Knowledge zone

Everything you need to know about gas vehicles and the UK gas refuelling network.

 
 

Operating gas vehicles

+What weight can I carry?

Gas models are equivalent to their diesel companions. This means load carrying capacity is equal to diesel engines of the same size all the way up to 44-tonne.

+Will my drivers like driving a gas vehicle?

Gas trucks operate 50% quieter than diesel and the fuels are odourless meaning drivers have a quieter, cleaner experience. Exhaust fumes are much cleaner meaning they will be exposed to less pollution.

+Is there any accredited emissions data for the vehicles?

Soon to be published following extensive testing at Milbrook testing

+Breakdown / emergency support?

Manufacturers seek to provide a service that is equivalent to running a diesel vehicle with regards to after sales support.

+Where and how will the vehicle be maintained? Is it sustainable nationally?

Manufacturers have specialist ‘gas ready’ dealerships that will maintain the vehicles if they are provided with an ‘O&M’ package. Dealerships in the vicinity of where gas vehicles operated will be provided with the appropriate training - the experience should mirror that of a diesel truck.

+Can I put a PTO pump on them?

Yes.

+Can gas vehicles be ADR approved?

Yes.

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Purchasing gas vehicles

+Why should I invest in gas trucks when electric and hydrogen are set to replace them?

The only technology capable of replacing diesel in HGV’s without sacrificing any operational performance or payload is gas. Read our piece on electric trucks here.

+What is the premium compared to a diesel truck?

In general, the total cost of ownership is lower than that of a diesel. On average lease terms, the monthly saving per vehicle is c. £500 dependent on duty cycle. Use our TCO calculator to find out if your operation is suited to gas vehicles. If purchased there is a £20,000-40,000 premium for a gas vehicle. However, as gas prices are around 35% lower than diesel and are underpinned by 50% lower fuel duty – fixed until 2032 – gas vehicles will typically pay back over 2-3 years and save money over its lifetime.

+Do gas vehicles have shorter lifecycles?

There is no difference between the expected lifecycle of a gas vehicle or diesel vehicle. They are expected to be reliable (B10 life) for at least 1,000,000 miles.

+Ownership options – Lease/out-right purchase?

Truck manufacturers offer a range of purchasing options that include both lease and purchase.

+What is the service schedule and cost?

This will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer; however the schedule normally requires slightly more regular servicing compared to diesel trucks and therefore commands an increase in cost of around £200 per month.

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Using refuelling stations

 

+Where can I refuel?

There are over 30 stations in the UK, not all of which are open to all users. In all cases access arrangements should be agreed prior to attending. Generally you will need to open a customer account before using a station. Gasrec operates nine stations and will be expanding its network over the next two to five years. See our station guide here

While gas vehicle technology is mature, gas refuelling infrastructure is in a relatively early stage. Facilities are often developed to support the adoption of new fleets and can be programmed in partnership with an operator and vehicle supplier.

+Who is responsible for the maintenance of the onsite station, cost of ongoing maintenance and who owns the station?

Stations are normally designed, built, owned and maintained by a specialist gas supplier (such as Gasrec). The station provider operates the station to an agreed service level, incorporating KPIs for response, fuel availability and attendance at site. The cost for provision and maintenance of the station can then either be charged thought the fuel price at the nozzle, or at an agreed monthly rate.

+Resupplying the station - how easy is it to organise, what are the likely lead times and the cost? Can costs be fixed?

LNG

Fuel stock levels are monitored remotely, and deliveries planned to maintain minimum volumes. Prior to the first delivery a risk assessment will be undertaken and standard operating procedures agreed.

CNG

CNG stations are often be connected to the gas pipeline network. In this case an onsite compressor maintains the capacity of the bottle banks so they are ready to refuel vehicles.

+How many vehicles do I need to purchase to justify infrastructure?

For a dedicated back to base station, around 10 units would be required to operate the station efficiently, smaller fleets can be deployed using existing public refuelling infrastructure. If you are considering trialling a gas vehicle or deploying a small number of trucks we recommend you engage a gas supplier early as they will be able to share their future plans for gas station development, know where infrastructure is available, and develop infrastructure to suit your needs.

+What is the space requirement for an on-site station?

For a back to base refuelling facility suitable for up to 30 vehicles the required footprint is around 15m x 3m – taking up around 3 trailer parking bays including dispense points and hazardous area zones.

A full size station compound suitable for up to 300 vehicles is around 12m x 15m with an additional area required for refuelling the vehicles, typical to existing arrangements for diesel.

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The refuelling process

 

+How does refuelling work?

Most aspects of the refuelling experience are like diesel. Drivers sign-in using the fuel management system, recording the registration and kilometres travelled. For LNG the fill nozzle is clamped onto the vehicle tank and requires the use of PPE (gloves and glasses) to protect bare skin and eyes. Gas vehicles take no longer than diesel to refuel.

