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Logistics sets sights on liquefied natural gas


January 2016: Unilever’s logistics organisation in Europe shows its latest commitment to creating a more sustainable operation with the introduction of trucks powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Branded LNG truck in the Dutch Logistics operations

What makes LNG better than diesel?

Paul de Jong, Logistics Transformation & Innovation Director, explains: “LNG offers a carbon dioxide reduction of 11.5% and a 35% reduction of the smog-causing chemicals, nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions, compared to diesel. Where it gets really interesting is the way LNG cuts fine particulates – the tiny particles linked to heart and respiratory illness – by 95%, and noise levels by up to 50%.”

A rallying call to the industry

While the fuel itself is viable, Europe’s roads don’t offer a sufficiently large network of LNG fuelling stations. So Paul and his team embarked on a unique collaborative project. They set up a Unilever-led consortium – known as Connect2LNG – to build five LNG fuelling stations in France and Germany, where the infrastructure gaps are greatest.

“With Connect2LNG, we’re working with partners from across the value chain, including logistics companies, infrastructure companies and manufacturers,” says Mark Rickhoff, Logistics Transformation & Innovation Manager. “We’re taking a step towards the overall reshaping the road freight industry in Europe, working towards a sustainable transportation future.”

The European Commission offered 50% of the funding required to make the Connect2LNG project happen. Its investment of €9 million confirmed that a network of LNG filling stations was meeting a major need in logistics.

LNG is just the start

Connect2LNG forms part of the Logistics team’s contribution to the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. As it works towards its 2020 target of a 40% reduction in carbon emissions, the team is exploring a wider range of approaches and initiatives. One is strategically locating factories and warehouses to reduce the number of kilometres clocked up on the road. Another is looking at different pallet heights to load our trucks most efficiently.

A future where bio-LNG will be the big hitter

LNG is a transition fuel as we make our way to a cleaner future. The use of electricity or hydrogen to power trucks over long distances is still some way off. However, biofuels or bio-LNG are a more realistic and cleaner fuel for our fleet in the medium term. We will almost certainly look to them as road transportation gears up for a low-carbon future, especially as they offer a 70% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions compared to diesel.

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