Biomethane trial offers fuel for thought

Early trial results have shown that using compressed biomethane to power a street cleansing vehicle can result in significant fuel and C02 savings

A year ago Veolia teamed up with Gasrec - the UK's first commercial producer of compressed biomethane (CBM) fuel - and Iveco, to trial a street cleansing vehicle in Camden, London, that could drastically reduce reliance on fossil fuels. Cenex provided funding and evaluation for the trial. After six months, the pilot project - which compared the performance, sustainability and reliability of a CBM-fuelled New Daily 65C14G vehicle with existing Daily 65C11G vehicles running on compressed natural gas (CNG) - reached a number of conclusions.

Key findings were that fuel savings per kilometre of the CBM-powered Cage vehicle compared with the current CNG-powered Cage vehicle were 6%. The well to wheel CO2 emissions, which also consider CO2 released into the atmosphere during fuel production and distribution, showed emission savings per kilometre between the CBM and CNG-powered vehicles of 56%.

Typical commercial vehicle industry data shows, when compared with fuel consumption figures for a similar sized diesel vehicle, savings of between 53% and 59% CO2 could be achieved. In addition, the Iveco Daily CBM-powered vehicle showed no reliability issues during the six-month trial. The biomethane fuel used in the trial is derived from waste sent to landfill and is considered to be carbon neutral since it is produced from recently decomposed material. By developing a bespoke gas-powered engine, coupled with CBM, the result is a real alternative to fossil fuels.

Closing the loop
Implementing CBM in part of Veolia's street cleansing operations in Camden has enabled a continuous cycle to take place. From waste collection to waste decomposition to biogas production to vehicle fuel - and back to waste collection again as the fuel is being used to collect more waste.

From an operational perspective, the CBM-powered vehicle has proven to be more efficient due in part to the new higher power vehicle, but also due to the improved fuel quality of the CBM when compared with that used in the CNG-fuelled vehicle. It only requires to be filled up with fuel once a day, accepting up to 38kg of CBM, whereas CNG-powered vehicles need to be filled up twice per day.

It also provides better measurement for drivers on how much fuel they are adding and drivers say how much more responsive the CBM-powered Cage was compared with previous CNG-powered Cage vehicles. Exhaust emissions are low in particulates and nitrogen oxides, so have much less impact on local air quality compared with other types of vehicle fuel.

The Iveco Daily CBM vehicle already meets and exceeds Euro 6 emissions legislation, which does not come into force until 2014. Also, the vehicle has proven to be less noisy than its counterparts, making it ideal for urban settings and particularly for early morning or late night work.

Keith Riley, managing director for technical services at Veolia, says: "We are pleased that the trial of CBM has proven to be a success as it has enabled us to realise the potential of the fuel in reducing climate change impacts and contributing to reducing our dependence on mineral fuels.

"It was just a pilot scheme, but it has shown us that the potential is there. There is an opportunity for further development of this type of technology in our operations and areas that we can now consider, including developing a system to harness the fuel from our own network of landfill sites, and seeing if we can work with our partners in utilising the technology amongst our fleet of light goods vehicles."

Richard Lilleystone, chief executive officer at Gasrec, adds: "The gas we use to make the CBM for this vehicle comes from a landfill site in Surrey, which means it is not depleting fossil resources. Through creating and selling this fuel product, we recover the latent energy stored in material discarded by society, providing power which is particularly suited to vehicles operating in the urban environment.

"We are pleased with the improvements achieved in air quality when using CBM to displace diesel. Every local authority would welcome reductions of 90% particulate matter, 60% reduction in nitrogen oxide, 50% reduction in sulphur dioxide and even a noise reduction of around 30%."

"Improving the environment and tackling climate change are top priorities for the council," says Cllr Chris Knight, Camden's executive member for environment. "The opening of the capital's first bio-methane re-fuelling station in Camden was a massive achievement as bio-methane is one of the most climate friendly fuels, and can help reduce air pollution emissions."

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