Biomethane to Fuel HGVs
DfT published recently recommendations and considerations from the Low Emission HGV Task Force, centring on the benefits accruing from greater use of methane as a transport fuel. The three main areas examined are vehicle technology, refuelling infrastructure, and gas supply. As such the Task Force considers the whole system rather than any one aspect in isolation, and is well-worth a read as an example of whole system thinking applied to a biofuel opportunity.
The context is that HGVs currently contribute 21% of surface transport CO2 while making up only 1.5% of road vehicles, and this needs to change to contribute to the 2050 climate change target. The report outlines the scale of the challenge, and offers feedback from existing use of duel-fuel (methane and diesel) HGVs to inform the recommendations. Consideration is given to the pros and cons of compressed versus liquefied (requires refrigeration and insulation) gas both from the supply and HGV use perspective, and to the advantages in terms of carbon saving from greater use of biomethane compared with fossil methane (even fossil methane can also offer carbon saving over diesel). Careful consideration was given to the infrastructure that enables refuelling: return-to-base, and creation of a network of gas refuelling stations, perhaps along major routes in the first instance. Clearly, duel-fuel with diesel offers flexibility and resilience, but with the premium on purchase of duels fuel vehicles the ideal is to run more often on methane gas.
The report offers a considered view on the opportunities for methane, and especially biomethane, to benefit the UK’s HGV fleet. It rightly focuses on the large freight businesses, indeed explains why smaller operators working with tighter margins might be less able to join the opportunity in the short-term, but doesn’t touch on the opportunity for methane as a fuel beyond the HGV sector (it wouldn’t have been in the remit). It will be interesting to follow the learning from emerging use of methane as a transport fuel for the HGV sector and to identify the opportunities to apply the learning in other ways. For example, to fuel a small fleet of lighter vehicles in a business or community, and contributing to a resilient, low-carbon transport solution at a different scale.