Off-road liquid fuel insights

Publication date: July 2021


Off-road fuel use is a decarbonisation opportunity

Petrol and diesel power many vehicles and machines that will never be used on a road, so remain out of sight, out of mind.

In fact, 28% of all liquid fossil fuel sold in New Zealand is used off-road, for industrial and recreational activities, accounting for 9% of our total energy-related greenhouse gas emissions.

This research has given us a more detailed understanding, and challenged some assumptions about where fuel is used, and therefore where these emissions come from, which will enable better planning for decarbonisation. 

In 2019 New Zealand used:

  • 6.9 billion litres of petrol and diesel
  • 3.2 billion litres of petrol
  • 3.7 billion litres of diesel

Details on fuel use by source and use across sectors are in the full report:

Not all previous assumptions hold up

Bulk deliveries are the primary source for a large proportion of off-road fuel, with some exceptions

The core assumption within the current statistics – that fuel delivered direct to customers is used off-road and fuel purchased through the retail network is used on-road – mostly holds true. However, there are some exceptions:

  • larger operators filling off-road and on-road equipment/vehicles from the same bulk tank
  • the use of ute/trailer tanks to transport fuel; these tanks can be filled from bulk tanks or from the retail network
  • recreational marine use where boats are filled via the retail network.

The use of ute/trailer tanks in the agriculture sector is not accurately reflected in the current statistics

The agricultural sector was analysed and it was found that approximately 9 million litres per year is sourced by this sector from the retail network for filling ute/trailer tanks. This will have been recorded as on-road transport in the current statistics; we have corrected for this in our estimates.

Recreational marine use should be recorded as ‘off-road’ in future data

This research has found that 383 million litres of petrol and 50 million litres of diesel is sourced through the retail network for recreational marine use annually. This is recorded as ‘on-road’ use in the current data, while its actual use is off-road. This should be seen as an upper bound and should be further investigated to gain a clearer picture of the scale of this use.

What’s next?

Armed with good knowledge of where our carbon emissions are coming from, we can work to reduce them, through alternative fuels, electrification and more efficient equipment. EECA runs funds that may assist organisations with this:

  • The Technology Demonstration Fund supports the early adoption of proven technology or an innovative process improvement opportunity that has yet to be widely deployed in New Zealand. Technology Demonstration
  • The Low Emission Transport Fund will be launched by October 2021 to replace the Low Emission Vehicles Contestable Fund. It will have a wider scope and increased funding, with off-road transport included. About the Low Emission Transport Fund

Additionally, EECA research will help the development and introduction of new technologies and ways of working.