Biomethane as the logical optimum tram fuel

Above – tram wires in Liepzig – are they intrusive?

Herewith an extract of one of Christopher Maltin’s earlier letters which followed a useful meeting with the DfT:

 Dear DFT,

We trust you are in agreement that much of the UK’s local urban air quality is unacceptable because of the high levels of particulates and that buses, however fuelled, with flexible tyres running on roads are guaranteed to worsen the local air quality.  As electric vehicles are heavier than conventionally powered vehicles the movement of any such vehicles with tyres (including electric cars and taxis) will be creating additional carcinogenic micro-particles contributing to this health problem and leading to increased premature mortality.

It is now universally accepted that trams with steel wheels running on steel rails do not produce these dangerous airborne particulates and also that a tram requires less than one quarter of the energy than is required by a bus carrying the same amount of pasengers on the same route.  The question then becomes how these trams should be powered, for which we offer our comments on the four most obvious methods:

A    Overhead wires:

1         Require installation and maintenance

2         Are liable to suffer from problems caused by extreme weather conditions, likely to become more extreme due to climate change:

a.       Wind, hot weather, snow, ice and falling trees have all been shown to have a detrimental, sometimes catastrophic, effect on overhead power lines

3 ( but see note below from David Holt-Ed)*         Appear unsightly and hence local authorities are concerned that the wires and stanchions will be visually unacceptable to the public, particularly when being considered for historic cities

4         Use electricity which is not even 50% renewable as it comes from the national electricity grid:

a.       The electricity grid will not be supplied from 100% renewable sources for many years

b.       Power from fossil fuel gas is presently being used for heating at a rate at least four times greater than the total electricity use.  When this fossil fuel gas ceases as proposed under present UK government policy the renewable electricity grid will need more than five times the amount of electricity for direct heating and for powering heat pumps

c.       The electricity for the overhead wires serving mainline railways is contractually supplied by EDF and is almost entirely generated from non-renewable sources


B    On board batteries:

1         Are expensive

a.       Will always be expensive and will become even more expensive as the demand for them increases, not cheaper as is being widely assumed

2         Are heavy, so more energy is required to accelerate and slow and stop the vehicle in which they are being carried around

3         Have a limited life, during which their performance decreases, when compared with an electric motor or a generator or an engine

4         Have high environmental impact:

a.       Are manufactured using rare earths and precious metals in their construction

b.       Have dubious mining methods as regards human rights

c.       The extraction of the materials for their construction causes permanent environmental damage including deforestation, subsequent erosion, loss of biodiversity, significant use of water resources and results in enduring visual damage to the landscape

d.       Use finite resources which are fossil based and non-renewable

5         Have a limited range when used to power a vehicle:

a.       This range may well be increased in the future, but such improvements will take time to develop

b.       Can never have the energy density of a fuel

6         Require fast charging systems:

a.       These are expensive and are still under development to accomplish recharging within acceptable time periods

b.       Recharging batteries creates heat and requires cooling of the batteries and the recharging systems, hence wasting energy


C    Hydrogen:

1         Is not a fuel

2         It is just an energy carrier and, having been made into a gaseous fuel, has the lowest energy density of any fuel

3         Requires energy to create hydrogen as a fuel (e.g. from water) but less than 25% of the energy used is recoverable as useful energy for transport purposes

4         Does not exist anywhere on this planet as a gas, therefore:

a.       Has to be made by splitting it out from other compounds

b.       Hence will always be more expensive than a fuel which exists naturally

5         Has serious safety challenges, most of which can be overcome, but

a.       Making the production, storage, distribution and use of hydrogen safe will require much research and development, all of which takes time

b.       Will require regulations which require drafting, then agreements to be accepted throughout the affected industries which again means time before adoption

6         Has to be compressed to 700bar in order to be usable on a moving vehicle and still requires more storage space than is practically available

7         Requires three times the volume of biomethane to produce the same power

8         If used to fuel a bus, requires over 10 times the volume of the biomethane required to power a tram carrying the same number of passengers over the same route at the same speed

9         Used as a vehicle fuel hydrogen does no good whatsoever for the environment, it is just less bad than using fossil fuels and its production results in continuous environmental damage


D    Biomethane:

