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Portsmouth City Council has revealed details of a new, greener fuel trial which puts the brakes on using diesel oil in a bid to reduce emissions.

The council are switching the majority of their vans from diesel to hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO). The initiative, led by estate services, began last month is expected to be adopted permanently.

To make this possible, the team are working with waste collection specialist Biffa which enables the council to re-fuel at their depot in Anchorage Park. This follows in the footsteps of two of the council’s waste collection trucks which switched to HVO last year.

Photo of four council staff standing with one Biffa employee in front of one of the council's waste collection truck which made the switch to HVO fuel in 2021.
One of the council’s waste collection trucks which made the switch from diesel oil back in 2021. Pictured from left to right: Cllr. Darren Sanders, Richard Tebbutt from Biffa, and Christopher Cobb, Thomas Rowntree and Brian Rose from estate services.

As it progresses, the team aim to expand the trial by working to deliver and store their own HVO supply. This in return could potentially help fuel the rest of the council’s vehicles with the diesel oil alternative.

HVO is expected to reduce CO2 emissions by over 90% and other harmful pollutants by over 80% in the trial vehicles

Made from 100% renewable raw materials like fat, waste vegetables and other oils, HVO is a synthetic fuel with an identical chemical composition to diesel, making it readily compatible with the team’s vans. Significantly more environmentally friendly than its diesel counterpart, it is also:

  • cheaper per litre (at this time)
  • considered one of the cleanest fuel alternatives with no loss of power or mileage to the vehicles we currently use
  • has a longer storage life (10 years vs 1 year for diesel)
  • has a better year-round performance, particularly in winter when compared to diesel
  • doesn’t require any vehicle modifications to make the fuel switch

Colleagues from estate services and Biffa met at the depot with Cllr Darren Sanders, Cabinet Member for Housing and Preventing Homelessness, last month to re-fuel one of the council’s caged tipper vans with HVO for the first time.

Cllr Sanders said of the trial:

“Our initiative with Biffa is already yielding positive results and we’re proud to be showing that switching to greener fuel alternatives doesn’t need to be complicated. HVO is an excellent option for reducing our fleet’s emissions and helping clean up the city’s air while we clean the city’s streets. It’s a great way to meet our environmental goals and we will continue to innovate in this area.”

Cllr. Darren Sanders re-fuelling one the council's cage tipper vehicles with HVO fuel for the first time at the Biffa depot in Anchorage.
Cllr Darren Sanders re-fuelling one of the council’s tipper caged vehicles with HVO fuel for the first time.

The council’s estate services team has been prioritising greener travel in the past few years

No strangers to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, the estate services team introduced numerous electric vans to their fleet in 2021 which has delivered great success. Since then, finding a solution to move their larger vehicles away from diesel has proven more challenging in terms of power and cost. However, being able to re-fuel at one of Biffa’s city depots has allowed the team to make the fuel switch relatively easily while they develop in-house solutions.

Meanwhile, the team will write a case study outlining their use of HVO in terms of cost and emission output, as well as decorating the newly switched vehicles with artwork identifying them as diesel oil-free.

If you’ve got any questions about this initiative, please contact Phil Bentley, head of estate services at Portsmouth City Council:

The estate services team are currently hiring! Click the links below if you or anyone you know are interested in a new career:

Estate Service Officer OCT20227309 – Careers Portal (

Estate Services officer JUL20224055 – Careers Portal (

Waste Management Officer OCT20227702 – Careers Portal (

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