UK retailers pioneer ground-breaking biomethane transport fuel

A host of British retailers including Waitrose, John Lewis and Argos have been named as the first long-distance lorry users of a renewable biomethane fuel launched today (1 December), which is said to be 35-40% cheaper and 70% less CO2-emitting than diesel.

UK fuel supplier CNG Fuels has launched the new fuel, which is derived from food waste, to offer fleet operators of high-mileage HGVs the opportunity to reduce both costs and carbon emissions. The renewable biomethane is distributed through gas pipelines to refuelling stations owned and operated by CNG Fuels where it is compressed into fuels.

CNG Fuels chief executive Philip Fjeld said: “Renewable and sustainably sourced biomethane is the most cost-effective and lowest-carbon alternative to diesel for HGVs and is attracting increasing interest. We are expanding our refuelling infrastructure nationwide to help fleet operators save money, cut carbon and clean up our air.”

The fuel qualifies for the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) and Renewable Transport Fuel Certificates (RTFC) as it is sourced from anaerobic digestion (AD) plants which are not supported by the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) or other subsidy schemes.

“We are proud to be the first company in the UK to offer its customers RTFO approved biomethane, and pleased to be able to do so at the same price as fossil fuel gas,” Fjeld added.

‘Compelling business case’

HGVs, which on average travel 125,000 miles a year, currently account for 4.2% of UK carbon emissions. Gas trucks cost more than diesel, with biomethane CNG typically selling at 65p/kg (the equivalent of 49p/litre for diesel). But according to CNG Fuels, for HGVs doing this mileage, fuel savings can repay the extra cost within two to three years.

CNG gas engines also meet the latest Euro-6 air quality standards and are roughly 50% quieter than diesel engines. The biomethane fuel is popular with drivers because it usually takes less than five minutes to refuel and the closed system means there is no risk of spillage, CNG Fuels says.

John Lewis Partnership general manager central transport Justin Laney said: “We are committed to reducing our carbon emissions and playing our part in tackling climate change. Renewable biomethane gives us the opportunity to make our fleet cleaner and quieter and, with significant cost savings, there is a compelling business case to switch from diesel”.

Cool runnings

The launch follows a series of private sector initiatives which have adopted low-cost, clean solutions to reduce transport emissions.

In June, British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s became the first company in the world to trial a refrigerated delivery truck cooled by a liquid nitrogen powered engine, shortly after the retailer announced that it would become the world’s first firm to incorporate “closed-loop” natural refrigerant trailer units for its delivery vehicles.

Heavy commercial vehicle manufacturer Volvo Group, meanwhile, has developed a new concept truck which can make 30% savings in fuel consumption, with the vehicle forming part of a five-year-long research project aiming to improve the efficiency of long-haul transportation by 50%.

George Ogleby

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