Transition to green gas HGVs ‘must start now’ to reach net zero

Green gas heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) hold the key to decarbonising UK roads, but the transition must start now to achieve net-zero by 2050, according to a new report.

The Future Role of Gas in Transport sets out a clear pathway showing how the UK’s heavy goods sector can start to achieve a major reduction in emissions in the next few years, with the use of hydrogen being labelled ‘critical’ to achieving net zero.

The report, created through a Network Innovation Allowance-funded project overseen by UK and Ireland gas network operators including Cadent, Gas Networks Ireland, National Grid, Northern Gas Networks, SGN, and Wales & West Utilities, and managed by Element Energy, highlights the potential of biogas in decarbonising heavy goods transport.

The sector is responsible for around 20 million tonnes of CO2 annually, the report says. By switching HGVs to green gases including biomethane, bio-CNG, and hydrogen, emissions could be reduced by up to 38% by 2030.

The report calls for hydrogen to be seen as a key decarbonisation option for transport, heat, and industry to achieve effective scale in production and distribution to cut costs; a ramping up of rollout of biomethane and bio-SNG (substitute natural gas) production capacity to realise the full feedstock potential before demand peaks in the 2030s, and for existing gas networks to be ‘harnessed’ to deliver hydrogen fuel to heat, industry, and transport.

Dr Angie Needle, director of strategy at Cadent, said: “Hydrogen is an important component of how we reach net zero for transport. There are emissions savings we are making today from bio-CNG that not only help to decarbonise HGV transport here and now, but enable a hydrogen future.

“It is critical that the government recognises the role that green gas will play in decarbonising transport.”

Key milestones to delivery of a national hydrogen refuelling infrastructure by 2050 are set out in the report as follows:

2021-2025 -

  • Acceleration of biomethane production capacity and the scaling of bio-SNG production

  • First 100-200 hydrogen HGVs demonstrated and industrial hydrogen production underway

  • Localised hydrogen blending in the grid and trials of 100% hydrogen grids in very small regions to demonstrate suitability for heating

2025-2030 -

  • Achieve full utilisation of biomethane feedstocks and expansion of bio-SNG production capacity, alongside full national coverage of CNG/LNG refuelling stations for HGVs

  • Rapid ramp-up of hydrogen HGV manufacturing capacity and rollout of basic station network to support very rapid market transition from 2030

  • Hydrogen blending in the network increases and 100% hydrogen trials expand to deliver the first hydrogen town

2030-2035 -

  • CNG/LNG HGV sales begin to fall and are replaced by hydrogen HGVs

  • Early CNG/LNG stations start to be upgraded to dispense biomethane and hydrogen

  • Hydrogen blended into the gas network across the country and multiple hydrogen towns/cities are achieved

2035-2040 -

  • The scale of diesel and biomethane-fuelled trucks ends, having been made possible by the rapid conversion of CNG/LNG filling stations to hydrogen

  • Gas pipelines will be delivering 100% hydrogen to large clusters around the country

2040-2045 -

  • A new milestone is reached as transition of the gas network to deliver hydrogen for use in most homes and transport becomes a reality

2050 -

  • Zero-emission HGVs are now the ‘norm’ – we are close to long-haul HGVs running on hydrogen.

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean MP said: “Last year, the Prime Minister set out an ambitious 10-Point Plan for a green industrial revolution and decarbonising transport is a key pillar of this.

“It is essential that we tackle emissions from the road freight sector, not only to meet our net-zero target but also to create and secure skilled jobs and investment, right across the UK.

“This is why I want to see the UK at the forefront of developing cost-effective, zero-emission HGVs and their refuelling infrastructure, as we build back greener.”

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