Why Komatsu has started factory-filling machines with HVO

By Neil Gerrard24 May 2023

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Komatsu to switch to HVO Filling a Komatsu machine with HVO at the companyy’s Hannover plant in Germany. (Photo: Komatsu)

Komatsu’s customers are still concerned about making the switch to hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), four years after the manufacturer approved the fuel for use in its machines.

That’s why the business has taken the decision, announced late last month, to start factory filling its new machines with HVO.

Komatsu is set to start factory filling its new machines in the UK and Germany from this month, with its Italian factory following suit before the summer.

Meanwhile the OEM is investigating the most suitable low-carbon fuel options in other areas of the world.

A Komatsu spokesperson told International Construction, “We have already approved using HVO in 2019 but customers are still concerned about switching to HVO.

“We would like to send a message to them that we are fully approving the use of HVO and encourage customers to make a switch.”

Komatsu said that it had chosen to start with factory filling in Birtley in the UK and Hannover in Germany because production in these factories involved Komatsu engines and the OEM didn’t need any further approvals from other engine suppliers.

And it said that while they admitted the environmental impact of such a move was low, they hoped it would serve as a confidence-boosting measure for customers.

The business, which this month also launched a mid-sized hydrogen fuel cell excavator concept, is targeting a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions from the use of its products and production of its equipment by 2030.

The spokesperson added, “Although the use of fuel at factory fill is very limited, we would like to send a message that we care our products from the production.

“We believe using HVO and other low-carbon fuel is one of the effective solutions to minimize CO2 emissions.

“We are also working on measuring the reduction of CO2 emissions with using HVO or low-carbon fuel in the future, to support customers’ site decarbonisation activities.”

The availability of HVO depends on a customer’s location but Komatsu said it could introduce them to suppliers if they needed assistance getting HVO for their sites. It noted that it was also supporting activities investigating future feedstocks for HVO via its forestry business.

HVO is produced from renewable raw material such as cooking oil and animal fats wastes. It is a drop-in replacement for fossil diesel, but with high cetane, no oxygen and no aromatics.

But not all construction companies agree that HVO is one of the solutions to decarbonising the industry.

Last year, UK-based contractor Balfour Beatty released a position paper in which it warned that there were “serious issues” with HVO that needed to be “ironed out” before it committed to the fuel.

Those issues mainly revolved around the traceability and carbon footprint claims around the fuel. It said, “At the heart of our concerns is the fact that, at the moment, the supply chains in this area are complex and opaque, with insufficient information provided about the sources, transportation and production methods.”

But Komatsu said it believed that HVO and other low-carbon fuels are “effective solutions to minimise CO2 emissions”. It added that so far it had received positive feedback from customers who have used HVO on its sites and stressed that one of the key advantages was that HVO required no special instructions to use.

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