Vincent Lesage, CEO of Bréger Transport in Laval (Mayenne), dreams of going diesel-free by 2030 while remaining competitive. A big ambition when you manage a group of 925 employees operating 700 trucks in France, Spain and Portugal. “It’s one hell of a challenge, but that’s what all of society expects »‘ said the boss.
In 2016 he bought “the first gas truck available on the market”. Since then, the models have greatly improved. “Fully loaded, they pull a little less than the diesels, but are significantly quieter,” appreciates Olivier Mary, Bréger rider for thirty years. The trucking company now has seventy trucks that run on compressed natural gas. Like 15,000 French trucks, buses or coaches.
“Rolling with local energies”
This natural gas is a fossil fuel. But it is also the fuel produced by methanizers based on livestock effluent and decomposable waste. Under the shrewd eyes of a few local residents, they are springing up like mushrooms in the West. Vincent Lesage, he will “running on local energies” and limit global warming. He pays a few cents more for this agrogas (known as “BioGNV”) by buying biomethane “certificates”: ” Under no circumstance to pay for gas from Russia or Qatar, he said. Must be consistent! » The liberated and ailing energy market is much less so. The following will show…
According to AFGNV measurements, environmentally conscious drivers will pay an average of 0.80 euros per kg of fuel at the beginning of 2021 (1). It’s cheaper than a liter of diesel, which will allow you to travel the same distance. The price difference compensates for the additional cost of buying gas trucks… Also biogas “Reduces up to 80% of our CO emissions2 », says Vincent Lesage. His customers from mass distribution or the automotive industry follow him in this approach, which improves their own CO2 balance.
“An insane price”
But the recovery of the world economy and then the war in Ukraine have shaken this virtuous model. Over the past year, the price of gas has skyrocketed relative to the price of oil. An example. On April 29, 2022, the Carrefour gas station around the Laval headquarters of Bréger sells its diesel at €1.783 inc VAT per liter, while BioNGV at €2.85 inc VAT per kg at the new Endesa gas station in Changé is sold (2)a Spanish group selected by the Territoire d’énergie Mayenne departmental union to distribute gas from local agriculture. “An insane price that has nothing to do with the production costs of methanizers”, the conveyor belt chokes.
He’s right. In the Vendée, 150 km south of where he lives, the group of farmers who run the agribiomethane filling station in Mortagne-sur-Sèvre reports a price at the pump three times lower, namely €0.96 including tax per kilo. Because they sell directly near their biogas plant? ” Not at all, replies one of the managers, Damien Roy. We wouldn’t have the right! We sell our gas to Engie (formerly GDF) and we buy it back 300m away to resell to the public. »
Two gases in the same tube
But to bargain, this Vendéan can commit to long-term fixed prices, while gas station networks depend on unbridled world prices and indiscriminately flow foreign fossil gas or local biomethane: the origin is different, but on arrival it is the same molecule that is in flows through the pipes. The same one that drives the counters crazy.
Eco-friendly transporters become the turkey of farce with their “certificates”: “Initially, biomethane cost five times as much. These certificates were used to compensate, promote, explains Gilles Durand from the French CNG association. But now that the proportion is reversed, the state no longer compensates! We see the limits of the mechanism. »
On the side of the Territoire d’énergie Mayenne, which aims to make the department self-sufficient in gas in the long term, we are seriously considering how to sell local BioNGV at a price better protected from global surges.
“Competition of Uses”
“If we don’t want to destroy this new sector, we have to secure the price of biomethane,” insists Vincent Lesage. But how does it work? If heard, everyone will be demanding BioNGV certificates to power factories and boilers and dodge rising fossil gas costs… “Yes, there is competition for use, replies the expert Gilles Durand. But the most virtuous is fuel, because we have no alternatives to decarbonize road transport in the next ten years. »
The boss of Bréger is very interested in future hydrogen engines and wants to test a small electric truck from 2023 “for short distances”. However, he also notes that the alternative models are not yet convincing when it comes to towing heavy trailers.
For his part, Gilles Durand, the gas defender, is preparing a letter to the future government. Perhaps a first project for the new ministers of President Emmanuel Macron, who was recently switched “ecological planning”.
(1) AFGNV: French natural gas association for vehicles, bringing together hauliers, shippers, truck manufacturers and energy specialists.
(2) Drivers pay around 20% less without taxes. You can benefit from additional discounts linked to the quantities purchased.