Biogas from food waste can be low-carbon truck fuel

Clearfleau built an AD plant at First Milk’s Aspatria creamery

Biogas generated from food and drink process waste offers a low-carbon commercial transport fuel for the future, a study for a leading British bioenergy company has shown.

New research has shown that biomethane generated from food and drink process residues has growing potential as a low-carbon alternative to diesel used in commercial vehicles.

The results of the study, carried out by Aker Associates for bioenergy plant provider Clearfleau, were presented at the UK AD (anaerobic digestion) & Biogas Expo 2017 in Birmingham today (July 6).

The study focused on the use of biomethane for transport (BfT) technology in the commercial vehicle market, assessing drivers for change and barriers that might inhibit wider adoption of biomethane in commercial vehicles, as well as its potential use with on-site AD plants on industrial sites.

Biomethane in trucks

“The pressure is on both government and business to reduce carbon emissions from transport, which lags behind other sectors in the adoption of renewable fuels,” said the report’s author Andrew Winship of Aker Associates.

This requires new and innovative solutions. We expect to see growing numbers of food and drink processing companies looking to use this technology, which offers a low-carbon alternative to diesel for fuelling their commercial vehicle fleets.

“With both suitable vehicles and fuels becoming more available, supported through legislation and tax treatment, biomethane as a low-carbon transport fuel is set to grow substantially.

Diesel is currently the dominant fuel for commercial vehicles but companies are under social, political and environmental pressure to find low-carbon renewable alternatives. And, with diesel prices forecast to rise further, the economic argument will become more compelling, said Clearfleau.

It added that since electric vehicle technology was not viable for large heavy goods vehicles, gas-powered vehicles were becoming more popular with their efficiency and performance also improving.

BfT technology is said to be particularly appropriate for the dairy sector, as creameries use vehicles to collect raw milk from local farms and bring it to their sites for processing.

On-site solutions for by-products

More food manufacturers and distilleries are looking at on-site solutions for their by-products and residues, using biogas generated in combined heat and power engines or boilers. However, the recent decline in Feed-in Tariff and Renewable Heat Incentive rates has meant that using biomethane as an alternative fuel to diesel has become more economic, with support through the government’s Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation (RTFO), claimed Clearfleau.

The research suggested that more should be done by government working with industry to stimulate investment and promote the use of cleaner biofuels in the commercial transport sector, including the classification of biomethane as a development fuel in the revised RTFO.

Download a summary of the report here.

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