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Exploring the BioLPG option 

16 December 2019

Warehousing and logistics businesses are increasingly under pressure from clients to improve their environmental credentials along the supply chain. Could greener LPG for your forklifts help? Andy Kellett, national accounts manager for FLT at Calor provides his answers.

While many companies have plans in place to reduce their own carbon emissions, those who want to demonstrate how they are taking more ambitious steps also scrutinise their whole value-added network. This presents an opportunity for supply chain professionals to operate their fleet of FLTs in the most environmentally-friendly way possible. But, operators need to find a fuel that can help reduce their environmental impact and contribute towards other key business objectives. BioLPG is said to ‘green up’ the operation without compromising on efficiencies, performance or compliance. 

First, BioLPG is chemically identical to LPG. The latter is a fossil fuel derived from petroleum refinery and natural gas extraction operations. BioLPG is made from a blend of waste, residues and sustainably sourced materials. It is a co-product of the biodiesel production process, which releases less CO2 into the atmosphere, resulting in significant net reductions of carbon emissions. Based on an allocation of 40% BioLPG and 60% conventional LPG, carbon emissions can be lowered by 20-32% compared to conventional LPG*.

Because BioLPG is identical to its conventional equivalent, it conforms to all standards associated with LPG supply and usage and has the same chemical, physical, energy and combustion-related properties. So, those who already use LPG for their FLTs would get the same vehicle performance and fuel efficiency out of their fleet if they used BioLPG. In addition, there's no need to change existing equipment, vehicles or supply infrastructure.

Many believe that the only way to go green is to use electric FLTs. Although electric models are often considered a ‘clean’ option and are beginning to edge out from solely being used in warehouses and into rugged heavy-duty equipment, the adoption of electric as a mass-market solution for these heavy-duty applications is still a long way off. These vehicles often struggle in colder or wetter climates when used outside, as the damp atmosphere can cause issues with wiring circuitry and electrical components. They also find steeper gradients more difficult and have lower load capacities, which can drain the battery rapidly. All of this amounts to increased downtime and reduced productivity.

In contrast, steeper gradients are not a problem for LPG/ BioLPG FLTs. Their performance characteristics – such as travel speeds, rate of acceleration and lift speeds – are usually superior to electric models, due to a better power-to-weight ratio and more responsive engines. These improved efficiencies lead to greater productivity, demonstrating how LPG can be a more cost-effective solution than electric for FLTs overall.

With the introduction of the new EU Stage V standards for non-road mobile machinery earlier this year, more advanced cleaning systems and operating regimes are now required for diesel FLTs to ensure compliance. These processes take the vehicles out of service for longer. In contrast BioLPG or LPG FLT models can easily adapt to the changes by using a three-way catalytic converter to eliminate nitrous oxides. These are inexpensive, require minimal maintenance and do not have to undergo the lengthy regeneration processes associated with diesel particulate filters (DPF). In fact, new LPG forklifts are now available on the market which come with the converter built-in. 

Currently, Calor is the only LPG supplier to offer actual BioLPG to customers; our BioLPG is manufactured in a custom-built production unit in Rotterdam then supplied to us via our parent company. This means that we can add BioLPG to our existing LPG network, and offer an allocation of up to 40% BioLPG for our customers.

Sourcing and supplying BioLPG into the UK is a transition that has already started. As we manage the production and infrastructure of this biofuel, we are initially supplying it to customers who will experience the greatest environmental benefit, of which forklift truck operators is one. 

Everyone in a supply chain has a role to play towards creating a greener, more sustainable future. Luckily, by using BioLPG for FLTs, warehouses can continue to operate effectively, efficiently and comply with emissions standards while meeting customer expectations on lowering their impact on the environment.

* Fuel costs savings calculated using typical cost & performance parameters for 1.5 and 2.5 tonne forklift trucks, running 8 and 16-hour shifts. Figures supplied by leading forklift trucks OEMs.