Harvest season is just around the corner. For arable farmers, it is one of the busiest times of the year -juggling the responsibilities of the season alongside all the year-round tasks it takes to keep a farm running.
Managing fuel and lubricant supply is an essential part of farming operations, but it need not be a stressful one. With the help of careful forward planning, you can ensure your season runs efficiently, productively, and even sustainably. We asked one of our agricultural fuel experts, Key Account Manager Steve Smith, to share his insights on the big questions farmers are asking about fuel management as they make their plans for the coming harvest.
Q: Harvest is one of the busiest times in the agriculture calendar – how can farmers effectively prepare for a spike in fuel usage?
Steve: My number one tip would be to get everything fuel-related ready as early as possible. Before the season starts, make sure you’ve got at least one full storage tank of fuel ready to go. It’s also vital to stock up on lubricants and AdBlue. The last thing you need is to run out midway through harvesting, with the cost and stress of downtime as you wait for replacement stock.
Once you have your fuels on hand, make sure they are securely stored and not vulnerable to theft, which has been ramping up in advance of changes to the way red diesel is regulated. Though these changes to duty rates don’t apply to users in the agricultural sector, fuel itself will be at greater risk of theft, including at the farm. Smart fuel tanks, telemetry and locking systems are the best solutions in this respect.
Another thing to bear in mind, which is easily overlooked: make sure the fuel you choose is compliant with your machinery. Be sure to check your engines carefully in advance, so you can address any issues such as filter blockages before they bring you to a grinding halt.
Q: Sustainability is increasingly on the agenda for consumers and the agriculture community alike. What advice would you give farmers for a more sustainable harvest season?
Steve: The conversation around sustainability is only going to get louder as we get closer to the UK’s target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The government has already introduced legislation to help achieve this goal, such as the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO), which requires all fuel suppliers to increase the volume of renewable content present in the total fuel mix.
While the RTFO is a great step forward for the environment, it also means that the volume of Fatty Acid Methyl Esters (FAME) content in UK fuel is steadily increasing. FAME is a sustainably-derived biodiesel that can help to reduce CO2 emissions, but is also highly effective at absorbing water. Its hygroscopic nature can pose significant challenges, such as filter blockages, microbial contamination known as diesel bug, or a build-up of wax crystals – particularly in older vehicles, tanks and machinery.
The good news is that FAME-free, cleaner burning alternative fuels are now readily available, such as Shell Gas-to-Liquid (GTL) and Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO). Investing in such solutions is a major step towards more sustainable operations, and something many farmers have already considered. It is also wise to explore the range of fuel additives readily available that are specifically designed to combat FAME-related disruption.
During the transition to cleaner fuels, a certain level of carbon emissions will remain inescapable, and in such cases, carbon offsetting is a way to mitigate this unavoidable impact. It’s important to note that carbon offsetting is not a standalone solution and is only one aspect of the evolving energy mix.
Want to know more about the options available for you and your farm? Speak to your local Certas Energy Agri expert to discuss how you can transition your energy mix.
Q: Once harvest is over, what can farmers do to optimise fuel usage during the ‘off’ season?
Steve: Harvest may only come around once a year, but a great harvest season relies on making sure your farm is run efficiently and stays productive all year round. Over the course of the global pandemic, many industries came to a standstill for at least a period of weeks. Not agriculture, though: life on the farm has remained as busy as ever! It’s important for farmers to understand and anticipate how their fuel and lubricant needs will fluctuate throughout the calendar year, paying close attention to the latest liquid fuel news and regulatory changes.
Planning ahead is just as essential during the winter months, as it is during harvest. Make sure to keep your supply of fuel, lubricants and AdBlue topped up so they are on hand when you need them. It is crucial to keep machinery well-lubricated in order to prevent corrosion. Farmers also need to ensure their stores are secure and stable: keep monitoring closely for fuel theft or leakage – it’s easy to do when you have a tank telemetry system in place. Fuels with high FAME content will also need to be checked to avoid the formation of wax crystals. Avoid the headache by investing in FAME-free, winter-grade fuel such as Shell GTL, which does not gel up in colder conditions, along with the right additives to solve the challenges created by FAME-heavy fuel.
Why leave it to chance? Talk to the fuel management experts at Certas Energy about keeping your farm moving all year round.