1         Is a fuel in its own right

2         Requires minimal energy to collect

3         Exists almost everywhere on the planet, both on land and in water

4         Is totally renewable

5         Is entirely sustainable wherever these is sunshine and water and life

6         Is part of the circular economy

7         Capturing the biomethane which naturally arises from human, animal, food and crop wastes, and using this as a vehicle fuel, causes no climate change whatsoever

8         Is a naturally occurring gas which, if not captured but allowed to escape, becomes a global warming gas some 86 times worse than fossil carbon dioxide, hence using it as a fuel is reducing its natural global warming effect

9         Production also results in fossil free carbon dioxide, chemical free nutrient rich fertilisers and other sustainable products such as building materials and substitutes to replace existing plastics

10     Has an established record of being produced locally from local wastes using local labour to fuel buses in cities and trucks on motorways with less ‘well to wheel’ environmental impact than any other fuel

11     Requires no further research or development or regulations or infrastructure in terms of production, storage, distribution or use

12     Is ready to be used as a clean burning, fossil free fuel in over 22million existing engines powering cars, trucks and buses which are fully developed, tried, tested and shown to be reliable

13     Production involves collecting the naturally arising organic wastes, thus preventing them causing the eutrophication of waterways, by far the most extensive man made environmental pollution on the planet

14     Was mentioned many times during the COP26 discussions recently, stating that it is essential that mankind reduces methane emissions if we are to reduce climate change.  A target of a 30% reduction by 2030 was agreed by 100 nations in Glasgow

15     Using biomethane as a vehicle fuel does no harm to the environment and its production does not cause environmental damage.  Its use as a fuel actually prevents environmental damage and reduces climate change.


Comprehension of all the above leads the members of Ultra Light Rail Partners to state unequivocally (and many others to believe) that, at this present time, a tram fuelled by biomethane is ‘the world’s most environmentally friendly form of public transport’ and, as already stated at the start of this e-mail, there is no other transport fuel which can even begin to approach its environmental credentials.  

Other fuels are, at best, less bad than fossil fuels.  None of them is actually doing any good for the environment.  Capturing naturally occuring methane to prevent it from becoming a global warming gas some 86 times worse than carbon dioxide, and using it as a fuel causes no climate change and is actually doing good for the environment.  If used to power a tram its steel wheels on rails drastically reduce the carcinogenic particulates caused by the degradation of rubber tyres abrading the road surfaces

Please will you kindly let me have the Zoom details for the B&BATA meeting this evening and I will gladly listen to comments from others and defend my statements as above.


With best wishes to you all.




C.M.A. Maltin


Director:            Biomethane Ltd., & GoByGas Ltd., & Global Gas Logistic Solutions Ltd., & The Natural Gas Vehicle Association Ltd., etc.

Chairman:         Organic Power Holdings Ltd.


Gould’s House,





Mobile:              07466 600 401





Gas Transport:   Global Gas Logistic Solutions Ltd. (Hydrogen, Methane as CNG and LNG, Nitrogen and Carbon Dioxide)

YouTube:          GoByGas


* On 11/02/2022 10:53, ‘David Holt’ via UK Light Rail Experts wrote:
This is a misleading statement:
“3Appear unsightly and hence local authorities are concerned that the wires and stanchions will be visually unacceptable to the public, particularly when being considered for historic cities”
Do the overhead wires in the attached Leipzig photograph look “unsightly”?  Only if you want them to for some reason.
This sort of distortion really annoys me.
David Holt


12:20 (1 hour ago)

to expertsfortrams

Hi David

Whilst I agree with what you are saying residents in locations where there has been OHL equipment for many years maybe over 100 will be at home with this type of infrastructure.

People in locations where there has not been any OHL in living memory could for whatever reasons see OHL as intrusive along with other street furniture (such as street lighting).
Complex junctions combining tram and trolleybus routes could be daunting to people who have never seen such OHL arrangements.

There could be many operational and political reasons to choose a tram system without OHL……….. one that comes to mind is the length of time needed for the existing electrical energy to come from 100% renewable sources (this is not the same as buying green energy as the grid mix maybe less then 100% renewable sourced).

Ever new system should be subject to a complete life-cycle evaluation coupled with operational amassments and political requirements.



CJH Multisourcing SNC


Mobile: +32 498 540 337

Phone: +32 81 35 01 84

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Fred Starr via 

Thu, 10 Feb, 21:15 (17 hours ago)

Dear Dave and Chris

The CO2 from biomethane takes a couple of hundred years to be captured by plants. During that time it contributes to global warming.
There are no easy answers