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Plans to build and run a green fuelling station in Leeds have taken a step forward with a major funding announcement for Leeds City Council and Northern Gas Networks (NGN).

Ofgem has awarded the north of England’s gas distributor, Northern Gas Networks, working in partnership with the council, £700,000 from its Network Innovation Competition (NIC) meaning the project has moved even closer to becoming a reality.

NGN and the council wish to work in partnership with the private sector to build and run a compressed natural gas filling station to improve air quality in the city and reduce carbon emissions with construction due to get underway in 2017 if successful.

Compressed natural gas cuts particulate matter – which is very harmful to our health – by almost 100 per cent and nitrogen oxides by around 90 per cent. It also reduces carbon dioxide emissions by around a quarter.

While willing to invest in compressed natural gas filling stations, private companies are cautious due to the high cost of connecting to the gas mains unless there is an established market.

However, without a fuelling station, people and businesses who are keen to go green are unable to buy vehicles that run on compressed natural gas.  The funding awarded under the NIC will allow for this chicken and egg situation to be tackled.

The council has already agreed to convert its refuse collection fleet to run on compressed natural gas with an investment of £1.58 million over five years to demonstrate to investors that there is a clear, ready-made client and prove the business case.

NGN’s role will be to construct the high pressure pipeline feeding the station.

Andy Irwin, Head of Innovation & Futures at NGN said: “There are still some significant hurdles to overcome before the project can become a reality, but the funding is an important step forward.”

He continued: “We believe that this project will offer significant benefits to the Leeds region.  There is potential to open the fuelling station to any ‘back to depot’ vehicle including buses, taxis and commercial fleet, including our own vans. In fact, we’re currently trialling vans powered by natural gas in our fleet.”

Leeds City Council’s executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, Councillor Richard Lewis said: “If we want a cleaner, greener, healthier city we need to create the conditions that will deliver a more sustainable future. There’s still a long way to go but the funding is a clear signal that our plans, for what could be the UK’s biggest compressed natural gas station, have merit.

“Investing in the conversion of our fleet of 70 bin lorries is just the start. If our long-term plans come to fruition, haulage firms, bus and coach companies and fleets of vans could make the switch too with a ready-made fuelling station and proven business case, making vast improvements to air quality and the environment.”

The council has formed a dedicated project team to appoint a station operator. The project is expected to commence in 2016, with construction starting before the end of 2017.  The station will be situated in the Aire Valley within the vicinity of the Leeds Enterprise Zone.

Converting the council’s refuse collection vehicles to run on compressed natural gas will make a significant dent in the council’s emissions.

Five bin wagons already run on liquefied natural gas which has cut harmful emissions and offer better fuel economy.

For more information go to www.northerngasnetworks.co.uk