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The answers to all the questions we're regularly asked about DERV, also known as white diesel or road diesel, designed to give you the information you need to make an informed choice about your fuels.

Everything You Need To Know About DERV (White Diesel)

DERV is the fuel of choice for a number of industries across the UK, not to mention one of the most popular fuels for road vehicles.

Nationwide Fuels has supplied our customers with DERV for over 60 years and, in that time, we’ve learnt almost everything there is to know about the fuel. In these FAQs we resolve any misunderstandings about diesel by answering some of the most frequently asked questions that we receive.

  1. What is DERV?
  2. What does DERV stand for?
  3. Why is white diesel sometimes called DERV?
  4. What colour is DERV?
  5. Are there different grades of DERV?
  6. What is DERV used for?
  7. Does DERV have any other names?
  8. Are DERV and red diesel the same fuel?
  9. Does DERV contain FAME?
  10. Can anyone buy DERV in bulk?
  11. How much is DERV?
  12. What is the current tax rate on DERV?
  13. What’s the safest way to store DERV?
  14. How long can you store DERV for?
  15. How can DERV become contaminated?
  16. Can you clean contaminated DERV?
  17. Are there any greener alternatives to DERV?
  18. What should I do if I spill DERV?

What is DERV?

DERV is another name for white diesel, the same fuel that is used in hundreds of thousands of cars, vans, trucks, trains and HGVs across the UK. It’s a distillate of crude oil, and is one of the most prevalent fuels used around the world.

What does DERV stand for?

DERV stands for Diesel Engine Road Vehicle. The name is most often used by the fuel industry to differentiate white or road diesel from red diesel, which is a tax-rebated fuel reserved for off-road use.

You can find out more about red diesel in our red diesel guide.

Why is white diesel sometimes called DERV?

There are two main types of diesel products sold in the UK: DERV (Diesel Engine Road Vehicle) and gas oil (red diesel).

Gas oil is subject to a lower tax rate than DERV, so can only be used in off-road vehicles, generators and heating applications.

DERV is taxed at the full rate of 57.95p per litre* but isn’t subject to the same usage restrictions as gas oil. The fuel and oil industry regularly use the name DERV to differentiate between the two fuels.

What colour is DERV?

DERV isn’t actually white, despite it sometimes being known as white diesel.

It’s actually amber/green in colour and will be clear and bright. Some countries mix dyes into DERV to better differentiate it from other fuels, but this isn’t the case in the UK.

Are there different grades of DERV?

Yes, there are two different grades of DERV: summer and winter.

The key difference between the two is that winter grade diesel contains additives which make it better adapted to work in colder temperatures. Without these additives, DERV is prone to “waxing”, which is where paraffin crystals form in the fuel and can cause serious issues.

What is DERV used for?

As some of its alternate names suggest, DERV is most commonly used as a road fuel to keep cars, vans and motor fleets moving. It’s currently the most widespread road fuel in use in the UK, almost doubling the amount of petrol sold in 2020.

Does DERV have any other names?

DERV is known by a number of names, including:

  • White diesel
  • Road diesel
  • Diesel
  • Forecourt diesel
  • Ultra-low sulphur diesel (USLD)

Are DERV and red diesel the same fuel?

Chemically speaking, DERV and red diesel are the same product – but both see different uses.

DERV is the most common form of diesel that’s widely available at forecourts and petrol stations across the UK. Users are able to drive in and top up their cars, vans or trucks, whilst intensive business users purchase their DERV in bulk and store it at their own sites for easier access.

Red diesel is the same fuel but blended with a red dye to mark it out as for off-road use only. It’s illegal to use red diesel on the roads and you will be prosecuted for doing so – you can find out more about red diesel in our guide.

Does DERV contain FAME?

Yes, DERV contains a percentage of FAME content.

Changes to the RTFO (Road Transport Fuel Obligations) in 2019 increased the percentage of biofuel content in fuel from 5% to 8%. This biofuel content is typically FAME, or Fatty Acid Methyl Ester, a biofuel with similar characteristics to DERV but with far lower environmental impact.

