Europe’s Green Deal lays the groundwork for an expansion of CNG, LNG and bioLNG as a road transportation fuel
Europe’s Green Deal, the EU’s ambitious plan to become a carbon neutral continent by 2050, is driving growth in natural gas cars and LNG heavy-duty vehicles and refueling infrastructure. Registrations for new LNG-fuelled vehicles nearly tripled, while LNG fueling stations grew by 50% in 2019, according to the Natural and bio Gas Vehicle Association (NGVA) Europe.
Europeans filed registrations for 69,900 new compressed natural gas (CNG) passenger cars, 8,910 light commercial vehicles, 1,980 buses, 2,120 trucks, and 4,510 LNG trucks in 2019, according to the Brussels-headquartered association. Overall, there are now more than 1.4M light vehicles, 275,000 buses and coaches and 195,000 trucks that burn natural gas.
Europe also appears to be surmounting the ‘chicken and the egg’ dilemma that often plagues alternative fuel choices. Sales of vehicles are being matched by a widening choice of filling stations across Europe. About 150 new CNG stations and 80 LNG refuelling stations were added in 2019. There are currently 3,732 CNG and 249 LNG-refuelling stations.
“These numbers confirm the ever-growing attraction of natural gas mobility for European consumers,” says NGVA Europe secretary general Andrea Gerini. “This is the result of a mature gas vehicle technology with high engine efficiency and performance, widespread infrastructure and low total cost of ownership (TCO), but also great environmental benefits of gas in transport.”
NGVA member Finnish state-owned Gasum Oy – an importer of LNG and natural gas and the largest producer of biogas in the Nordics – has interests in four LNG import terminals and one small-scale liquefaction plant. Gasum has plans to build a network of 50 LNG, liquefied biogas (LBG), CNG and compressed biogas (CBG) stations in the Nordics by the early 2020s. It opened its ninth gas filling station in Sweden in February to serve heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) and passenger cars.
“LNG trucks are the obvious choice for driving sustainably and remaining competitive”
Transitioning to LNG-fuelled heavy vehicles makes sense for several reasons, Gasum Sweden director of traffic Mikael Antonsson tells LNG Shipping & Terminals.
“Firstly, LNG trucks are already available and can prove a low TCO compared to other alternatives,” says Mr Antonsson. “The future will require several different solutions but with the objectives of reducing CO2 emissions now, such as in the EU, LNG trucks are the obvious choice for driving more sustainability but also to remain competitive.” Adds Mr Antonsson: “The future is not as simple as it has been, and you will have to choose your fuel/truck based on the type of transport you do and your customers’ demands of sustainability.”
Tighter EU emission standards aim to reduce GHG emissions from heavy-duty vehicles by 30% by 2030. Sweden wants to go a step further, reducing road transport emissions by 70% by 2030, as compared to 2010 levels.
While LNG offers a competitive fuel solution for reducing emissions immediately – as much as 20% reduction in CO2 emissions as compared with diesel – LBG produced from biowaste goes even further. With LBG, CO2 emissions can be reduced by up to 85% compared to diesel. What’s more, points out Mr Antonsson, the switch from LNG to LBG will be seamless and cost efficient.
“This is not a problem in Sweden because we use a mass balance system that allows customers to choose the blend they want today from the existing infrastructure,” he says. “Even now, LNG and LBG complement each other and give customers their own choice about how much CO2 reduction they want, starting from 20% choosing LNG, which is a great first step towards more sustainability.”
Gasum is also making LNG/LBG blends available to its marine customers. In March, it signed an agreement with Sweden’s largest fuel company, Preem, to supply an LNG/LBG fuel blend for two LNG-fuelled tankers: Tern Ocean and Thun Evolve will burn a blended fuel that uses 10% renewable liquefied biogas.
“This supports our stringent sustainability requirements, ”says Preem manager for trading operations Anna Karin Klinthäll.
Sweden’s neighbour Finland anticipates having 50,000 gas-fuelled vehicles on the road by 2030 – five times its current level.
Registrations for new gas-fuelled cars and vans exceeded 4,000 in 2019, an 84% year-on-year growth rate, according to the Finnish Transport and Communications Agency Traficom.
Growing LNG distribution hub
Finnish consumers are starting to benefit from the reduced price of natural gas from the Balticonnector pipeline, between Estonia and Finland, and LNG supplied by small-scale carriers from imports at the Klaipeda LNG terminal in Lithuania.
