Helpline on Tel 028 9056 9296 or email them at ipri@doeni.gov.uk.
  • In Scotland contact SEPA

Follow rules to store waste cooking oil

You may need a waste management licence to store waste cooking oil.

If you store more than 1,000 litres of waste cooking oil at any one time you will need a licence.

You must always store your used cooking oil within a suitable secondary containment system, for example a bund.

In Scotland, register an exemption to make biodiesel

You must register an exemption from waste management licensing for certain activities. If you have an exemption you must comply with its conditions.

If you treat waste vegetable oil from catering and cooking by physical means to make biodiesel you will need to register for a paragraph 5 exemption.

If you would like to make more biodiesel than this exemption will allow, you may need a waste management licence.

SEPA: Guidance for Small Scale Biodiesel Manufacture

Follow rules for collecting waste vegetable oil

If you collect and transport waste vegetable oil, for example used cooking oil, for the production of biodiesel then you will need to be a registered waste carrier and follow your duty of care for waste.

Duty of care – your waste responsibilities

Waste carriers brokers and dealers

Further information

SEPA: Guidance for small scale biodiesel manufacture

If you store any kind of oil on your premises you may need to comply with regulations controlling how you store it. Storing your oil responsibly will reduce the risk of causing pollution and help you avoid prosecution or a fine.

Comply with oil storage controls

You must store all liquid wastes, for example used cooking oils, and biofuels securely:

  • in containers that are strong enough and unlikely to burst or leak
  • within a suitable secondary containment system, eg a bund or drip tray, which must be able to contain any oil or fuel that escapes.

Oil Storage

You may also need a waste management licence to store waste cooking oil. See the page in this guideline: Do you need a permit or licence to produce biofuel?

In Scotland Register an exemption to make biodiesel

You must register an exemption from waste management licensing for certain activities including to produce or store biofuel. See the page in this guideline: Do you need a permit or licence to produce biofuel?

Meet Control of Major Accident Hazards (COMAH) Regulations

If you store large quantities of dangerous substances, for example materials used to make biofuels, check whether the COMAH Regulations affect you. COMAH may also affect your site if you store fuels, including gases like biomethane, over certain thresholds.

You may need a major accident prevention policy, have to submit a safety report and prepare an on-site emergency plan.

COMAH

Good practice

You should keep absorbent materials such as sand and other containment equipment suitable for the type and quantity of fuel and oil you store on your site. Keep them close to where you might need them and make sure that staff know where they are and how to use them. You can buy spill kits containing all the appropriate spill equipment for the materials you store.

Report pollution incidents as soon as they happen to the UK wide Pollution Hotline on Tel 0800 80 70 60.

Prepare a pollution incident response procedure for dealing with spills. Make sure that your staff are familiar with the procedure and know how to implement it.

PPG 21: Pollution incident response planning

If you transport dangerous goods, such as fuel, you must comply with legal requirements regulated by the Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) or HSE in Scotland You must identify the hazards of the goods you intend to transport and meet further requirements for packaging, labelling and documentation.

HSENI: Carriage of dangerous goods

HSE: Carriage of dangerous goods

Further information

HSENI: Carriage of dangerous goods

HSE: Carriage of dangerous goods

PPG 2  Above ground oil storage tanks

PPG 21 Pollution incident response planning

There are several organisations that can provide further information on using and producing biofuel for transport.

The Department for Transport (DfT) is responsible for the transport system in the UK.

DfT: Renewable Transport fuel Obligation (RTFO)

The Renewable Energy Association (REA) represents the UK's renewable energy industry including renewable fuel producers.

Renewable Energy Association: Transport biofuels

HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) collects and administers direct and indirect taxes and pays and administers benefits, funds and tax credits.

HMRC: Guidance on biofuels regulations

Energy Saving Trust is a non-profit organisation that provides information for businesses on transport issues such as alternative fuels and efficient fleet management.

Energy Saving Trust Scotland: Buying a fuel efficient vehicle tool

Renewable Energy Centre provides information on different types of renewable energy including those used for transport.

Renewable Energy Centre: Biomass and Biofuel information

Scotland

The Scottish Government is responsible for the transport network and for developing sustainable transport in Scotland.

SEPA: Guidance on the small scale production of Biodiesel

Scottish Government: Biomass Action Plan for Scotland (PDF, 1.65MB)

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) shapes and reviews regulations, produces research and statistics and enforces the law relating to health and safety.

HSE: Hazards of producing biofuels domestically

This page provides links to key pieces of environmental legislation relating to producing and using biofuels for transport. The websites hosting the legislation may list amendments separately.

If you are setting up an environmental management system (EMS) for your business, you can use this list to start compiling your legislation register. Your legal adviser or environmental consultant will be able to tell you if other environmental legislation applies to your specific business.

