8 common questions about biogas and gas-powered trucks

Lars Mårtensson
4 min
Alternative fuels
Lars Mårtensson
Environment and Innovation Director at Volvo Trucks

To tackle rising diesel costs and replace fossil fuels in the transport industry, trucking businesses can now consider gas-powered trucks driven on liquefied biogas (bio-LNG). This can reduce emissions by up to 100 percent and the availability of biofuels at a competitive price is growing. But what is the difference between different gas types, what are the costs and which transport assignments are best suited? 

There is currently a need for different types of fuels and drivelines to be able to meet the needs of the green transition. Biogas is one alternative that can decarbonize the heavy-duty sector and at the same time it represents a long-term energy solution.

The number of liquefied gas filling stations is currently increasing, especially in Europe and gas is already a viable alternative to diesel, also for longer routes. At the moment over 60% of biogas production capacity is located in Europe and North America. Europe is currently the leading region with 20,000 biogas plants.

China is producing almost a third of the global total and aims to expand rural biogas production while improving waste management practices to produce nearly 17 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) by 2030 (from around 7 Mtoe today). Meanwhile India will provide financial support to local biogas co-generation plants. Biogas is also growing in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand where they will leverage vast quantities of available industry residues.

In 2022, the European Commission presented the REPowerEU Plan to reduce dependency on Russian fossil fuels well before 2030, which involves accelerating the roll-out of renewable energy. The Biomethane Action Plan sets out tools including a new biomethane industrial partnership and financial incentives to increase production ten times (compared to 2021) to 35 billion cubic meters (bcm) by 2030, to be able to replace fossil fuels in the transport sector. 

But what is the difference between gas fuel types and how do they compare to diesel?
Here are 8 common gas related questions:

1. What is liquefied biogas (bio-LNG)?

Bio-LNG, also known as liquefied biogas, consist primarily of Methane, just like LNG. Bio-LNG is a non-fossil fuel produced through a process where biogas from organic waste such as animal manure, sludge and food waste is converted into high-quality biomethane and liquefied to -162 degrees Celsius. In comparison with LNG, bio-LNG has significantly less CO₂ emissions. It also has higher fuel potential (the ability to replace diesel) than other alternatives like biodiesel. Bio-LNG can also be produced locally, saving transport costs and carbon emissions and contribute to energy security.

2. What is liquefied natural gas (LNG)?

Liquefied natural gas is natural gas that has been cooled down to liquid form for shipping and storage. While natural gas is a fossil fuel, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) can reduce CO₂ emissions by between 10-20% compared to diesel, due to less carbon per energy unit. LNG is traded globally which means it is a part of the global energy trade and shipped worldwide.

3. What is compressed biogas (bio-CNG) and natural gas (CNG)?

The only difference between bio-LNG/LNG and bio-CNG/CNG is that the latter is compressed at high pressure and stored in tanks on the truck. The downside with compressed gas is that it means shorter range for the truck than driving on liquefied gas. As with bio-LNG, compressed biogas (bio-CNG) can be produced locally and is a non-fossil fuel while CNG is a fossil fuel.

4. How far can you drive on a gas-powered truck?

Currently LNG and bio-LNG-powered trucks can travel up to 1000 km before refilling, making it a viable fuel for long-haul applications. CNG has a shorter range and is more commonly used for local transport.

5. What kind of transports is suitable for trucks driving on gas?

CNG and bio-CNG have traditionally been used for local transports such as distribution and refuse collection in city environments. Electric trucks are becoming a competitive alternative in cities, which opens up new ways of using biogas, for example in long-haul trucks as bio-LNG. Like LNG, bio-LNG has high energy density and gas trucks are therefore suitable for long-haul transport. In the long-term, gas-powered trucks will complement electric trucks. Especially when driven on biogas. 

6. What is the cheapest alternative – gas or diesel?

It depends on several factors and market specific conditions. A gas-powered truck is more expensive than a diesel truck, but the total cost of operations can be lower thanks to either low gas prices or different incentives such has road tolls or taxes. Biogas-powered trucks can also be a prerequisite to keep or gain new business opportunities due to increasing environmental demands.

7. What is happening when it comes to the infrastructure for gas – such as availability, fueling and upcoming investments?

The infrastructure for gas-powered trucks is growing rapidly and the trucks are developing continuously. Biogas and biomethane are the fastest-growing forms of bioenergy and even if a major part of biogas production lies in Europe and North America, the International Energy Agency (IEA) believes their global market share in total bioenergy demand will grow from 5% today to 12% - 20% depending on future scenarios.

More than 600 stations for LNG/bio-LNG already exist today in Europe. That has grown by more than 100 stations in a year. Investments are also being made in the production of bio-LNG and major actors are moving towards bio-LNG due to the need to move towards non-fossil fuels. When it comes to fueling it’s similar to diesel in terms of time, but you need to take standard safety precautions due to the cold liqueified gas.

8. Should you invest in a gas-powered truck?

Gas-powered trucks can be a competitive alternative to diesel and the technology is continuously improving in terms of efficiency and range. And biogas (bio-LNG) has the circular and climate benefits being requested by more and more customers within the transport industry. It is also an alternative fuel that is already available today in many places.

Learn more about gas-powered trucks here or contact your local dealer for more information.

The most frequently asked questions about bio-LNG