For CNG the fill connection point is more like a plug. Fill time for CNG will be slightly longer than for LNG.

Training is provided in advance of deploying vehicles to the operators’ key team, usually on a train-the-trainer basis. Once training has taken place drivers are provided with keys to use the fuel management system.

+What refuelling training is required?

AAt Gasrec’s largest station, DIRFT, near Crick, operators are on hand 24/7 to support driver refuelling and provide assistance if required. At other stations a link exists to a remote monitoring centre where trained operators can provide assistance.

+Are there safety concerns?

Refuelling

Fuel is delivered to the vehicle in either liquid or compressed form and there are different risks and mitigations related to both. LNG is stored at temperatures of down to -160oc and therefore requires PPE to be worn to protect against cold burns. CNG is stored at high pressures, it is therefore important to maintain inspection regimes to ensure the integrity of refuelling hoses, nozzles and storage tanks. In all other respects, gas is no more dangerous to use than diesel.

Vehicle accident

There is little or no risk of gas tanks rupturing in a vehicle accident. LNG tanks are manufactured from stainless steel and double skinned for insulation. The fuel tanks have to endure far stricter stress tests than diesel tanks.

Stations

Stations are designed with safety at the core. The stations automatically go into hibernation mode if gas or heat is detected and trigger alarms on the station and at a remote monitoring centre (with CCTV links to the station or a trained operator present). The remote monitoring centre can interrogate the station systems and take the appropriate action. The refuelling methods mean there are no spills or leaks; if these do occur gas rapidly disperses to atmosphere rather than pooling on the ground like diesel and causing risk or contamination hazards.

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The fuel

 

+What is the difference between CNG and LNG?

LNG and CNG are both methane. The difference is that LNG is cooled to -160oC and therefore takes a liquid state. CNG is methane in its gaseous form, compressed in order to maximise the amount of energy that can be stored. Both are suitable as transport fuels and the choice between the two often comes down to the specific operation. For a given volume of storage, LNG provides greater range and therefore tends to be the choice for long distance hauliers and operators of 6X2 tractors (where fuel storage space on the tractor unit is limited). CNG however is ideal for urban transport where the required mileage is lower.

Read our full article on the differences here

+Why measure in KGs when diesel is in litres?

The changes in volume of a gas due to temperature and pressure fluctuation are far greater than for a liquid. To prevent these factors influencing the amount of energy delivered to a vehicle tank the gas industry uses the only stable measurement – weight - to measure the gas. One litre of diesel is equal, in terms of energy, to 0.72 kilograms of gas.

+What are biomethane, bio-LNG and bio-CNG?

They are the same as natural gas but derived from renewable sources. In other words, rather than being extracted from the earth, they are captured during the breakdown of waste, such as food waste and manure, in landfill or anaerobic digestors. Biomethane is a catch-all term for this gas. Bio-CNG is biomethane in compressed form. Bio-LNG is biomethane in liquid form.

+Is biomethane better for the environment?

The UK has a popular green gas offset scheme (called the RTFO) whereby businesses can achieve CO2 reductions of up to 90%. The renewable gas supplied by the gas supplier is not actually used in the truck that claims the carbon reduction. Instead the gas is injected by gas suppliers into the UK gas grid at other locations, thereby allowing the transport operator to claim a carbon offset of up to 90%.

Energy providers offering renewable electricity employ the same scheme where the renewably sourced electrons are not used in their customer’s business but are instead added to the UK electricity grid elsewhere. Both systems aim to displace fossil fuel-derived energy with renewable energy, thereby securing significant UK-wide CO2 emission reductions.

+What is the cost of gas compared to diesel?

The average cost of gas in 2018 (including duty) was around 72p/kg. this equates to about 52p/litre of diesel on an energy basis. Over the same period diesel was between £0.98 – £1.01.

+Is diesel duty the same as gas duty?

In 2018, the government fixed duty on alternative fuels (including gas) at 50% of diesel duty until 2032. That means whatever your diesel duty is, gas will always be 50% of that, even if diesel duty goes up. In fact, if diesel duty does go up, as many expect it to, gas will become even cheaper. As the differential is locked in until 2032, expect gas to be cheaper for the next 13 years.

+What is the risk of price movement?

Gas, like oil, is a traded commodity and is therefore subject to variation. Typically, gas prices have a seasonal variation and are lower in summer months and higher in winter months, on an average annual basis the differential is stable and has been at least £0.40 per litre equivalent for 90% of the time in the last 5 years.

Gasrec offers products to protect against commodity price risk.

+Is there a risk to supply in the future?

Gas production is increasing globally, as are import terminals and infrastructure to support supply to the transport industry. Gas is a sustainable alternative to oil due to its abundance in supply and reduced environmental impact. The UK has very robust supply infrastructure, it has 3 LNG import terminals including Europe’s largest terminal, the Isle of Grain.

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