Scala Data Centers has conducted a trial of using hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) to power its backup generators. However, despite positive results, the company said the alternative fuel’s prohibitive costs meant it wasn’t adopting it more widely.

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A Scala data center – Scala Data Centers

HVO is a synthetic paraffinic diesel, made from vegetable oils or waste reprocessing with added hydrogen. It is a drop-in replacement fuel that can be used without modifications to existing engines. It can also be blended with diesel.

The company this week announced the success of a proof of concept confirming the technical feasibility of using HVO in its Caterpillar backup generators.

However, despite the successful trial, it seems the company won’t be rolling it out across its data centers in the near-term.

Scala noted the “current economic challenges” around sourcing HVO in Latin America, which it said is three times times more expensive than diesel.

“When HVO enters commercial-scale utilization, the plan is to begin replacing the fuel in its tanks,” the company said.

Agostinho Villela, Scala CTO, said: "The transition to HVO aligns perfectly with our strategy to ensure continuous and sustainable operations without compromising the quality and reliability our customers expect from us."

Christiana Weisshuhn, chief communications and sustainability officer, added: "We look forward to beginning the transition to HVO as it becomes economically viable, continuing to lead by example in sustainable data center management."

Founded in 2020, Digital Bridge-owned Scala has nine data centers in operation across Latin America. Four are located at the Tamboré Campus, while the others are in São Paulo, Campinas (São Paulo state, Brazil), São João de Meriti (Rio de Janeiro state, Brazil), Curauma (Chile), Tepotzotlán (Mexico), and Porto Alegre.

"We closely monitored Scala's test on Caterpillar equipment in a pioneering initiative in Latin America," said Mauricio Garcia, director of Sotreq's power unit. "The use of HVO in generators opens up a universe of possibilities, in addition to ensuring lower maintenance costs, preserving equipment, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

A number of companies are looking to diesel alternatives as a way to reduce their carbon footprint and green their backup operations. But while HVO fuel is being increasingly adopted by operators in Europe, its use in the US and elsewhere is still limited to due to costs and supply issues.

HVO users in the US, Europe, and Middle East include Vantage, Compass, Digital Realty, Global Switch, Amazon, Khazna, and Kao.

Versions of this story appeared on our Spanish and Portuguese editions.