The history of Metan
Metan hf. was founded on August 20th 1999 by the Reykjavík Area Municipal Waste Disposal Company bs. and Aflvaki hf., Reykjavík’s development company, to produce, develop and market Icelandic fuel – methane. It was soon decided to co-operate with more parties and seek new owners. Olíufélagið hf. joined the company, along with Reykjavík Energy, and the New Business Venture Fund replaced Aflvaki. Today, there is only one owner, SORPA bs., which has a 100% share.
According to the operating permit of SORPA, the company is to collect and exploit landfill gas, formed when organic waste breaks down at the company’s landfill at Álfsnes. The aim from the beginning was to process the landfill gas to produce methane fuel for vehicles – and the venture proved successful.
SORPA initiated the project, guided by its then managing director, Ögmundur Einarsson. He also managed Metan hf. during the first stages, before handing the job of managing director over to environmental engineer Björn H. Halldórsson, who has served in that capacity in the years since.
Around the turn of the millennium, it was clear that use of methane vehicle fuel was increasing all around the world and that the number of methane-compatible vehicles would increase steadily in the 21st century. It was therefore a logical a decision to develop ways to produce methane fuel from the landfill gas, which is 54% methane, CH4. Today, SORPA bs. produces high-grade Icelandic methane with a purity of up to 98%.
The first car that could run on methane fuel came to Iceland in 2000 when Hekla hf. imported 21 VW vehicles of various types. The cars increased in number over the next years and included Volvo, Ford, Mercedes Benz and Citroen Berlingo models. Two methane-powered buses were imported in the autumn of 2005, and Reykjavík city authorities began to renew its fleet of waste collection trucks with methane-powered vehicles. Larger trucks were added in the following years, and SORPA added a condition to its tenders stipulating that methane-powered vehicles be used in transportation.
A milestone in the use of methane as vehicle fuel was reached in 2008 when Reykjavík Energy laid a 10 km gas line from Álfsnes to the N1 service station at Bíldshöfði. Before then, the methane had to be transported in containers to the service station. That service station was subsequently moved to Tinhella in Hafnarfjörður, so there were two service stations by 2010, both of which had self-service pumps. The service station at Tinhella closed in 2012.
Metan hf. entered into a collaboration with secondary school Borgarholtsskóli, with auto mechanic students there receiving training in methane engines and adapting cars. Other parties soon joined.
Icelandic transport history was made on 24–26 June 2009 when for the first time, a car drove Route 1 around Iceland powered by Icelandic fuel, methane. The trip was made by Einar Vilhjálmsson, marketing director of Metan hf., and reporter Ómar Ragnarsson. Their car had a petrol engine that had been converted to run on methane, a task that was carried out by students at Borgarholtsskóli in collaboration with Vélamiðstöðin hf. They took a trailer with methane supplies with them, and their journey garnered considerable attention. Minister of Industry Katrín Júlíusdóttir took over the wheel during the final leg, from Rauðavatn to N1’s multi-fuel service station at Bíldshöfði. The venture was proof of the pioneering work carried out by Metan hf.’s owners and showed the great possibilities in producing environmentally friendly vehicle fuel in Iceland.