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First Biomethane and Gas Vehicle conference flags up its potential

Future potential in biomethane was highlighted at the inaugral Biomethane and Gas Vehicle conference. ADBA R&D liaison and PR manager Rosaline Hulse reports

Bringing together all those with an interest in the biomethane and gas vehicle market, the UK’s first Biomethane and Gas Vehicle Conference held at London’s City Hall earlier this month, demonstrated the clear demand and opportunity for growth in the transport sector.

Transport Minister Norman Baker, Department for Transport,  opened the conference by announcing a further £5m funding to help local authorities decarbonise bus fleets. He also welcomed the launch of the Gas Vehicle Hub, a national database of natural and biomethane operating gas producers and refuelling stations, and confirmed that the department would continue to work with the AD industry to break down the barriers which are currently holding back the supply of biomethane.

Other speakers represented a cross section of the supply chain including commercial fleet manager Justin Laney of the  John Lewis Partnership, local authority fleet manager Callum Johnson of London Borough of Camden, Andy Eastlake, Managing Director of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, Energy Select Committee member Alan Whitehead MP and Rachel Dillon, climate change policy manager from the Freight Transport Association.

Despite the range of backgrounds and perspectives, one message came loud and clear from the day: that delivering gas and ultimately biomethane vehicles is central to reducing the high carbon emissions associated with heavy goods transport. As Dr Whitehead put it, “there is no alternative”.

The strong demand for biomethane within the haulage and freight sector may be remarkable, but it should not be surprising. A quarter of the UK’s carbon dioxide emissions come from transport, and heavy goods vehicles are one of the only sectors of the economy where emissions are actually increasing. The Supreme Court ruled in May that the UK is breaching the EU Air Quality Directive, with Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) and Particulate Matter (PM) emissions from transport largely to blame. Replacing diesel vehicles with dedicated biomethane trucks reduces emissions by two thirds, and can reduce NO2 and PM emissions by 86% and 97% respectively.

If there are clear reasons why the transport industry is increasingly interested in biomethane, there are also clear implications for government policy and the waste industry. Meeting this demand requires a significant increase in the volume of biogas generated and converted to biomethane for transport. From government, cross-departmental coordination is needed to ensure waste and bioenergy policy supports the industry, for example through rolling out separate food waste collections, and ensuring the financial incentives support producers who could supply biomethane for transport. In the transport sector, the waste industry has a huge potential customer for biomethane generated from waste, as well as opportunities to use the fuel to reduce emissions from its own fleets.

Discussions on the value of biomethane in transport will continue at UK AD & Biogas 2013 held on 3-4 July at the NEC, Birmingham, with a transport feature area and sessions focused on developing a strategy for biomethane in transport and opportunities for biomethane in different transport fleets.

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