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Trial highlights potential of biomethane as road fuel

Leicestershire, UK:  A biomethane powered truck reduced fuel costs by 12.8% against a diesel truck in a trial run by Cenex, at Loughborough University and the UK’s first Centre of Excellence for low carbon vehicle technologies.

Following the trial of a biomethane powered truck with Coca-Cola Enterprises, it is now operating 14 gas powered Iveco Stralis vehicles and a gas station which is due to be fully operational at the Enfield depot from June 2012.

Coca-Cola Enterprises contracted Cenex to evaluate and compare the emissions, fuel consumption, economics, reliability and operability of a 26 tonne Iveco Stralis gas vehicle with that of a diesel Stralis vehicle.

The gas vehicle is estimated to have achieved a 50.3% saving in well-to-wheel GHG emissions, compared to the diesel Stralis vehicle.  However, this was achieved using a temporary filling station – a more efficient permanent station being installed at the CCE depot raises the GHG saving to 60.7%.  Operating the gas vehicle on biomethane reduced the fuel costs by 12.8%.

Cenex has released the results of the year-long trial with Coca-Cola Enterprises.  Chris Walsh, head of technical support and consultancy at Cenex, said: “The success of this trial shows gas vehicles provide similar if not better, drive performance and reliability levels than incumbent diesel technologies, while significantly reducing CO2 emissions.

“By releasing the report findings we hope to eliminate the need for repeated technology comparisons within fleets, thereby reducing the time required to deploy gas commercial vehicles throughout the UK.

The report therefore gives fleet managers and decision makers the confidence to deploy gas vehicles in their own fleet operations,” he said.

The trial vehicles – one operating solely on biomethane gas, and one diesel powered – were highly comparable.  Both were new registrations at trial commencement and met Enhanced Environmentally friendly Vehicle emission standards.  A temporary gas vehicle-refuelling infrastructure was installed at the CCE depot in Enfield, UK, where the trial vehicles were operated.  Vehicle activity data from the Enfield depot was logged via onboard telemetry and a drive cycle in an emissions testing facility was produced allowing air quality performances as well as CO2 and fuel consumption to be measured in a controlled environment.

The rising price of diesel, corporate sustainability interests and UK government incentives are creating a growing interest in using biomethane as a transport fuel throughout the UK as it is a renewable transport fuel with a similar energy content and chemical composition to natural gas.  It is also fully exchangeable with natural gas when used in an engine.

A biomethane powered truck reduced fuel costs by 12.8% against a diesel truck in a trial

The new CCE gas fleet will consume approximately 168-tonnes of biomethane saving over 300-tonnes of CO2, 1590kg of NOx and 33kgs PM of emissions per annum.  Additionally, CCE trialled an LPG fork lift truck converted to operate on biomethane at Enfield, which achieved a 71% well-to-wheel CO2 saving.

Darren O’Donnell, logistics asset manager at Coca-Cola Enterprises said: “Our primary reason for selecting compressed biomethane is that it has the lowest carbon intensity of all commercially available alternative fuels, allowing us to benefit from the best possible well- to-wheel saving.

“Gaining independent trial support and results verification by Cenex has helped give us the confidence needed to make step changes in emissions performance through switching vehicle technology and fuels,” he said.

biomethane supplier Gasrec’s commercial development manager Doug Leaf said: “Gasrec has been delighted to partner with Coca-Cola, Iveco and Cenex during this project.  The results clearly show that biomethane is the only truly sustainable and readily available fuel, which can reduce commercial, transport carbon emissions and improve air quality.  The key to widespread deployment of environmentally friendly vehicles is to make sure that the end user receives the benefit in ‘Cash & Carbon’.  We are already seeing a number of major UK based organisations as well as Coca-Cola benefiting from the use of biomethane and future adoption is now a certainty.”

“This trial has shown the benefits of CNG engine vehicles running on Biomethane.  These have been an important part of the Iveco line up of environmentally friendly vehicles for some years mainly in southern Europe.  The opportunities to use this technology in the UK should now be clear to all,” says Martin Flach, product director at Iveco.

The partners in the trial, which ran between June 2010 and May 2011, were Coca-Cola Enterprises, Cenex (technical advisor), Iveco and biomethane supplier Gasrec.