CNG Fuels is opening a renewable biomethane refuelling station at Northampton as part of the UK’s first large-scale study of how compressed natural gas (CNG) can help cut road transport emissions.

The project, which has received funding from the Office for Low Emissions Vehicles (OLEV) in partnership with Innovate UK, aims to encourage UK fleet operators to switch from diesel to biomethane by demonstrating performance benefits, and by showing that CNG stations can support growing demand for gas.

The new Northampton public access refuelling station will open this autumn at the Red Lion Truck Stop, off junction 16 of the M1, just up the road from Magna Park, Milton Keynes, one of the UK’s largest distribution parks where Waitrose and John Lewis have their national distribution hub.

The station will be used by a new Waitrose fleet of 58 CNG trucks engaged in long-haul, inter-city and urban runs, including six trialling zero-emissions refrigeration units powered by the truck’s gas engine. Performance data will be analysed by a University of Cambridge team.

Baden Gowrie-Smith, chief financial officer of CNG Fuels, said: “One hundred per cent renewable biomethane fuel offers fleet operators the chance to dramatically cut carbon emissions, improve air quality and save money. We are now seeing increasing levels of interest and orders from fleets of all sizes.

“This study will help convince others to make the shift and demonstrates that this is a solution that can be scaled up rapidly within fleets. Fleet operators and drivers are enjoying the ‘diesel-like’ simplicity of biomethane fuel, while making a major impact on our environment by tackling the challenges associated with lowering HGV emissions.”

CNG Fuels says interest in the fuel has grown rapidly, with demand at its flagship station, in Leyland, Lancashire, up 170% in the 12 months to March. The company is developing a nationwide network of refuelling stations on major haulage routes, fed by the UK’s gas grid and compressing gas into fuel at the point of delivery.

Justin Laney, general manager central transport, John Lewis Partnership, said: “We’re committed to reducing the emissions from our fleet. This study will help us quantify not just the carbon emissions reduction of using biomethane, but also the benefits of using our industry-leading clean refrigeration equipment which we expect to show significant benefits for air quality.”