Farmers learned the hard way what changes to fuel composition can do to their machines – so they have sounded a note of caution to the general public over the switch to E10 petrol in forecourt pumps.

Responding to a Department for Transport consultation on the introduction of E10 petrol as the standard petrol grade across the UK by 2021, NFU Scotland has recommended that consumers be protected to ensure problems like those encountered in agricultural vehicles last winter are to be avoided.

Right now, the standard petrol grade in the UK contains up to 5% ethanol, known as E5, but the proposed switch would see E10 fuel, which has up to 10% ethanol alongside 90% regular unleaded petrol, become the standard grade, producing a greener fuel which could significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

In its submission, NFUS voiced its concerns about changes in fuels standards occurring without adequate specifications and testing in place to protect consumers, and stressed that it was vital to apply lessons from the fuel filter blocking issue which impacted Scottish agriculture severely last winter.

In addition, the union voiced concerns about compatibility of the fuel with agricultural vehicles and equipment. Whilst the DfT estimate that 98% of the roadgoing fleet will be compatible with E10 petrol, there was no information about how many off-road machines, farm vehicles or pieces of agricultural equipment may be impacted by the switch, particularly as the length of ownership of such machines far exceeds that of the roadgoing fleet.

Chair of NFU Scotland’s Legal and Technical Committee, Tom French said: “The introduction of E10 petrol may offer potential market opportunities for some sectors of Scottish agriculture and there are significant environmental gains for the transport sector in switching from E5 to E10 petrol.

“It is essential that consumers do not bear any mechanical issues and costs associated with the switch. Problems such the filter blocking disaster that many farmers faced last year simply cannot be repeated.”