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Sainsbury’s Begins Food Delivery With Biomethane-Fueled Heavy-Duty Truck

Sainsbury’s is beginning daily food deliveries from its depot in Bristol (UK) to the supermarket’s new environmental store in Dartmouth—a 500 km (311 miles) round trip—using a Mercedes-Benz Axor truck fueled with biomethane produced from landfill gas.

The truck is retrofitted with UK-based Clean Air Power’s Genesis Dual-Fuel system, which enables heavy-duty diesel engines to operate primarily on natural gas, with diesel fuel acting as a “liquid spark plug”. (Earlier post.) Using biomethane from landfills can save up to 60% in CO2 emissions compared with diesel fuel, according to Sainsbury’s.

The Genesis Dual-Fuel aftermarket system was developed for the DAF CF85 and Mercedes-Benz Axor Euro III heavy-duty trucks. A Euro V product compatible with SCR (AdBlue) will be available on Volvo’s FM vehicles by the end of 2008. On-road, Genesis delivers 50% to 60% gas substitution, resulting in a greenhouse gas reduction of 10% using fossil fuel methane, according to Clean Air Power.

Dual-Fuel is also available in an ECU-interfaced variant in which the Clean Air Power electronic control unit (ECU)—The Hawk—is interfaced directly with the OEM ECU. Interfaced control delivers the best from the Dual-Fuel system, with optimized emissions of criteria pollutants, a 20% reduction in GHG and 90% fuel substitution. Interfaced Dual-Fuel systems can be offered as a OEM or aftermarket products.

In addition to the current Dual-Fuel technology, Clean Air Power is developing MicroPilot, which will use smaller diesel pilot injections comprising 1-2% of the total fuel to reduce NOx emissions by more than 80%. Clean Air Power intends MicroPilot engines to be compliant with Euro V and beyond.

Other partners in the project with Sainsbury are Gasrec and BOC, who with SITA UK in June began production of liquid biomethane(LBM) for vehicle fuel from the Gasrec plant at SITA UK’s Albury landfill site in Surrey, UK. (Earlier post.)

This is a real first for how food is delivered in the UK, although the technology used is already used in Lille, France where city buses and refuse lorries run on biomethane. Our aim is to now roll this out to our entire fleet so that we can make this technology work for all food deliveries across the UK, it makes complete environmental sense, and given escalating fuel costs, economic sense too. The beauty of it is it doesn’t use any fossil fuel like conventional fuel. This means the methane from rotting rubbish, which is damaging to our climate is put to positive used. We’re extremely proud to be the first UK supermarket to deliver food using these technologies in partnership with Clean Air Power, Gasrec and BOC.

—Alison Austin, environmental affairs manager, Sainsbury’s

Sainsbury’s is aiming to reduce the like-for-like distance its fleet and suppliers travel by 5 million km by 2010. It is also working to convert 20% of its online delivery vehicles to electric vans.

Sainsbury built its environmental store with consideration for the use of energy, water, waste, timber and land, and is aiming to be one of the first supermarkets to achieve a BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) “Excellent” rating for its commitment to sustainable construction. The store will deliver a 40% reduction of overall CO2 emissions compared to a conventional store through a number of measures, including:

  • Using a biomass boiler for building and water heating, thereby reducing energy taken from the national grid by 50%.

  • Quiet revolution wind turbines will power the checkouts, and contribute to cutting electricity usage (kWh) by a third.

  • Lower lighting levels, dimmers and more natural light will also make carbon savings, and cool air will be collected from chillers to keep the store cool during warmer months. Plus all the warehouse lights turn off if no one is there.

  • The new Sainsbury&rsuqo;s store has been designed to leak less draughts.

  • Rainwater will be collected, and used to flush customer and colleague toilets, and to irrigate plants. The store will save over more than million liters of mains water every year, and use 60% less water overall.

  • The store’s construction is also environmentally responsible, and where possible recycled or recyclable materials have been used, or FSC-approved timber. As 200 trees have been used for the frame of the store, Sainsbury’s has since re-planted 400 trees in the local community.

(A hat-tip to John!)



Hard to beat this for sustainability, a 2nd generation biofuel that is avaiable now and can be used in diesel vehicles. This may be the future for road transport, keep the benefits of diesel engine efficiency but reduce the CO2 by about 2/3rds, also better for local air quality. And the vehicle still runs on diesel


I always dream abouth having a machine at my home to make methane out of our wastes that we waste by the way.
Less pollution and cheap fuel.


I understand landfill gas is usually used to run stationary engines due to low heating value and limited supply. If the gas needs to be scrubbed and heavily compressed or liquified the net energy gain may be reduced. The article talks of emissions improvements but not performance. If this is the way ahead the gas needs to be interchangeable with CNG and so that engines use only minor amounts of liquid diesel.

John Baldwin

This landfill site is a long way from the electricity grid so no opportunity to generate electricity. Even if an electricity grid was near, because of absence of any use for waste heat at landfill sites, it is now economic to clean up the gas and inject into the gas grid or make into liquid gas to transport to a more efficient use. An elec generation plant using landfill gas wil typically be around 30% efficient, with gas flared when the plant is down. This is no longer acceptable at todays high energy prices.

Stan Wellaway

In addition to this gas truck, Sainsbury's have also been buying electric trucks - in line with a commitment they made over a year ago, that 20% of their urban delivery fleet would be electric by September 2008, and 100% electric by 2010. See the Case Studies page on the Smith website

With September ending 6 weeks from now, I guess we can expect a progress report at that time.

Stan, this is one of their HGV's that haul goods from their distribution center to the stores, no currently a candidate for electric power.
One of the significant reductions in GHG's using landfill gas is that it was either being flared or just left to escape the landfill on its own, now with it collected and used as LBG (liquid bio-gas) it saves those GHG from the atmosphere and gets some power out of it.

Stan Wellaway

Yes, I agree - EVs are of no use on the open road. Only of use in depot-based delivery fleets. Good to see Sainsburys continuing to look at every option in each situation. This gas one being an excellent project imo.

Henry Gibson

Methane can be easily and quickly produced from high energy wastes like contaminated and waste flour, fruits, grains et cetera. ARTI in India has developed small units that produce gas for preparing supper from waste fruit put in at breakfast. Whilst it may be nice to use landfill gas, North sea gas also reduces CO2 if used. I am surprised that this company does not seem to use cogeneration. Capstone makes almost maintenance free turbo-generator combined heat and power units for small and large businesses. UTC has units that supply electricity, heat and cooling with a high use of the waste heat of generation. No business building or other large building should be allowed to be built without co-generation. Whilst the first cost may be high the long term costs will be lower and the CO2 release due to the operation of the building will be much lower. ..HG..


It is fascinating to see how regulation, taxation and technology can combine to achieve results.

a.) Regulation.
One of the few effective changes to regulation in the EU has been the encouragement of the tapping of methane from land fill sites and sewage treatment.

b.) Taxation.
Europe has substantial taxation on road fuels, with diesel for trucking taxed, but not as severely as gasoline. Britain being a small island with severe congestion and city smog also has high taxation on diesel, but has much lower taxation on LPG on CNG.
In future, bio-methane is likely to be taxes much less than fossil fuels.

c.) Technology.
With regulation and taxation creating a supply of bio-methane, research and development can lead to a new market. In this case bio-methane replaces some of the heavily taxed fossil diesel for trucking.

Whether your primary concern is energy security, global climate change, city air quality or rising transport fuel costs, this is a very encouraging development.

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