Waitrose trucks to run on biomethane

A dedicated biomethane gas filling station will open at the John Lewis Partnership’s head office in Bracknell later this year, the company has announced today (18 June).

Image: M Howell

The business’ first on-site gas filling station, built in conjunction with French company Air Liquide, will open in December 2020 and serve around 120 Waitrose heavy goods trucks, running on biomethane fuel made from food waste and other waste materials.

Biomethane is derived from organic waste, such as food waste, treated in an anaerobic digester – where microbes break down the organic matter in the absence of oxygen to produce biogas, which is then cleaned and converted to biomethane. This form of fuel has increased in uptake in recent years for use in companies’ private fleets as well as public transport.

John Lewis states that the move towards biomethane will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80 per cent, with each truck saving over 100 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) every year. Within seven years, the Bracknell site alone could save over 70,000 tonnes of CO2, equivalent to the carbon footprint produced by over 13,000 UK households.

Moreover, as these gas trucks are also quieter, decreasing noise pollution, John Lewis believes they are more suitable for urban deliveries than diesel alternatives.

This new station will complement gas filling stations run by CNG Fuels used by the company near to John Lewis and Waitrose regional distribution centres in Leyland, Lancashire, and in Northampton.

Since 2015, 85 of the John Lewis’ heavy diesel vehicles have already been replaced with biomethane trucks, and a further 143 will be purchased and in operation by the end of 2020, making this the largest order of biomethane trucks in the UK.

Last year, the business pledged to achieve net-zero carbon across its entire operations by 2050 and switch 600 heavy goods vehicles to low-carbon biomethane by 2028. Since last year, John Lewis has reduced its total operational carbon emissions by 6.6 per cent and emissions from transport have fallen by 6.9 per cent.

Alongside today’s announcement, John Lewis has also revealed an ambition to stop using fossil fuels across its entire transport fleet of 4,800 vehicles by 2030.

This would see 1,750 electric vans and light trucks introduced and 750 refrigerated trailers converted from diesel to electric drive across the business’ operations. It would also mean its 1,300-strong car fleet would become 100 per cent electric with any remaining vehicles that could not be converted to biomethane or electric using hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) biodiesel.

Reducing the carbon impact of fuel is a key part of the government’s ‘Road to Zero’ strategy, part of the wider Industrial Strategy launched in January 2017, which sets out a ‘voluntary industry-supported commitment’ to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from heavy goods vehicles by 15 per cent from 2015 levels before 2025.

Commenting on the announcement today, Justin Laney, Partner and General Manager of Central Transport at the John Lewis Partnership, said: “The evidence of climate change is all around us, so it’s important we act now using available technology rather than wait for unproven solutions to appear.

“We are working hard towards our new aim of removing all fossil fuel from our transport fleet by 2030, which will reduce our carbon emissions by over half a million tonnes and gets us well on the way to our ultimate target of operating a net zero carbon emission fleet.”

Seeking to address its carbon emissions within its shops, John Lewis is also replacing its refrigeration units in Waitrose to Hydro Fluoro Carbon-free refrigerators, which will be completed by 2028.

You can read more about John Lewis’ commitments on its website.