‘Tipping point’? CNG Fuels eyes surging HGV demand for renewable biomethane

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'Tipping point'? CNG Fuels eyes surging HGV demand for renewable biomethane

Green gas specialist planning nationwide network of renewable biomethane refuelling stations for trucks and heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) as firms seek alternatives to diesel for their fleets

Green gas specialist CNG Fuels has opened two further refuelling stations for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) in the UK this week, in anticipation of surging demand for renewable biomethane over the next year and beyond.

The two new stations – one in Warrington, which it claims is the largest in Europe, and another in Northampton – are together capable of refuelling over 1,000 trucks a day, more than doubling the firm’s existing renewable biomethane refuelling capacity in the UK.

CNG Fuels operates two others stations in Leyland, Lancashire, and Crewe in Cheshire, while the firm is also planning to open an additional six to eight refuelling stations across the UK over the next year in response to “burgeoning demand” from corporates.

The company boasts a growing customer base for HGV renewable biomethane fuel, including retail group John Lewis Partnership, delivery firm Hermes, and discount retailer Home Bargain, as firms seek to shift their heavy goods fleets away from traditional diesel.

CNG Fuels’ biomethane compressed natural gas – Bio-CNG – is currently 100 per cent sourced from waste feedstocks such as food waste and it claims the fuel is both cheaper and less-carbon intensive than traditional diesel.

Philip Fjeld, CEO of CNG Fuels, said that in order to hit the UK’s 2050 net zero target, it was essential to decarbonise HGVs, which currently account for around 4.2 per cent of UK carbon emissions, with road transport as a whole now the UK’s highest emitting sector of the economy.

“We’re at a tipping point,” he said. “Fleet operators are waking up to the urgency and scale of decarbonisation necessary for net-zero emissions by 2050 and we’re seeing demand for our fuel increase rapidly as a result. Our customers ordered hundreds of new biomethane fuelled trucks in 2019 and that trend is only set to accelerate over the next decade.”

The company has seen demand for biomethane compressed natural gas (Bio-CNG) derived from waste sources soar by 800 per cent since 2017, and it now expects demand to more than double in 2020. The sector will remain optimistic that it can prove relatively resilient to the economic crisis sparked by the coronavirus pandemic, albeit with some inevitable disruption, given the continuing need to keep goods and supply chains moving.

Both cost and environmental considerations are helping drive demand, according to the firm, which claims that compared to using diesel, Bio-CNG reduces HGV greenhouse gas emissions by up to 85 per cent, in addition to being 35 to 40 per cent cheaper.

When approached by BusinessGreen, the company was unable to provide details of the potential air pollution impact of Bio-CNG. But CNG trucks are widely regarded as resulting in less air pollutants than their diesel equivalents, while the fuel has also been approved under the government’s Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) scheme, which requires transport fuel suppliers to ensure that five per cent of all road vehicle fuel is supplied from sustainable, renewable sources, it said.

In addition, the new Northampton refuelling station situated on the M1 is being supported by the government’s Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) in partnership with Innovate UK, as part of a study looking at how to reduce transport emissions using renewable and sustainable biofuels.

The firm’s rollout of further Bio-CNG refuelling stations across the UK – with further sites earmarked for the likes of Birmingham and Liverpool, as well as three in Scotland – comes alongside its plan to offer ‘carbon negative’ biomethane from next year.

To date, CNG Fuels said it had helped hauliers save 55,000 tonnes of CO2 since it began supplying renewable and sustainable Bio-CNG in 2017, a saving it expects to rise to 90,000 tonnes by the end of this year.

But CNG Fuels said it was now also securing supplies of biomethane from manure in order to create a fuel “that will be net zero emissions on a well-to-wheel basis”.

Under the EU’s revised Renewable Energy Directive, which the UK plans to adopt in 2021, biomethane from manure is considered a carbon negative fuel, as it utilises methane from animal excrement that would otherwise escape into the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, CNG Fuels said it was investigating the potential for accommodating hydrogen and battery powered HGVs at its refuelling stations, in addition to the biomethane refuelling infrastructure.

“We’re making the transition to carbon neutrality easier for fleet operators by developing a nationwide network of public access biomethane stations on major trucking routes and at key logistics hubs,” explained Fjeld.

Increasing numbers of firms have been shifting their fleets to run on biomethane in recent years, including household names such as John Lewis, which has pledged to phase out all diesel-powered heavy trucks from its fleet by 2028, replacing them with over 500 new Waitrose and John Lewis biomethane HGVs.

Delivery firm Hermes is also planning to switch its 200-strong diesel fleet to run on renewable biomethane, while the likes of ASDA, Argos, Royal Mail, and DHL have also invested in trucks that can run on the fuel.

David Jones, transport strategy manager at gas distributor Cadent, which works with CNG Fuels to help deliver biomethane to its refuelling stations, said it now had nine public access refuelling stations connected to its network, and it expected to see figure grow in the coming years.

“It’s clear that big-name companies are now confident to switch from diesel to gas as a green answer to fuelling their HGV fleets and supporting the UK’s journey to net zero,” he said. “Biomethane is a ‘here now’ solution to tackling climate change, a low-carbon alternative to diesel for HGVs, and a zero-carbon option, in the form of hydrogen, is coming within a few years.”

With diesel car sales plummeting amid fears over air pollution and climate impacts, and heavy goods vehicles and trucks presenting a challenge for battery technology – for now – due to their loads being far heavier than passenger cars, there is a gap waiting to be filled by lower carbon fuels or technologies in the haulage space. It remains to be seen whether renewable biomethane is able to fill that gap long term, as battery and hydrogen technologies also continue their advance, but the race is very much on.

Read more: businessgreen.com

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‘Tipping point’? CNG Fuels eyes surging HGV demand for renewable biomethane

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