The EIC’s celebration of the best innovation in the utilities sector, The UK Energy Innovation Awards, returns in 2019. Awards are open for entries now.
CNG Fuels won the Environmental Impact Award at the UK Energy Innovation Awards in 2017. The judges agreed its work in a sector that is notoriously very difficult to decarbonise is genuinely innovative and has a clear commercial application.
“In 2017 we had commissioned and successfully operated the UK’s pioneering Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) station in Leyland connected to the high-pressure (LTS) natural gas grid for its first year,” explains Nicholas Reid, Commercial Director at CNG Fuels.
“The station supplies 100 percent renewable Biomethane (Bio-CNG) and we had a lot of data about how great Bio-CNG is, proving the technology does work, and we wanted to raise awareness about that.”
The CNG Fuels team believed the UK Energy Innovation Awards would be a good opportunity to extoll the benefits of the technology and the service – helping to raise awareness with both the general population and with its target audience of fleet and logistics managers.
An Innovative Solution
CNG Fuels provides 100 percent renewable Biomethane for transport and industrial applications, particularly aimed at supplying HGV fleets. Gas is harnessed from food waste via anaerobic digestors. A mass balancing approach via the UK gas network maximises environmental benefits and enables organisations to move away from diesel HGV fleets to a lower carbon, more sustainable Bio-CNG fleet.
Having got Waitrose on board, with the retailer testing the CNG Fuels solution across a section of its delivery vehicle fleet, CNG Fuels had garnered compelling data about the benefits of the solution.
Data from 14 months of independent monitoring showed the new Bio-CNG HGVs in the fleet were saving 80-85 percent in CO2 emissions compared to diesel HGVs, tail-pipe emissions were ultra-clean with 45-75 percent NOx reductions compared to a Euro-VI diesel HGV, and as much as 99.6 percent total reduction in NO2 (the nasty part of NOx emissions). Coupled with vehicle noise reductions of 50 percent and fuel cost savings of up to 40 percent, the results were compelling.
The scale of the opportunity is large. Although HGVs represent just 1.3 percent of UK road vehicles, they account for 17 percent of all road CO2 emissions and 21 percent of all road NOx emission. The potential to reduce those by moving to Bio-CNG is significant – especially for an industry which is so difficult to decarbonise.
CNG Fuels’ stations can service 500 HGVs per day, which is equivalent to displacing 40 million litres of diesel per year or removing 100,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.
Entering the Award
“We thought the awards would be a great way to let people know about CNG Fuels, as well as to encourage other fleets to trial our service,” says Nick, "We also thought we had a good chance – the technology is great, and our customers are loving it. We’d had buy in from a significant partner, and we now needed to expand the network.”
Winning the award has helped to spur the company’s growth. Since then, almost all the major logistics and supermarkets have been undertaking vehicle trials with CNG Fuels. The company is now assessing geographical hubs where its filling stations should be located, with a further five stations planned to be commissioned in 2019.
“Winning the award has certainly been another feather in our cap. It helps us to say ‘it’s proven technology’ to fleet managers, to funders; it’s incredibly helpful.”
CNG Fuels has ambitious growth plans. By the summer of 2020, it should have ten stations operating across the UK serving HGV fleets.
“We’d like to eventually be opening a location every one or two months, ideally,” says Nick.
Customers are onboard: Waitrose recently announced that it would no longer purchase diesel HGVs. All future vehicles will use CNG.
Nick concludes, “As we get more and more vehicle user buy in, we can work out where
future stations should be located. And we can help to clean up this notoriously difficult part of the road network.”
Nick’s tips for would-be innovators
When you’re a start-up or operating in an innovative or disruptive field, you have to be prepared to take two steps forward and three steps back. You will be putting out fires, you will be problem solving. No matter how great your technology is, it’s not all going to be rosy all the way. You have to approach it with the expectation you will get things wrong. And that’s fine, as long as you are learning from it. Seek help from experts. Don’t be sensitive about the mistakes you make. Be adaptable and move quickly. Keep your customer always at the forefront of what you do.
Nick’s tips for would-be award entrants
Whether you win or lose, answering the awards questions will help you focus on your business and what it is doing. You need to understand the key metrics; what makes it worthy of attention; why should people know about it. Be specific and to the point. Being forced to be succinct helps you understand the core of your business and what makes it relevant. If you can’t sum it up in fifty words, then you need to rethink. The process helps you to get this focus and move forward in the right way, so it’s valuable in its own right. And, of course, you could win.