The opening of Europe’s largest low-carbon biomethane refuelling station for trucks is excellent news for decarbonising our heavy transport … and it’s only the beginning

As a huge biomethane refuelling station (Europe’s largest) connects into Cadent’s network, our sustainable transport strategy manager David Jones explains here why it’s such an important step on the road to net zero.

I was delighted to see CNG Fuels announce today that its new station – Europe’s largest refuelling station for low carbon biomethane in trucks – is open for business. Every step taken towards a net zero future for transport is to be applauded.

Cadent has been a proud partner in this project from the beginning, reinforcing the surrounding network in Warrington and then providing the connection to it. And more widely, encouraging farming and food waste consortia to connect to the grid in order to sell their biomethane for use as fuel. We’re also working very successfully with companies such as Air Liquide and other CNG station developers to deliver their ambitious program of refuelling stations. 

For a while now, we’ve been at the vanguard of exploring greener fuels for freight transport in particular.  It’s not just a question of carbon emissions, it’s also about NOx and the impact on air quality for our children.

We echo CNG Fuels’ point about confidence in and demand for biomethane as an alternative to diesel.  It really is a no-brainer for fleet operators who, like all of us, have to start to reduce their carbon emissions right now to have any chance of reaching the net zero target by 2050.
     
Of course, as the UK’s largest Gas Distribution Network (GDN), we can’t expect this type of commitment from others unless we’re prepared to make it ourselves so I’m happy to report that Cadent is doing just that.  We’re ‘walking the walk’ by decarbonising our own National Distribution Centre HGV distribution fleet which means more than 500tonnes of GHG emissions avoided each year.

We’ve put considerable investment into scoping the options for decarbonising HGVs, buses and trains. This includes publication of our HyMotion report last June as well as soon to be published work with the National Physical Laboratory, and associated research partners, on understanding the challenge of managing the purity of hydrogen supplied to Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles using the UK’s gas network.

We’re also about to add five electric vans and five hydrogen cars to our fleet in London with plans to make every one of the 1,100 vans used by our emergency engineers zero emission by 2026.

So what’s next?  I believe in the immediate future we need to focus on two things;
 

  • the creation of a sustainable market for these fuels, and
  • the development and deployment of the gas infrastructure to deliver them across the UK.

 
It’s heartening to see the UK Government continuing the fuel duty differential to incentivise uptake.  Now the time is right to take the next step up – a strategic plan from the Government on embedding biomethane and then hydrogen as a fuel in larger transport.  Political commitment to the future role of the gas network as a critical piece of infrastructure to achieve net zero would go a long way towards making this happen alongside some ‘push/pull’ incentives for fleet operators.
 
And what about the rest of the journey to a situation in which all of our heavy transport is at zero emissions because biomethane, although low carbon, is not zero carbon?  Well, that requires the same type of supportive investment, along with regulatory and policy amendments; this time focussed on hydrogen – the ultimate zero carbon fuel solution for HGVs and the like.     
 
What we need in this case is clear – support for the first tranche of large-scale hydrogen hubs at regional scale, along with swift policy amendments to facilitate the flow of these greener gases throughout the network.  Only by networking zero carbon gases can they be made cost-effective for customers and accessible for fleets and logistics companies across the UK to embrace.  Transport is the key way to maximise the use of green gases in the Cadent network and help the UK achieve the goal of a net zero transport sector by 2050, something we all want to see.