Plant & Works Engineering
LPG and BioLPG – fuelling efficient FLT fleets
Published:  06 September, 2018

For managers of forklift truck (FLTs) fleets, a renewed focus on improving the environmental impact of their operations is an exciting commercial opportunity. By switching to more environmentally-friendly fuels such as liquid petroleum gas (LPG) or BioLPG, they can further strengthen their green credentials while making pronounced financial savings, says Andy Kellett, FLT Specialist for Calor.

Climate change is one of the greatest on-going challenges facing the modern world, and has inspired numerous green initiatives to reduce carbon emissions and improve sustainability. These initiatives are indicative of a dramatic shift in priorities that will be keenly felt by businesses of all sizes, and their respective supply chains.

Initiatives like the Renewable Energy Directive and Paris Agreement have resulted in a pronounced shift towards greener business ambitions. However, concerns remain that not enough is being done to combat climate change. In fact, recent reports from the Carbon Disclosure Project show that while most large companies have implemented plans to reduce carbon emissions, these plans should be more extensive and wide-ranging in scope.

As a result, many major businesses are now focusing not just on the sustainability of their own operations, but also that of their supply chain. Consequently, businesses involved at any level of the supply chain are now expected to demonstrate what actions are being taken to reduce carbon emissions and improve the environmental impact of their operations. This includes companies in the handling, storage and distribution industries, many of whom operate FLT fleets.

Benefitting with BioLPG

One of the most effective ways FLT fleet managers can improve sustainability is to consider alternative fuels. With this in mind, Calor has developed BioLPG, a new, renewable fuel that can help companies reduce their carbon emissions in line with the priorities laid out in the UK government’s legislative and environmental agenda.

Created from renewable feedstocks such as organic plant materials, vegetable oil and animal fats, BioLPG helps companies meet these lower carbon commitments. Furthermore, it offers benefits beyond sustainability by cutting overall fuel costs and improving operational efficiencies. Based on a blend of 40 per cent BioLPG and 60 per cent conventional LPG, BioLPG offers carbon savings of between 20 and 32 per cent, demonstrating its viability as a cost-efficient fuel alternative.

Another benefit of BioLPG is that it is chemically identical to conventional LPG, so it can be used as a ‘drop-in’ fuel. This means that businesses already using LPG do not need to change established appliances, equipment or supply infrastructure when adopting BioLPG. Instead, they can immediately enjoy the financial benefits of BioLPG without the logistical burden of organising a separate supply chain. Businesses switching from electric or diesel to LPG-based fuels will see these benefits further amplified.

A better alternative to diesel

Indeed, even conventional LPG is a more financially attractive and sustainable alternative to diesel. According to figures supplied to Calor by leading FLT original equipment manufacturers, (calculated using typical cost and performance parameters for 1.5 and 2.5 tonne trucks running on eight and 16-hour shifts), vehicles fuelled on LPG make pronounced savings over their diesel-fuelled counterparts. These cost savings – which can be up to 24 per cent – show that switching from diesel to LPG makes sound commercial sense.

As well as offering greater financial savings, LPG offers sustainability benefits that diesel cannot match. For example, not only does LPG emit 98 per cent less particulate matter then diesel, these emissions are lead and soot-free. Furthermore, when fitted with a three-way catalyst, the hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions of LPG-fuelled FLTs become practically non-existent.

As a result, FLTs using LPG can operate in sensitive production environments, such as those found in electrical goods, food and pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities. This is not possible with diesel-fuelled FLTs, as the risk of product contamination would be far too great.

LPG also avoids the practical difficulties often encountered with diesel FLTs. For example, FLTs using LPG are up to 10db quieter than their diesel counterparts, which is very helpful for operations based in built-up areas, where noise pollution is a key concern. This reduced noise also leads to a better, less stressful working environment that is more considerate of staff health and safety.

More practical than electricity

It is practicality and convenience benefits like these that also demonstrate why LPG is an excellent alternative fuel to electricity. While electric FLTs struggle to traverse uneven surfaces and steep gradients, LPG-fuelled FLTs can perform consistently in such situations. This adaptability also extends to temperature, as, unlike electric FLTs, those powered by LPG do not suffer from reduced performance in colder climates.

LPG-fuelled FLTs are similarly reliable when it comes to refuelling. With LPG, this process only takes a few minutes, after which the FLT can return to full operation. The same cannot be said of FLTs that run on electricity, as they require longer battery recharges and time-consuming changeover processes. Electric FLTs are also completely out of action during these processes, resulting in extra downtime and potentially lower productivity levels.

Additionally, FLTs that run on LPG are more reasonably priced than equivalent, electric-powered models, and do not require expensive replacement batteries. Electric FLT fleets also dramatically increase an organisation’s energy consumption and consequent costs, whereas LPG-fuelled fleets do not. Bearing this in mind, it is evident that LPG is a more financially attractive option than electricity in both the short and long term.

In conclusion, converting FLT fleets to LPG or BioLPG makes sense from both a commercial and sustainability perspective. Unlike electricity or diesel, LPG and BioLPG can generate operational efficiencies and commercial gains, while delivering on reduced emission targets that are being increasingly enforced across major corporations’ supply chains.

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LPG’s benefits, at a glance

Over diesel:

Cost savings of up to 24 per cent possible

Emits 98 per cent less particulate matter

Lead and soot-free emissions

Can be used in sensitive production environments

10db quieter

Over electricity:

Lower bills

Simpler refuelling process, with reduced downtime

Performance unaffected in cooler climates

More adaptable to uneven surfaces and steep gradients