€6.4m EU fund to begin roll-out of Gas Transport Network

Good news for Irish road transport operators interested in running their fleet with a viable alternative and green fuel that is Natural Gas. European funding for Gas Filling Stations which has been secured by Gas Networks Ireland, will see renewable gas come on stream in the near future. Commercial vehicle manufacturers specializing in producing trucks, buses and vans powered by Natural Gas have welcomed this development.

Gas Networks Ireland, the operator of the Irish gas network, has secured €6.4m in funding from the EU Commission, which will facilitate the funding of the first 14 stations of a planned network of 70 Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) filling stations around the country.

In addition to this, the EU funding will also support the construction of a renewable gas injection point, and provide support to commercial vehicle owners wishing to purchase dedicated CNG vehicles, ensuring that renewable gas will become part of Ireland’s transport fuel mix.

From early 2017, commercial users will be able to switch from vehicles powered by diesel, to a cleaner gas alternative. The network will include public filling stations and a number of private stations, with the latter developed in partnership with heavy fuel users.

The development of the new Compressed Natural Gas Network will commence before the end of 2016, with the first stations opening in early 2017. The network will be delivered along the main transport corridors, principally the motorway network. CNG is particularly suited to commercial transport, where longer journeys and heavier loads exclude electric vehicles as a viable option.

Under the programme, Gas Networks Ireland will be looking for partners to integrate CNG equipment into conventional forecourts throughout the country. This designated fuelling infrastructure will allow CNG to be delivered from fast-fill dispensers, with similar fill times to diesel and petrol.  Grant funding to assist in the purchase of CNG-powered vehicles will focus initiatially on heavy goods vehicles and buses. Further details on this funding will be outlined in early 2017.

A number of vehicle manufacturers currently provide a comprehensive range of CNG vehicles to Irish fleet operators. As a show of confidence in the market, Iveco has just launched its ground-breaking, dedicated CNG Stralis 400 hp 4×2 Natural Power tractor-unit with 12-speed EuroTronic automated gearbox, recently awarded Green Commercial of the Year 2017 by Fleet Transport, into the Irish market in 2016. Other major vehicle manufacturers, and their Irish distributors, including Scania and Volvo, are also expected to launch their latest Euro 6 CNG models into the Irish market in the coming months.

The benefits of CNG, particularly to large energy users, are clearly evident.  CNG is cleaner than diesel and other fuels. It delivers up to 22% saving on CO2, 70% less Nitrogen Oxide and 95% less particulate matter. The vehicles run more silently also. CNG delivers fuel cost savings of up to 35% for commercial users. This means that businesses using CNG can not only reduce emissions, they can save money while doing so.

Commenting on the significant development, Denis O’Sullivan, Head of Commercial, Gas Networks Ireland said: “We are delighted to confirm the approval of funding from the EU Commission for the roll-out of a transformative energy network for Irish commercial road users. Not only will this help fund the development of a network of CNG stations, it is an important vote of confidence in the project. The inclusion of a specific provision for the development of a renewable gas injection point will be another important step in transforming the gas network. Natural Gas is the cleanest fossil fuel and will play a vital role in reducing emissions that cause climate change. Renewable gas will play an even more important role, providing a carbon neutral fuel for the future of our country.”

Iveco has taken a lead role in the development of Natural Gas powered trucks, buses and vans. Stuart Webster, MD Iveco UK & Ireland is particularly pleased to hear this news of the funding and said: “To date we have invested heavily on improving the drivelines on our Natural Power vehicles, which have been recognized by the industry and selling in strong numbers across Europe. We will have a number of demonstrators coming on stream early in the New Year and available through our agent Emerald Truck & Van in Dublin.”