If you are looking for an affordable and reliable way to generate power, you may be wondering if you can use red diesel in a generator. In this blog post, we will discuss the legality of using red diesel in a generator, as well as the pros and cons of doing so.
Red diesel is a gas oil is designed for use in equipment other than road vehicles and often used in agricultural and construction equipment. It is a cheaper alternative to regular diesel, and it is not subject to the same environmental regulations. This means that it can be used in engines that are not as efficient as those found in passenger cars. In the UK red diesel is also called “rebated gas oil”.
Apart from its use in agricultural and construction machinery, red diesel is often to be found used for heating non-commercial premises, backup generators, ships, boats, railways, digging machines, snow ploughs, gritters, road rollers and others! (The full list can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/using-rebated-fuels-in-vehicles-and-machines-excise-notice-75-from-1-april-2022#fuel-which-may-be-used-in-road-vehicles).
Although the use of red diesel has declined in recent years, it still currently makes up around 15% of the total diesel use in the UK.
Diesel fuel attracts a duty payable to the government. Since red diesel attracts a duty rebate of 46.81 pence per litre, it is effectively cheaper than standard road-use diesel fuel.
Red diesel has certain permitted uses. For example, the uses listed above, and also in vehicles which are used only off-road or on private property.
A good example is tractors – whilst these may use the public road network from time to time, they are not considered to be primarily road vehicles (their use of roads is “incidental”) and therefore they are excepted vehicles.
Apart from these specific permitted uses, it is not legal to use red diesel in the UK. Especially not to power road vehicles such as cars and lorries.
In addition, the rules on permitted uses changed in April 2022, and it’s no longer legal to use red diesel in cranes, bulldozers, or for powering mobile generators on construction sites.
If you have red diesel in your machinery after April 2022 you can use this legally. But you cannot buy more stocks of red diesel for non-permitted uses after April 2022. And you cannot transfer red diesel from storage into your machinery either. You can transfer it to somebody else who can use it legally, or you can use it in permitted ways yourself, but you can’t fill up your machinery with your stocks of red diesel if the machine is no longer excepted.
We don’t recommend trying to remove the red dye from red diesel. This is called fuel laundering. There have been attempts to do so (for example using cat litter or certain bleaches) but this is extremely unlikely to work, and of course entirely illegal.
You could in theory be charged, fined or even end up in prison. We don’t recommend taking any risks!
Red diesel is identifiable because it must carry a red dye. Diesel fuel that is not red diesel has a yellowish colour and is often known as “white diesel”.
The red colouration makes it possible for officials to identify red diesel and track its progress through the supply chain. For example, HMRC officials can do spot checks on vehicles if they suspect they are using red diesel. Apart from the colour, red diesel is exactly the same chemically as normal diesel.
Having established the legality of using red diesel, is it possible to use it in a generator? The basic answer is yes, this is possible and quite common. It’s not unusual to see backup generators in situations like hospitals, educational establishments and construction projects using red diesel in their generator sets. This is because red diesel is chemically the same as white diesel.
So, providing your use of red diesel is permitted, you can use it in your generator.
If you have any questions about diesel generators, please contact us.