Natural Gas Vehicles Can Clean Up
Natural gas vehicles offer a large opportunity to cut greenhouse gas and particulate emissions, the Natural Gas Vehicle Association (NGVA) says. The European Commission is working on a decarbonisation strategy, which the NGVA argues should recognise compressed and liquefied natural gas "as a crucial tool to achieve Europe’s GHG reduction and sustainability goals for the transport sector."
Faced with projections of stagnant demand, the gas industry is pinning its hopes for growth on road and waterborne transport and power generation, as its traditional sectors are losing ground – at least in Europe – to cheaper or subsidised alternatives. As with that other major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions, coal, the damage that the products of diesel combustion do to health is provable and serious, especially in cities.
"Changing to natural gas vehicles today makes it possible to reach the 2030 target of 30% greenhouse gas emissions reduction coming from road transport ahead of time. The target can only be reached with a higher share of alternative fuels, including natural gas, as diesel will become less attractive for air quality reasons," it said in a statement May 19.
"As diesel will become less attractive in the coming years, through stricter rules on air pollution and cities starting to ban diesel vehicles from city centres, decarbonisation will depend strongly on alternative fuels, such as natural gas. Compressed natural gas cars already comply with the 2020 average CO2 target of 95 grams/km," it said.
Speaking at the Flame conference in Amsterdam last week, Societe Generale's senior gas analyst Thierry Bros said that the gas industry had missed a trick to plead its case, following the Volkswagen diesel engines scandal. In a light-hearted debate on the future of gas, he said the industry was not doing enough to defend its market share. "It has to fight for it, gas for transport has not been defended – diesel does not meet the stringent requirements, and people want electric cars. Even if they are powered by coal," he said.
The secretary-general of NGVA Europe, Matthias Maedge, said: “The huge potential and benefits of natural gas engines are not sufficiently rewarded.”
In a 2030 scenario, industry estimates that NGVs will emit 30% less CO2 compared with diesel, with even higher reductions versus petrol. Substantial efficiency gains in natural gas engines can still be achieved by 2030, in the scope of at least 10% to 15 %, closing the efficiency gap to diesel engines.
"Natural gas can be a key contributor, but also hydrogen, electricity and liquid biofuels are needed. However, the discussion must be based on a functioning market and should also take into account the costs of the fuel, vehicles and components to achieve our goals in a cost-efficient way."
Biomethane is growing in the UK transport sector. According to John Baldwin, the CEO of UK-based CNG Services, which promotes the use of conventional and biomethane as a transport fuel, "In 2012, just 300,000 therms of biomethane were injected into the UK’s gas grid. However, when all planned projects are completed by mid-2016, this will rise to around 120mn therms/yr. That will bring annual ‘green’ gas production in the UK to 3.5 TWh/yr (325mn m3/yr)– representing around 240,000 tonnes of LNG a year that the country won’t need to import from the Middle East or four 60,000-tonne LNG tankers not needing to dock at domestic ports," he told the May edition of Petroleum Review.