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Frequently Asked Questions

Clearing the air on Shell GTL Fuel

Why switch to a cleaner burning diesel alternative?

With benefits such as lowering emissions, improved handling and increased productivity on site, our customers have also asked questions around perceived costs, fear of disruption and uncertainty over the additional benefits. Here we clear the air around some of the most commonly asked questions about Shell GTL Fuel, a cleaner burning alternative to diesel.

What are parraffinic fuels?

Shell GTL Fuel is part of the paraffinic family of fuels. Paraffinic fuels are liquid fuels that can be synthetically created from feedstocks such as natural gas (GTL), biomass (BTL) or coal (CTL); or through hydro-treatment of vegetable oils or animal fats (HVO). These high-quality fuels burn cleaner than conventional crude-oil based diesel fuels and can therefore help to reduce local harmful emissions such as nitrogen oxides and particulate matter without having to change the existing fuel infrastructure. Paraffinic fuels can be used as a blend component in conventional diesel or as a 100% finished fuel. As a result of the increasing demand for cleaner fuels in 2016 the European Standardisation body CEN published the final specification for paraffinic fuels, EN-15940 which paved the way for legislators and manufacturers to specifically refer to these alternative fuels in legislation and handbooks.

How is Shell GTL Fuel made?

Shell is a pioneer of Gas-To-Liquids (GTL) technology which manufactures hydrocarbon products from natural gas using the Fischer-Tropsch process. This process breaks down gas molecules and reassembles them into larger uniform molecules in a carefully controlled manner. 

Who is it suitable for?

Shell GTL Fuel is well suited to heavy duty markets with limited alternatives to diesel for example construction, rail, public transport, haulage, power generation, marine and agriculture. There are several grades of Shell GTL Fuel available which have been specially developed for off-road and marine applications. Fewer tests have been developed for light duty vehicles but results to date indicate that the fuel also offers significant benefits in particular emissions for these vehicles. 

Are machinery changes needed?

No, As a direct, drop-in replacement for diesel, no modifications are required to engines, storage or infrastructure when switching from diesel to Shell GTL Fuel which means there are no interruptions to productivity or invest in any expensive equipment upgrades. 

Can it help to reduce emissions?

Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) and Particulate Matter (PM) emissions pose an immediate and serious risk to human health in UK towns and cities. These emissions are released from diesel combustion engines and burners. The high temperature combustion from diesel engines causes nitrogen in the air to react with oxygen to form NOx and because diesel molecules are larger than petrol, this results in higher volumes of particulates in the air. 
The Fischer-Tropsch manufacturing process produces more consistent and uniform molecules compared to conventional crude oil refining. This means that the fuel has improved combustion properties inside standard diesel engines to reduce emissions of NOx and PM. For on-road heavy duty vehicles such as buses, transport trucks and utility vehicles, Shell GTL Fuel has shown to reduce NOx by 5-37% and PM by 10-38%. 
Shell GTL Fuel is also free of unwanted components such as sulphur, metals and aromatics, making it non-toxic and therefore less harmful to the environment. 

What are the other benefits?

Shell GTL Fuel offers a number of performance benefits in addition to emissions reduction. The fuel’s more uniform combustion helps to reduce engine noise with noise reductions of between 3-5dB reported by some customers – a significant benefit in noisy city centres. The fuel also has a better starting performance in cold conditions due to a higher cetane number. Storage is also easier because the fuel has no bio components it is more stable, for longer – an added advantage for power generators where fuel may be being stored as back up supply. Under criteria recognised by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA), Shell GTL Fuel is classified as having health and environmental benefits. This is because it is not harmful if inhaled, fumes pose less risk of eye irritation, there is less risk of skin irritation and it does not cause significant organ damage through prolonged or repeated exposure. In vitro tests also indicate that the fuel is not materially carcinogenic. Shell GTL Fuel is more biodegradable than conventional diesel and tests have shown that GTL Fuel can be classified as ‘readily biodegradable’, and was not detectable in soil 51 days after being introduced. 

Is it approved by OEMs?

Yes, there is a growing list of manufacturers who have approved Shell GTL Fuel for use including DAF, Scania, Caterpillar, Cummins, John Deere and MAN. The publication of the EN-15940 specification for paraffinic fuels does not automatically mean they are approved by OEMs. OEMs need to conduct additional testing to meet EU requirements and then grant an additional approval. However, there has so far been a 100% acceptance rate for Shell GTL Fuel by OEMs.

Is it a proven technology?

Volumes of Shell GTL Fuel have been doubling each year since 2012 and it is estimated that there is currently sufficient global supply of Shell GTL Fuel to meet around 30% of the UK’s entire diesel demand. Certas Energy became the first to supply Shell GTL Fuel in the UK in 2016 but the fuel has been widely used in Europe, particularly in the Netherlands for years by companies including Mammoet, BAM, Groningen and Qbuzz. More details of Shell GTL case studies can be found here.

Where can I get Shell GTL Fuel?

Certas Energy is the exclusive provider of Shell GTL Fuel in the UK and is currently available from depots in Eastham, Ashford, Peel Ports, Horsham and most recently, Thames. As the demand for alternative fuels continues to grow, the supply chain will expand accordingly. For more information about Shell GTL Fuel and how it could benefit your business please contact Certas Energy on 0345 600 4040.


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