The supply of biomethane is an important part of the energy transition for the HGV sector, providing a commercially viable option for fleets wanting to reduce their carbon footprint.
Increasingly, operators of all sizes are turning to the fuel, from some of the country’s largest logistics operators, to family-owned hauliers, as they look to find alternatives to petrol and diesel HGVs.
Gasrec supplies, builds and operates Bio-LNG (liquefied natural gas) and Bio-CNG (compressed natural gas) refuelling stations for gas-powered commercial vehicles, enabling fleets to take advantage of a fuel which is significantly cheaper and better for the environment than diesel.
This year the firm has already opened three new refuelling facilities in Lutterworth, Fradley Park and South Elmsall, increasing its network to 16 sites, and with three more due to be installed before the end of the year.
The company is reporting the highest demand for biomethane in its history, with volumes reaching an all-time high in June 2023 – and set to continue rising thanks to pending orders from fleets for new gas-powered trucks.
James Westcott, Chief Operating Officer at Gasrec, said June’s gas sales represented a 250 per cent increase versus March 2020, when demand had been soaring prior to the pandemic.
He added: “Fleets are under pressure from customers to decarbonise, and bio-LNG is the most viable, readily-available solution – plus it’s suitable for longer-haul missions, with quick refuelling times.
“Our fuels are once again significantly cheaper than diesel, meaning customers can save money whilst improving sustainability.
“The demand right now is exceptional.”
Arla Foods is using seven new Volvo FM bio-LNG 6×2 tractor units, which refuel at Gasrec’s open-access site at Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal and at the Gasrec built station at Reed Boardall’s depot, in Boroughbridge.
They come equipped with sleeper cabs and collect and deliver milk from Arla’s farms and depot operations in Leeds and Burton-On-Trent to processing sites across the UK.
According to Volvo the G13C engine delivers the same 460 hp and 2,300 Nm of torque as a standard 460 hp diesel, with matching driveability, reliability and service intervals.
Paired with Arla’s milk tanker trailers, the new FMs are expected to cover in the region of 200,000 km per year.
Arla Foods is now turning cow manure from its farms, and food which would otherwise go to waste, into a source of renewable fuel.
Richard Wilson, inbound logistics director at Arla Foods, said: “These new bio-LNG trucks will play a crucial part in our plans to hit our 2030 sustainability targets – which is a 63 percent reduction of CO2 against our baseline from 2015 for our own fleet operations.
“Who knows what the future holds in terms of electric and hydrogen technology but for now and the medium term we believe trucks powered by bio-LNG are the best route for us to make a significant carbon reduction in the fleet.”
ReFuels has twelve public access Bio-CNG Refuelling Stations operational in Warrington, Avonmouth, Bellshill (Scotland), Leyland, Erdington (Birmingham), Northampton, Crewe, Newark, Knowsley (Liverpool), Castleford, Newton-Aycliffe and Corby.
Its site at Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, which opened earlier this year owned by a joint venture with Foresight Group, provides customers such as Lidl, DHL, and GBA Services access to low-carbon biomethane to minimise the greenhouse gas footprint of their logistics operations.
The new station comprises 14 fuel pump islands, allowing more than 60 trucks to be refuelled per hour with a total capacity of more than 27 million kilograms (kg) of bio-CNG annually, making it CNG Fuels’ highest capacity station to date.
It serves local and passing fleets using the A1(M) and will introduce fleets from Newcastle, Sunderland, Middlesbrough, and Darlington to Bio-CNG as a transport fuel for HGVs.
Philip Fjeld, CEO and co-founder of ReFuels, said: “We see strong demand from our customers for our 100% renewable and sustainable biomethane, produced from waste feedstocks, which enables heavy truck operators to reduce emissions by more than 90% compared to diesel.
“The new site at Newton Aycliffe is part of our strategy of growing as the leading integrated supplier of alternative fuels in the UK with a target of having 30 to 40 stations in operation towards the end of 2025, and longer-term expanding into other European markets.”
The current ReFuels network in the UK can refuel more than 5,500 HGVs daily.
This equals an annual dispensing capacity of more than 240,000 tonnes of biomethane annually and a potential saving of up to 642,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually when compared to diesel.
Another two stations are currently under construction, due to start operations in the coming months, including one in Bangor, North Wales, and at least four further stations are expected to begin construction during the calendar year.
Jason Wild, senior consultant – distribution and recycling at Lidl GB, said: “Lidl is committed to reducing our carbon emissions across the company and over the past few years we have been gradually switching our HGV fleet to run on 100% renewable and sustainable biomethane.
“Bio-CNG enables us to significantly reduce our transport emissions by up to 90% versus our diesel trucks, and the development of CNG Fuels’ latest station in Newton Aycliffe allows for the further adoption of Bio-CNG at our depot close to this new site, and will furthermore open up additional transport routes for the north-east region of the UK.”
North Yorkshire haulier Campeys of Selby has also worked closely with ReFuels and recently increased its non-fossil fuel fleet to over 10% with the addition of six new Iveco S-WAY 6×2 bio-CNG tractor units, taking its non-fossil fuel fleet to 12 vehicles.
Harry Campey, Transport manager at the Palletforce member, which also transports glass, said: “While there is an initial financial investment, we will start to see returns after just two years so it’s both financially and environmentally viable.”
More customers are looking for their logistics partners to demonstrate that they are taking responsibility for the elements under their control within the supply chain, so gas-powered trucks have an opportunity to fulfil that need.