However, FAME brings a host of inherent problems which negatively affects diesel over time, including:

  • Shortened shelf life
  • Increased risk of diesel bug attack, which degrades the fuel and blocks filters and fuel lines
  • Tendency to absorb moisture from the air, increasing water content in diesel
  • Diminished cold weather performance as FAME is more prone to waxing (gelling)

These characteristics make regular fuel maintenance essential. We provide a number of preventative and remedial fuel services that can help businesses avoid the worst-case scenarios – find out more here.

Can anyone buy DERV in bulk?

Yes – but they must be able to store the diesel safely and in line with all relevant diesel storage regulations, in addition to completing an RDCO form which tells your supplier that you are allowed to use the fuel.

Unlike petrol, which has a storage limit before the user must contact the Petroleum Enforcement Authority, you don’t have to report yourself in order to store diesel at home.

How much is DERV?

The price of DERV changes regularly based on global factors such as the price of crude oil, and individual circumstances, including how much you want to purchase and your delivery location.

For the latest DERV prices in your area, call our diesel experts on 0330 678 0880 today.

What is the current tax rate on DERV?

White diesel is subject to the full rate of fuel duty. At the time of writing, the tax rate is set at 57.95p per litre.*

What’s the safest way to store DERV?

The safest way to store diesel at your premises is in a bunded tank that’s both accessible and sheltered from the elements.

We have a guide on fuel storage regulations which explains everything you need to know about the safe storage of your fuels.

How long can you store DERV for?

Diesel begins to degrade in quality over time, due to a number of factors, mainly the legislated FAME and ester content. We recommend storing DERV or red diesel for no longer than a year without taking steps to preserve its quality. After this point, issues such as diesel bug, moisture retention, sludge build-up and waxing can wreak a terrible toll on your fuel infrastructure and any DERV-reliant vehicles.

However, you can store DERV for an extended period of time if you take precautions to maintain the quality of the fuel. This includes regular checks on your storage infrastructure, testing of your fuel and draining any sludge that has built up on the bottom of your tank.

We have pages dedicated to preventative fuel measures and remedial fuel services offered by Nationwide Fuels.

How can DERV become contaminated?

There are two main types of diesel contamination: physical and microbial.

Physical contamination includes instances where synthetic or organic matter finds its way into your diesel. In outdoor tanks, these are most commonly plant debris, small insects or even rust from the inside of metal tanks.

Microbial contamination is where fungi and bacteria grow in your DERV, which increases both moisture content and sludge build-up. These microbes are naturally occurring and feed on the hydrocarbons in your fuel, with the rate of fuel degradation increasing as the bacteria multiply.

Can you clean contaminated DERV?

Yes – most minor fuel contamination can be resolved onsite by polishing your fuel. During this process your DERV is pumped through a fuel polishing machine at high pressure, forcing your fuel through a number of increasingly fine filters until all traces of contamination are removed.

Where diesel requires more intensive processing, it can be uplifted from your site for polishing offsite and recycled back into the market, with the potential to give you payment for your unusable assets. Once empty, your tank will be cleaned to remove any traces of contamination before a fresh batch of fuel is supplied, minimising disruption and fuel waste as we clean the fuel before returning it to general circulation.

Are there any greener alternatives to DERV?

There are green diesel alternatives widely available today, but we believe the best to be HVO fuel.

It is an advanced sustainable diesel alternative made from vegetable oils and other renewable materials. It provides all the accessibility of DERV but with a number of key usability benefits that set it apart from almost all other fuels available today – not least that it cuts net CO2 greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90%!

Find out more about HVO fuel on our dedicated page, or call our HVO fuel experts on 0330 678 0880 to find out more.

What should I do if I spill DERV?

If only a small amount of DERV has spilled, the first thing you should do is try to prevent any further fuel spillage, provided that it is safe to do so.

The next step is to try and clear the spilled fuel as quickly and safely as possible; remember, fuel fumes can be toxic in enclosed environments!

We supply fuel spill kits that are designed for this very eventuality, and contain useful products that not only help prevent spills, but the tools you’ll need if any of your fuel does escape.

If a large amount of DERV has spilled, it’s essential that you contact a professional fuel company right away to minimise damage to the environment and surrounding habitats. Even minor spills leave you at risk of large fines in addition to clean-up costs and a damaged business reputation.

Every second counts when it comes to an oil spill, which is why we provide a 24/7 oil spill response service to help contain your DERV safely.

*Information correct as of September 2021

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