COMMENT: A recent London Assembly report aimed at cutting pollution from diesel cars in the capital completely ignores natural gas as an alternative fuel, writes Gasrec chief executive Rob Wood.
A recent report published by the London Assembly aimed at cutting pollution from diesel cars in the capital completely ignores natural gas as an alternative fuel, writes Rob Wood – chief executive of liquefied gas fuel firm Gasrec Ltd.
I was both surprised and saddened to see that the recently published London Assembly environment committee report – ‘Driving away from diesel: Reducing air pollution from diesel vehicles’ (see AirQualityNews.com story) – so completely ignored one of the most promising technologies to offer a solution – natural gas.
The use of low emission natural gas powered transport is growing across the UK – and Europe – as a commercially and environmentally beneficial solution for powering the next generation of road vehicles. There are currently over 700 gas-powered heavy commercial vehicles on the UK road network being operated by leading household brands. Additionally, many lighter gas powered delivery vehicles are also being used for deliveries in urban areas, including London, by companies such as DHL and Tesco.
Manufacturing of these low emission vehicles is being led by companies such as Iveco, Mercedes-Benz, Scania and Volvo. These companies already offer a selection of new Euro VI models and have plans to introduce an expanded range of types and sizes in due course. This proven technology is ideally suited to urban and city-centre deliveries with costs competitive with diesel.
Other cities in Europe have benefited from cleaner air by adopting gas. Madrid already has around 1,250 gas-powered heavy commercial vehicles operating across the city. Nearly all of Madrid’s waste is now collected by trucks running on natural gas. And Paris is moving in a similar direction.
Even developing nations such as India and China have significant quantities of Natural Gas vehicles for public transport and services.
A similar approach could easily work for London. With vehicles already available, it would only require the development of a modest network of filling stations which could be relatively quickly established. This would help reduce emissions from both light and heavy delivery vehicles which – as the report points out – currently account for around 17% of London’s NOx emissions.
A collateral benefit would also be noise reduction because gas engines are inherently quiet and well suited to deliveries in towns and cities during the night.
There is no reason, of course, why natural gas powered vehicles do not also represent a viable solution for other heavy vehicles in London such as buses and coaches (10% of London’s NOx emissions) and refuse trucks. Reading already has a significant fleet of CNG buses in operation.
Perhaps an additional recommendation to the report should be to encourage the London Mayor to treat low noise, low emission natural gas powered vehicles in a similar way to other low emission technologies and encourage their greater use?
To summarise, the main advantages of using natural gas fuel in transport, whether liquefied or compressed, are the reduction in CO2, NOx, SOx and particulates from gas engines, in addition to the commercial benefits with costs competitive to diesel. The environmental benefits can be further enhanced with the introduction of biomethane (Bio-LNG/CNG) derived from landfill waste or anaerobic digestion, which can virtually eliminate emissions depending on the blend of natural gas and bio-gas used.
It is a great shame – and missed opportunity – that such an influential report from the UK’s flagship city, completely missed an opportunity to genuinely explore a credible and readily available (now) solution for the transport pollution ills of inner cities and urban areas. It would also be very sad if other cities across the UK took their lead from London and followed a similar path without considering the benefits and opportunity offered by natural gas.
Hopefully, the door is not closed for London. The natural gas powered solution has considerable support from major vehicle manufacturing companies and industry bodies, all of whom would, I know, be very keen to discuss with the London Assembly’s environment committee and the Mayor of London, the relative merits of natural gas powered transport solutions and how they could support the Mayor’s ambitious programme for London.