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Biomethane – the fuel of the future?
In line with government aims to achieve net-zero transport emissions by 2050, many operators of light commercial vehicles (LCVs) have started transitioning to electric vehicles.
However, a Logistics UK survey has found that there is still a significant gap in the market for heavier vehicle alternatives, with many operators frustrated at the lack of model availability – especially those over 3.5 tonnes. Logistics UK recognises that electric may not be operationally feasible, or economically viable, for certain sectors – such as those using HGVs – or 24/7 operations, and welcomes research on alternative fuels and technologies.
WHAT IS BIOMETHANE?
Biomethane, also known as renewable natural gas, is produced from organic waste feedstocks, using anaerobic digestion of wastes or gasification to remove any CO2 and is compatible for use in natural gas vehicles. In the view of Logistics UK, biomethane and advanced biofuels have an important role to play in helping to decarbonise the freight sector; renewable biomethane is a low-carbon, cost-effective alternative to diesel for HGVs, is estimated to be 35-40% cheaper and its use can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 85%. As previously reported in Logistics Magazine, Logistics UK members are also recognising the benefits, with Warburtons becoming the latest member of the business group to announce it is adopting biomethane, following in the footsteps of other household names including Hermes, John Lewis, Waitrose and Asda.
A FUEL THAT GOES THE DISTANCE
Biomethane vehicles operate on a mileage range of around 300 – 500 miles depending on the vehicle. While most of England and Wales is already within a 300-mile round trip of a biomethane refuelling station, there is currently no public provision of the fuel in Scotland. As a result, CNG Fuels has begun building Scotland’s first public access renewable biomethane HGV refuelling station, which it says will allow fleet operators to run their vehicles on this low-carbon fuel, support net zero plans and save money. When it opens in November, the station near Glasgow can refuel up to 450 lorries a day, enabling HGVs to make low-carbon deliveries across most of Scotland, putting the northern cities of Inverness and Aberdeen within the 300-mile round trip range.
“While positive steps are being made, Logistics UK is calling on government to continue supporting its adoption,” said Denise Beedell, Policy Manager – Vans and Urban at Logistics UK.
The Low Emission Freight and Logistics Trial (LEFT) is currently underway to enable operators to trial and assess new and emerging technologies, both in-service and through a laboratory-based emissions testing programme.
Beedell said: “It has been crucial in demonstrating that dedicated gas vehicles are reliable, have no methane slips and offer a viable alternative to diesel. However, while Logistics UK welcomes the funding that has been allocated to the trial, this funding is only available for limited periods and to select operators. Logistics UK is urging government to introduce long-term grants and believes that more needs to be done to support all operators who are looking to purchase low carbon vehicles and fuels.”
The business group is also calling on government to include gas vehicles and biomethane within the eagerly awaited Transport Decarbonisation Plan, expected to be released by government in the coming weeks.
NO SILVER BULLET
“Logistics UK recognises that different vehicle types will require a variety of alternatives and that there is no one-size-fits-all solution,” Beedell said, “the technologies and alternative fuel solutions that enable cars and LCVs to decarbonise are not currently the same as those needed for HGVs, while also allowing heavy vehicle operations to remain economically viable for the mass market. And while trials are still taking place and developments continue to be made, biomethane and advanced biofuels will continue to help reduce emissions of heavy vehicles as the sector works towards net-zero emissions by 2050."
Published On: 13/05/2021 17:00:05