Hydrogenation-Derived Renewable Diesel (HDRD)

As fossil fuel reserves dwindle and concerns about environmental sustainability rise, alternative fuels have become a global research and development focus. Among these alternatives, HDRD or green diesel fuels synthesized from renewable feedstocks have gained considerable attention. HDRD is produced by hydrogenating triglycerides and free fatty acids present in vegetable oils, animal fats, and used cooking oils. The fuel produced by this method is chemically identical to petroleum diesel, allowing it to be used in any diesel engine without modifications.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Quantifying HDRD in Gasoline Gallon Equivalents

The first step to comparing HDRD's greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to conventional diesel is to understand gasoline gallon equivalents (GGE). One GGE is defined as the amount of alternative fuel it takes to equal the energy content of one liquid gallon of gasoline. Converting HDRD emissions into GGE allows for more straightforward comparisons with other fuels.

Although the exact GHG emissions can vary based on the feedstock and processing methods, studies show that HDRD can reduce life-cycle GHG emissions by approximately 50-85% compared to conventional diesel, depending on the feedstock used. If we quantify this reduction in GGE, HDRD has an approximate GHG emission of 0.15 to 0.50 GGE per gallon.

Sustainability Impact of HDRD

When evaluating the sustainability of HDRD, we must consider the entire life cycle, from feedstock cultivation and harvesting to the production, distribution, and utilization of the fuel.

  • Environmental Sustainability: HDRD fuels possess an inherent advantage in reducing GHG emissions. However, the environmental sustainability of HDRD goes beyond just emissions. One of the main advantages of HDRD is the versatility of its feedstock. By utilizing waste oils and fats, HDRD production can contribute to waste reduction. Moreover, sustainable farming and harvesting practices for plant-based feedstocks can aid in soil conservation and biodiversity.
  • Economic Sustainability: HDRD's economic sustainability largely depends on the price volatility of the feedstock and the economies of scale. As the demand for HDRD rises, it could drive up the price of feedstocks, making HDRD less competitive compared to fossil fuels. However, advancements in conversion technologies and the possibility of large-scale production may help reduce production costs.
  • Social Sustainability: HDRD contributes to social sustainability by creating jobs in renewable fuel production. Moreover, by reducing local air pollutants, HDRD can improve public health in areas with high diesel usage.


Economic, Environmental, and Social Costs of HDRD

HDRD's transition to mainstream usage faces several challenges, including feedstock availability and price, required infrastructure, and regulatory policies.

  • Economic Costs: Production costs for HDRD are higher than those for conventional diesel due to the cost of feedstocks and the capital-intensive nature of the hydrogenation process. Furthermore, infrastructure adaptations may be required for large-scale implementation, adding to the economic burden.
  • Environmental Costs: If not managed properly, feedstock cultivation for HDRD can lead to land-use change, resulting in potential deforestation and biodiversity loss. The hydrogenation process also requires hydrogen, often sourced from natural gas, leading to CO2 emissions.
  • Social Costs: As HDRD production grows, there could be competition for feedstocks with other sectors, like food production or animal feed, potentially causing social tensions.


HDRD's Future Growth as a Commercial Vehicle Fuel

HDRD's future as a commercial vehicle fuel seems promising due to its favorable combustion characteristics, compatibility with existing diesel engines, and potential to reduce GHG emissions. However, the future growth rate of HDRD will depend on several factors:

  • Feedstock Availability and Price: The potential growth of HDRD is closely linked to feedstock availability and price. Increasing demand for these feedstocks could lead to price escalations, affecting HDRD's competitiveness.
  • Technological Advancements: Continued advancements in HDRD production technologies can improve conversion efficiency, reduce production costs, and enhance fuel properties, fostering growth.
  • Regulatory Environment: Government policies promoting low-carbon fuels can create a conducive environment for HDRD growth. However, regulatory uncertainties could inhibit investment and slow down development.

Given these factors, a moderate to high growth rate can be anticipated for HDRD fuels over the next decade.


HDRD represents a promising option for reducing GHG emissions from commercial fleet vehicles. With technological advancements and supportive regulatory environments, HDRD could play a critical role in transitioning to a low-carbon transportation future. However, comprehensive sustainability assessments and informed policy-making are essential to address potential environmental, economic, and social impacts. By overcoming these challenges, HDRD can pave the way to a more sustainable transportation sector.