Natural and renewable gas in transport: A growing market while cutting carbon emissions

A major new source of demand for natural gas could come from the transportation sector as technology advances are delivering cost-effective solutions for use in vehicles and ships.

Gastech Insights heard from Kaloyan Tsilev, EU Affairs Manager at Natural & bio Gas Vehicle Association (NGVA Europe), a European association that promotes the use of natural and renewable gas as a transportation fuel, ahead of the EAGC & CEE event taking place 7-9 November in Berlin.

Gastech Insights: How can renewable gas complement natural gas?

Kaloyan Tsilev: Renewable gas is produced from a variety of renewable energy sources, such as organic waste and biomass produced through anaerobic digestion; gasification processes; or by directly converting carbon dioxide (CO2) into synthetic methane by using hydrogen produced from surplus electricity.   

Whatever the production process, the final product, as renewable gas, has the same characteristics as natural gas. This enables the opportunity to blend renewable gas in any proportion or to use it directly on vehicles without any impact (meaning costs) on the distribution infrastructure and on the vehicle.

Biomethane or synthetic gas (power-to-gas) from renewable sources can reduce CO2 emissions significantly, up to 95% on a well-to-wheel basis, contributing to a carbon neutral mobility system.

Gastech Insights: What role can renewable gas play in making transportation carbon neutral?

Kaloyan Tsilev: The use of natural gas represents one of the key and most effective solutions to fight climate change and improve air quality in a cost-efficient way, particularly in the transport sector. Both CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) and LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) are viable and scalable solutions that can sustain efficiently a large variety of transportation modes with an immediate reduction on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and pollutants.

With renewable gas being practically identical to natural gas, even moderate blend levels are able to further enhance the beneficial effects of using natural gas, which is already a low-carbon fuel, thus enabling substantial reductions of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

In addition to low GHG emissions, natural gas is the cleanest fuel able to guarantee in all operating conditions a particulate-free, aromatic-free and close-to-zero NMHC (Non Methanic Hydrocarbons) combustion, as well as dramatically reduce nitrogen oxide (NOX) emissions. Even when considering non-regulated emissions (for example ozone promoters and aldehydes), natural gas is the best fuel to improve air quality, particularly in urban areas. In the maritime sector, it also provides a concrete solution with regard to pollutant emissions, particularly in curtailing sulfur oxides (SOx).

Natural gas vehicle technologies are mature, affordable, safe and ready to provide a fast and strong contribution to the challenges facing the transport sector. At the same time, important technological improvements in terms of powertrain efficiency are expected even in the short term due to a wider development of fully dedicated high efficient and clean engines.

30% renewable gas will provide a GHG emissions reduction of more than 45% compared to conventional fuels on a well-to-wheel basis. When considering the potential in using 80% renewable gas mix, composed also with biomethane from liquid manure, carbon neutrality can be achieved.

Gastech Insights: Can natural gas vehicles compete with electric vehicles?

Kaloyan Tsilev: It is fundamental that the legislative framework will maintain an open stage to all solutions: transport will need a clever integration of different technological approaches, including of course electrification, and we need to leverage on the best combinations of efficient engines and clean and renewable fuels. Under this perspective, gas-fuelled mobility results in a key solution, able to immediately contribute to a faster acceleration towards a clean and decarbonised transport system. Natural gas and electrified solutions are complementary to the overall target.

Gastech Insights: Which regions have the most potential for gas-fired vehicles?

Kaloyan Tsilev: There are many regions which already have quite a long tradition with natural gas: Italy, but also Germany, Spain, Sweden and France. Today, we see also very positive developments for example in Belgium and the Czech Republic. Today, Europe can rely on approximately 3,400 CNG stations supplying a circulating fleet of 1.3 million vehicle units. Looking to the long-haulage transport, LNG is the real game changer in these last years: in 5 years LNG stations moved from 12 up to 150 units today, supporting a fleet of approximately 4,000 trucks.

Gastech Insights: You are speaking at the EAGC event, why do you think energy market participants should attend the conference?

Kaloyan Tsilev: Natural gas is becoming a more and more attractive fuel for many market players, increasingly coming from renewable sources. And the use of natural gas as a transport fuel is an emerging asset, as a key player answering to decarbonisation, as well as to the improvement of air quality in urban areas. We will be glad to introduce and discuss our vision to 2030 showing the development of the vehicles market and the consequent evolution of the gas refuelling infrastructure and of the percentage of renewable gas.

The EAGC will be a great opportunity to gain insight into these changing dynamics and background of the European gas market and its key players.

Read the full interview on Gastech Insights >>

If you would like to hear more about the European gas and LNG market developments, register to attend EAGC | CEE, 7-9 November in Berlin to participate in the discussions. Do not miss out and book your place today.

Image courtesy of NGVA Europe