John Lewis to build biomethane gas filling station

The John Lewis Partnership has announced plans to build a dedicated biomethane gas filling station to enable its largest heavy goods vehicles to use a low-carbon alternative to diesel, as part of its commitment to reduce carbon emissions. In March 2019, the employee-owned business, which is the parent company of high-end department store John Lewis and Waitrose supermarket, pledged to become net-zero carbon across its entire operations by 2050 at the latest and its 600 heavy goods vehicles to be switched to low-carbon biomethane by 2028.  Since last year, the Partnership has reduced its total operational carbon emissions by 6.6 per cent and emissions from its transport solutions have fallen by 6.9 per cent.

"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," said Justin Laney, partner and general manager of central transport at the John Lewis Partnership. "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." The new biomethane gas filling station will be built in conjunction with Air Liquide and will open at the partnership's head office in Bracknell, Berkshire, in December 2020, making it the business' first on-site gas filling station.

Artist impression of the filling station in Bracknell

Image credit: The John Lewis Partnership

The firm said it will facilitate the conversion of the Bracknell Waitrose fleet to biomethane and complement gas filling stations already in use near to John Lewis and Waitrose regional distribution centres in Leyland, Lancashire, and in Northampton.

The biomethane, which will serve around 120 Waitrose HGVs, will be made from food waste and food processing waste materials. This will reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 80 per cent, with each truck saving more than 100 tonnes of CO2 every year, the Partnership said. It added the HGVs will also be quieter and thus help to reduce noise pollution, which is important for urban deliveries. Furthermore, over the next seven years, the Bracknell site alone will save over 70,000 tonnes of CO2, equivalent to the carbon footprint produced by over 13,000 UK households. 

Since 2015, 85 of the John Lewis Partnership's heavy diesel vehicles have been replaced with biomethane trucks. A further 143 will be purchased and in operation by the end of 2020, the firm said, making it the largest order of biomethane trucks in the UK. To reduce carbon emissions across its transport network further, the Partnership's ambition is to eliminate fossil fuels from its commercial vehicle and car fleet by 2030. This initiative could see 1,750 electric vans and light trucks introduced and approximately 750 refrigerated trailers converted from diesel to electric drive.

Any remaining vehicles that could not be converted to biomethane or electric will use hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) biodiesel.

In addition to reducing transport carbon emissions, the Partnership is also reducing the carbon emissions produced by its shops, with refrigeration units used in Waitrose being replaced. Hydro Fluoro Carbon (HFC) - the greenhouse gases used in cooling systems - are currently being switched to HFC-free refrigerators, with the company saying this will be completed by 2028.

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