Wessex vehicles may run on biogas
 WESSEX Water plc, the YTL Group's (4677) UK subsidiary, is considering powering some of its fleet of vehicles with biogas.

This, however, depends on the trial run of a Volkswagen Beetle fuelled by methane gas.

Early last week, Wessex, via its subsidiary GENeco, started testing the Beetle that is powered by methane gas derived from human waste, the first such test done in the UK.

Wessex press office manager Ian Drury said testing will run for six months.

"This will involve comparing it to other alternative uses of producing electricity and or injecting clean gas into the National Grid.

"If successful, we may look to power some of our fleet on biogas," Drury told Business Times.

Using biogas as a fuel for motor vehicles is very rare in the UK, but not across many cities in mainland Europe.

From the likes of Stockholm and Rome to Reykjavik and Lille, biogas derived from sewage and food waste is an established and commonly used fuel in municipal buses and private cars.

Less tax, less noise and less pollution makes it a very attractive alternative to petrol and diesel.

GENeco's Bettle or dubbed as Bio-Bug, is a conventional two-litre convertible. It was modified to operate with both petrol and compressed methane gas.

The car starts with using petrol and when the engine is "up to temperature", the system automatically switches to methane as its source of fuel.

Similary when the methane tank is low on fuel, the car will automatically revert to petrol.

The conversion carried out by the greenfuel company in Bath takes the same time and is similar in cost to cars that are converted to the more conventional liquefied petrol gas.

According to GENeco, the fuel for Bio-Bug is produced at Bristol sewage treatment works in Avonmouth and is stored in cylinders.

On the potential of using biogas from sewage treatment process, Drury said there are a few options including setting up pure biogas stations or injecting the cleaned gas into the National Grid.

"We need to see a more general uptake in compressed natural gas before we can offer this.

"Certainly companies like ours can set up a supply station for their own vehicles, which operate a back-to-base daily operations, so therefore are near to the fuelling station," he said.

Drury said the Bio-Bug is a breakthrough in the drive to encourage sustainable power.

He noted that the carbon dioxide emitted from the Beetle is not from the fossil fuel but would have been captured from the atmosphere by food plants.

"Therefore, there is no additional carbon dioxide being added to the atmosphere. It is sustainable in the way it is powered because it runs on gas generated from the treatment of sewage sludge," he explained.

On savings to be made from using this biogas, Drury said if the two gas canisters in the Bio-Bug are full, the car can travel around 400km.

"It is about 60 per cent of the cost in fuel," he said.