Industry News

What are the Zero Carbon Options?

A recently released Truck Industry Council report gives us a comprehensive guide as to what the options are going to be or are likely to be, down the track for trucking operators answering questions like, what are the zero carbon options?

Some of these options are genuine zero carbon, others are low carbon options which may be a step on the way to zero emissions, or may turn out to be the solution which works in particular operations.

Natural gas has been used in the Australian trucking industry in the past with mixed results.

“More recently biomethane or renewable natural gas, or a processed form of biogas has emerged as a more sustainable variant source from biomass or waste feedstocks, but is entirely compatible with existing CNG infrastructure,” says the TIC report.

“Natural gas requires major vehicle modifications to accommodate a dedicated spark ignited engine or a dual fuel system with diesel. Natural gas in trucks has been available for many years in Australia, but enthusiasm peaked over a decade ago.”

This is a technology which has come and gone for many fleets in Australia, but the technology still exists.

Another development in the move towards zero emissions could be the use to use alternative fuel replacements instead of the current diesel.

“These fuels are referred to as low or zero carbon fuels,” says the TIC. “Despite differences in refining technology, renewable fuels all have one thing in common. They are derived from biomass feedstocks, such as agricultural inputs, canola, corn, soya palm oil, animal fats (tallow) or waste (eg used cooking oil).

“Renewable fuels can typically be ‘dropped in’ to the existing diesel system, at different concentration rates for different renewable fuels. Biodiesel can be blended up to 5 per cent under existing Australian fuel quality standards, while some truck OEMs allow up to 20 per cent biodiesel (B20) without modification, or minor modification, to the engine.”

Some truck OEMs allow up to 20 per cent biodiesel without modification. In Australia, biodiesel was widely used in the early 2000s, but many facilities have closed.

However, this is this fuel is not the same as renewable diesel, which is also made from biomass that has been more significantly refined and is chemically identical to diesel, making it 100 per cent compatible with diesel drive trains, without engine modification or blending.

For renewable diesel the fact that it can be dropped into the current diesel system means no special refuelling infrastructure is required. These fuels like hydrogenated vegetable oils, HVO, have already appeared on the market and many will be waiting until the price goes down before venturing into the use of these fuels.

“Production of renewable fuels in Australia remains constrained as it tends to result in a more expensive fuel than diesel and therefore doesn’t provide a payback,” says the TIC.

“Variability in lifecycle emissions of biodiesel production has also led to some criticism of its specific decarbonising outcomes. These two issues have been addressed overseas with accreditation standards national/regional usage targets and carbon credits or similar. Australian governments have failed to implement any of these policy/regulatory measures.

“Bio and renewable diesel fuel use can’t be tracked as a proportion of new truck sales, as any truck, old or new, is a candidate for bio and/or renewable diesel use. A different measurement metric is required for the usage of these fuels. For example, tracking/accounting of these fuels supply/use to the road transport sector, much in the way mineral diesel fuel use is accounted for in Australia.”

These renewable fuel solutions are ones which can be, quite literally, dropped into the trucking industry and could provide a solution which would certainly take the trucking industry on the road to zero carbon, but may not be able to take us all the way.

On this topic the TIC view is that governments, both federal and state, need to amend regulations and legislate to help these alternatives grow in this market, stating, “These fuels MUST form part of government’s transition strategy for the road freight sector.’


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