This article originally appeared in the March edition of Transport Operator magazine
Finding ways to decarbonise freight is increasingly important, as its share of CO2 emissions is likely to rise as that of light transport declines.
Some UK companies will argue that they have already found a way. Many are adopting gas-powered HGVs in a bid to reduce their carbon and air quality footprints.
Natural gas is less carbon-intensive than diesel, meaning it typically reduces HGV tailpipe carbon emissions by 10-15 per cent. Biomethane, the same fuel as natural gas but derived from renewable sources, can achieve a carbon reduction of up to 95 per cent on a well-to-wheel basis.
UK fleets can also benefit by using a blend of both fuels. In January, online supermarket Ocado began running 29 trucks on compressed natural gas (CNG) with a biomethane blend. Doing so allows Ocado to reduce their CO2 emissions by 29 per cent – nearly double the UK government’s industry-wide target of 15 per cent.
With Ocado’s new gas facility, designed and built by Gasrec, able to accommodate 80 vehicles in total, there is scope to further reduce carbon emissions as the gas fleet increases over the next decade.
In addition, gas-powered HGVs create less air pollution. The fuel practically eliminates harmful particulate emissions and reduces toxic nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 80 per cent, depending on engine technology.
The combination of air quality benefits and carbon reductions has led UK legislators to incentivise using the fuel by fixing gas fuel duty at 50 per cent of diesel duty until 2032. Such a move, along with lower gas commodity prices, means that operators can make savings while reducing emissions.
Indeed, gas HGV operators like Ocado are currently able to add biomethane to their fuel blend at no extra fuel cost. However, as competing demand from domestic heat, industrial energy and power generation drives scarcity, the cost of the biomethane is likely to rise above standard natural gas, creating a scenario where large emission savings (>15 per cent) are the preserve of the few prepared to pay for it.
Read more about Ocado’s switch to gas power here