A new compressed natural gas (CNG) filling station in Crewe is to be a benchmark for a network of such sites across the country in the years to come, supplied by the UK’s national gas grid, its operator says.
John Baldwin, managing director of CNG Services Ltd, which runs the site, said: “We are aiming to build many more filling stations like this, and for them to be strategically placed at transport hubs.
“The 6,000km high-pressure gas grid is a great source of low-carbon, dry natural gas. It is also a vital national asset, and means that 90 per cent of the UK’s major distribution centres are within 2km of a low cost and low CO2 energy source for their trucks.”
Officially opened in March by Edward Timpson, the MP for Crewe and Nantwich, the station is initially being used only for commercial vehicles.
It is the largest such facility in the UK, its operators say, with the capacity to fill 500 HGVs per day via three fast-fill hoses. The station is already host to high-profile customers, as the refuelling point for five CNG dual-fuel trucks for Gist’s Marks & Spencer contract, three for Tenens Environmental and one for Ceva Logistics’ Tesco operation.
A variety of CNG-ready trucks, buses, LCVs and cars are already on the market, with more likely to follow as the emphasis on emissions reductions continues to grow.
CNG is made from natural gas of the kind used residentially for cooking and heating, which is compressed in order to allow it to be used as a vehicle fuel.
At the Crewe site, this is achieved through the use of Atlas Copco Greenfield compressors, which compress the gas to 300bar. It is then stored in a bank of high-pressure vessels, which are capable of holding around 4,000kg of CNG, ready to be transferred via the fast-fill 200 bar and 250 bar dispensers into vehicles.
Said Baldwin: “When operating at full capacity, the filling station compressors will complete about 2,000 hours a year and with planned maintenance we anticipate a long and reliable service life from the units.”
If the gas is made from organic waste (biomethane), it allows carbon neutrality to be achieved in terms of emissions.
“The interest in CNG is being driven by the huge cost savings it offers – between 30 and 40 per cent in comparison to diesel – and also because it is much cleaner,” Baldwin continued.
“There are very significant savings of CO2, NOX and particulates from biomethane compared to diesel. It is an excellent fuel as it performs well with low emissions and almost no carbon residuals. It also quiets engines, which is useful to transport companies operating at noise sensitive times and places in the day.
“With significant volumes of biomethane now being injected into the UK gas grid, and huge growth forecast over the next three years, the time is right to switch to bio-CNG… The UK can aim to shift its trucks, buses and vans onto bio-CNG by 2030, meeting our renewable targets and at the same time removing the air pollution from diesel vehicles.”
Jacky Joas, global sales and marketing manager at Atlas Copco Greenfield, added: “The UK is unique in that it already has a network for distributing high pressure gas, which is an asset that can help reduce diesel demand and reduce CO2 from trucks. Natural gas fuelling of passenger cars is widespread throughout Europe, but no other country has the high pressure gas grid and transport hub advantages of the UK for truck fleets.”