For more information about EMS, see our guideline:

Environmental management systems (EMS) and environmental reports

Northern Ireland Biofuels legislation

Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations Order SI 2007/3072. Requires road vehicle fuel suppliers to prove that a certain amount of renewable transport fuel (biodiesel, bioethanol, etc) has been supplied in the UK by producing Renewable Transport Fuel Certificates (RTFCs). Small-scale suppliers of biofuel can trade RTFCs with obligated suppliers.

Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations (Amendment) Order SI 2009/843. Makes minor technical amendments to 2007/3072.

Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations SI 2009/1348. Regulates the transport of dangerous goods by road, rail and inland waterways and the use of pressurised cylinders, drums and other equipment.

Waste Management Licensing Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2003/493. Covers applications for waste management licences, which authorise the deposit, disposal and treatment of controlled waste. Includes conditions on the use of certain mobile plant.

Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2003/46. Establishes a pollution control regime for certain installations or mobile plants. Sets out a permitting regime based on best available techniques for regulating installations and activities.

Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations (Northern Ireland) SR 2000/93. Establishes procedures to prevent major accident hazards involving dangerous substances.

Scottish Biofuels legislation

Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations Order SI 2007/3072. Requires road vehicle fuel suppliers to prove that a certain amount of renewable transport fuel (biodiesel, bioethanol, etc) has been supplied in the UK by producing Renewable Transport Fuel Certificates (RTFCs). Small-scale suppliers of biofuel can trade RTFCs with obligated suppliers.

Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations (Amendment) Order SI 2009/843. Makes minor technical amendments to 2007/3072.

Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations SI 2009/1348. Regulates the transport of dangerous goods by road, rail and inland waterways and the use of pressurised cylinders, drums and other equipment.

Control of Major Accident Hazards Regulations SI 1999/743. Places responsibility on users of dangerous substances to prevent accidents and limit their effect on people and the environment. Users must have an accident prevention policy and an on-site emergency plan.

Waste Management Licensing Regulations SI 1994/1056. Covers applications for waste management licences, which authorise the deposit, disposal and treatment of controlled waste. Includes conditions on the use of certain mobile plant.

Pollution Prevention and Control Regulations (Scotland) SSI 2000/323. Establishes a pollution control regime for certain installations or mobile plants. Sets out a system to control pollution from any installation or mobile plant carrying out specified activities through permits, inspections and control of emissions.

You will also need to know about and comply with legislation on:

Whats new on NetRegs

  • Waste – Duty of Care Roles and Responsibilities

    The Northern Ireland Environment Agency has published a short guide to the duty of care responsibilities including advice and information for waste producers, carriers and those accepting, storing and treating waste.

    https://www.daera-ni.gov.uk/publications/waste-duty-care-responsibilities

  • Please let us know your thoughts on our new website

    What do you think about our new and improved website. We want your feedback on what you like, what you don’t like and ways we can continue to improve the website. Follow the link to complete the very short survey: NetRegs website – User feedback

  • NEW guidance on Environmental Management Systems

    We have recently updated and improved our guidance on Environmental Management Systems (EMS). You can find the guidance via the Environmental Topics tab or alternatively select the following link Environmental Management Systems (EMS).

  • Consultation on proposed changes to the packaging recycling business targets

    See NI Future legislation or Scotland Future legislation for details of the Consultation

  • NetRegs:- FREE, ANONYMOUS, PLAIN ENGLISH GUIDANCE FOR BUSINESSES

  • NIEA Guidance - Greenfield Excavated Matrials in Construction

    NIEA and the CEF have developed a Regulatory Position to promote Sustainable re-use of natural excavated material from Greenfield sites.

    NIEA: Guidance on the Regulation of Greenfield Excavated Materials in Construction and Development

  • New GPP 2 Above Ground Oil Storage

    The replacements for the PPGs are being developed. Now available GPP 2 Above Ground Oil Storage

  • SEPA Consultation on an Intergated Authorisation Framework

    SEPA is asking for your views on the proposals for integrated authorisations.

    Consultation documents

  • GPP 24 Stables, Kennels and Catteries

    NEW GPP 24 now available: Stables, Kennels and Catteries

  • ENDS Award winner

    NetRegs; Winner of a prestigious ENDS award 2017

    Knowledge development category winner, see the ENDS Awards

  • NetRegs wins an ENDS Environmental Impact Award

    Knowledge development category winners, see the END Awards

  • EIA (Agriculture) Regulations for Northern Ireland

    Any person intending to alter the use or management of areas of uncultivated or semi-natural land must obtain prior approval from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA).

    Read more on the DAERA website

  • Download our NEW leaflet today: Duty of Care for waste

    NetRegs have produced a new leaflet for Scottish businesses explaining what you must do to comply with YOUR duty of care for waste.

    Duty of Care for waste (Scotland) leaflet (PDF - 775KB)

     

NetRegs on NetRegs on youTube

View our latest videos & subscribe to our channel.

NetRegs Update Newsletter

Free monthly email newsletter with environmental updates for Northern Ireland and Scotland

Sign up for free today!

Permits

NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms