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Atlas Copco compressors power UK’s largest compressed natural gas vehicle filling station

July 2, 2015

Atlas Copco Greenfield compressors are playing an integral role at the UK’s largest Biomethane Compressed Natural Gas (Bio-CNG) filling station in Crewe, in keeping with the company’s global commitment to a cleaner environment and sustainable productivity. The newly opened filling station, which is operated by CNG Services Ltd., provides fuel that can offer an 80% reduction in CO2 and NOX emissions, and has the potential to lower transport operators’ fuel cost per mile by nearly a third.

Officially opened by MP, Edward Timpson, the station is the largest such facility in the UK, offering a highly reliable fuel supply with the capacity to fill 500 HGV’s per day via three fast-fill hoses, and making Crewe a key strategic point for UK transport. The station is already filling five CNG dual-fuel trucks for GIST/M&S, three for Tenens Environmental and one for Ceva Logistics/Tesco.

With oil prices increasing, high diesel cost is a major concern for fleet managers. CNG is a cost-effective alternative fuel solution that will reduce commercial fleet fuel bills, whilst maintaining vehicle performance to a level comparable with that of traditional fuels. With CNG, a typical haulier can expect around a 30% reduc­tion in the cost of fuel per mile for a dual-fuel tractor unit.

Compressed Natural Gas is made from natu­ral gas taken from the National Grid 7 bar gas grid. At the CNG Services filling station in Crewe, Atlas Copco Greenfield units are used to compress gas to 300bar, which is then stored in a bank of high pressure vessels capable of holding around 4,000kg of CNG, ready to be transferred via fast-fill 200 bar and 250 bar dispensers into vehicles. This operation is achieved by three Atlas Copco Greenfield C41JI 14AGP compressors, which are 110kW, four-stage reciprocating units rated at 450 Sm³/hr with an inlet pressure of 5.5bar(a).

CNG is used by vehicles that have either been specifi­cally built to run on CNG or converted to run on dual-fuel - CNG and diesel - and is a lower cost, lower emission alternative to petrol and diesel. It makes an excellent vehicle fuel for combustion engines due to its high octane rating and lower CO2 emissions, from burning methane instead of the C12 hydrocarbons found in diesel. These char­acteristics mean a more complete combustion, and result in reduced exhaust emissions. Moreover, the clean burn­ing characteristic can reduce engine stress and extends engine life.

Commenting on the role of Atlas Copco Greenfield within this enterprise, John Baldwin, Managing Director of CNG Services Ltd said: “When operating at full capacity, the filling station compressors will complete about 2000 hours a year and with planned maintenancewe anticipate a long and reliable service life from the units. We are aiming to build many more filling stations like this, and for them to be strategically placed at transport hubs. The6,000 km high pressure gas grid is a great source of low carbon, dry natural gas. It is also a vital national asset, and means that 90% of the UK’s major distribution centres are within 2 km of a low cost and low CO2 energy source for their trucks, especially if the natural gas is made from organic waste and injected into the grid as bio-methane.”

This view was echoed by Jacky Joas, Atlas Copco Greenfield’s global sales and marketing manager: “The UK is unique in that it already has a network for distributing high pressure gas, which is an asset that can help reduce diesel demand and reduce CO2 from trucks. Natural gas fuelling of passenger cars is widespread throughout Europe, but no other country has the high pressure gas grid and transport hub advantages of the UK for truck fleets.”

Truck and bus vehicle builders are already beginning to undertake CNG specific design changes and conversions and there is increased optimism for growth in market areas such as for refuse trucks and public transport. Atlas Copco is also ideally placed to meet growing demand, and is able to offer customers a complete equipment and finance package comprising Greenfield compressors, storage and dispensing equipment for CNG filling stations.

Written by Anne Barnes, Joanna Canton Long & Ian Clay

Europe Energy efficiency UK Four-stage reciprocating compressors Environment Greenfield Sustainability Oil and gas