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Should more trucks run on Natural Gas?

Should natural gas, in particular Bio Methane generated from vegetable and animal waste matter, be viewed as a viable road transport fuel option? Natural gas has low emissions and can reduce fuel costs at the same time.

Entire truck fleets can operate effectively, burning a high proportion of gas and saving millions of gallons of diesel, thousands of tonnes of CO2 and millions of pounds. Natural gas is safe, clean, cheap and lower in carbon than any other hydrocarbon fuel. Natural gas is plentiful in supply for the foreseeable future and Bio Methane has the best yield per hectare of all the Bio Fuels.

Natural gas has the ability to dramatically reduce truck and bus operators’ fuel bills with prices in the UK now at their lowest for 10 years. In recognition of its environmental credentials through a significant cut in pollutant exhaust emissions, natural gas carries a much lower rate of fuel duty in the UK.

This translates into a cost advantage which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has pledged will be maintained for at least another five years. Germany, in comparison, has committed to maintain the minimum taxation on natural gas until at least 2019.

Trucks with Dual-Fuel™ technology can run on a combination of natural gas (including Bio Methane) and diesel (including Bio Diesel). This can reduce CO2 emissions on a typical HGV by 26 tonnes per year, representing annual fuel cost savings per truck of £17,000. Clean Air Power can help with such conversions, and their 1,600 Dual-Fuel™ vehicles around the world are estimated to have saved approximately 50,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Natural gas in the form of Bio Methane is a wholly renewable resource. If produced locally to the point of use, it can bring down the level of ‘Well to Wheels’ carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions close to zero, thanks to the CO2 absorbed by the original feedstock materials during cultivation.

‘Well to Wheels’ actually measures the emissions generated during a fuel’s production, delivery, burning in an engine and actually driving the wheels on the road. It’s this figure that gives a true measure of a fuel’s impact on the atmosphere.

Bio Fuels offer a great solution to greenhouse gas reduction, but at a cost. Liquid Bio Fuels have an extremely low energy yield in terms of land required to generate the feedstock that produces the fuel’s energy. BioDiesel has one of the worst energy yields, lower than that of Bio Ethanol. However Bio Methane has a significantly higher energy yield per hectare of land.

Business Region Göteborg, a Swedish organisation that promotes alternative fuels, concluded in its report “Fuelling The Future” that a car powered by one hectare of biomass could travel three times the distance on Bio Methane than on Bio Ethanol. Even more compelling is the fact Bio Methane can be produced from waste (human or animal) requiring no additional land-grab.

Every year millions of tonnes of “bio” methane are generated from decomposing waste and vegetation. This methane would otherwise go into the atmosphere, so why not use it instead of diesel and gasoline?

Robin Szmidt from Active Compost argues the most efficient bio-methane production process in terms of energy per kilogram of waste, is called Anaerobic Digestion (AD)’. He said his company’s Swiss partner Kompogas, established in the 1970s, now operates 30 commercial AD plants across Europe, producing enough Bio Methane to be substituted for 52 million litres of diesel fuel. After the gas is extracted, the residue can be marketed as a valuable fertiliser.

Local authorities are especially attuned to the possibilities of setting up AD plants to generate Bio Methane to fuel their own fleets including, rather neatly in environmental terms, their waste collection vehicles.

Clean Air Power, which is based in High Wycombe and Lancashire, provides Dual-Fuel™ technology to run HGVs on natural and bio gas.