Klaipedos Nafta (KN), operator of the Klaipėda LNG terminal, has been trying to strengthen its status as a small-scale LNG regional hub in the Baltic Sea. Klaipėda LNG director Dr Arūnas Molis
says the terminal is becoming “a European-recognised tool in the fight against climate change,” noting that LNG imports in the EU and Baltic region contribute to the long-term goal of reducing GHG emissions by at least 40% by 2030.
The terminal uses the floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU) Independence, which has a regas capacity of 10.3M m3 of natural gas per day and a storage capacity of 170,000 m3. Connected to Lithuania’s natural gas distribution network via an 18-km pipeline, the FSRU has the ability to receive and transfer cargoes from LNG carriers.
Dr Molis cites ‘impressive growth’ at the Klaipėda LNG terminal, with the degassing of 1.9 TWh of gas and 334,000 m3 of LNG delivered by two large and six small gas carriers. Despite the brief closure of the floating terminal for a week in April due to maintenance dredging, he expects about 1.4 TWh of gas will be degassed and over 178,000 m3 of LNG will be delivered by five LNG carriers.
As the result of heightened interest for LNG capacity at the terminal, KN is also making 22 TWh of capacity available in its new gas year starting 1 October – more than four times the terminal capacity available during its previous yearly allocation. Terminal users will have until 25 May to apply for capacity.
During the current gas year, 42 LNG carriers called at the LNG terminal, with another 28 LNG carriers due to bring cargoes before the end of the gas year. About 2M m3 of gas, or about 81% of the LNG, was lifted from Equinor’s gas liquefaction plant in Norway.
"Demand for LNG terminal services is boosted by continued low LNG prices in the global market, as well as the assessment of companies due to the opportunities opening up with Balticonnector in the region,” says Dr Molis. “Given the intensity of the LNG terminal’s activities, we encourage customers to reserve more capacity during the annual procedure, as this will ensure the supply of LNG in accordance with the needs of companies in advance, ” he adds.
Among Lithuania’s neighbours, Dr Molis sees Poland as a prime market for LNG growth. Last year Poland cut its use of coal in power generation by 71%, while increasing its natural gas usage from 7 to 11%.
Polish oil and gas company PGNiG inked a five-year deal with KN to market 100% of the capacity at an LNG reloading station located at the Klaipėda port. The station, which KN opened in 2017, has five 1,000-m3 LNG storage tanks, with the ability to accept small LNG cargoes, bunker vessels and load tanker trucks. Vessels can also be refuelled via tanker truck.
Poland is also growing its own LNG refuelling infrastructure for HDVs, increasing its total to eight stations in 2020. There is also a significant increase in the number of LNG regasification stations in off-grid locations.
Already a supplier of LNG to customers in the Czech Republic and Germany, PGNiG plans to leverage its experience in small-scale LNG trading and operations to develop the LNG fuel markets in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
In 2019, the Lithuania government approved the National Energy and Climate Action Plan 2021-2030, adopting measures to promote the development of LNG refuelling stations and LNG-powered vehicle and marine transport.
The 2020 Climate Change Programme has funding of €35M (US$38M) to subsidise the use of more sustainable fuels in national transport, from which €20M (US$21M) is earmarked for public transport and €15M (US$16M) for transportation and fuelling stations.
Europe’s largest LNG fueling station
In January, Europe’s largest LNG fueling station was opened by Alternoil GmbH on Germany’s main A1 highway near the city of Bakum, about 70 km southwest of Bremen.
The fueling station uses Chart Industries’ ‘Saturation on the Fly’ (SoF) technology to eliminate methane emissions and accommodate both spark-ignited and compression engines, allowing refuelling of all LNG trucks, regardless of OEM or brand. SoF also improves the station’s overall energy management and provides a total refueling time consistent with equivalent diesel engine vehicles.
Chart chief executive Jill Evanko says the facility incorporates the full integration of Chart equipment with other aspects of the station, including Alternoil’s cashless payment system.
Besides LNG, the Bakum station offers renewable liquefied biogas, diesel and AdBlue, the synthetically made diesel exhaust fluid used in auto and truck selective catalytic reduction systems.
Alternoil plans to open LNG filling stations in Fulda, Cologne, Hamburg, Bremen and Remscheid.
Working with German retailer BayWa, Alternoil has two other LNG fueling stations in Germany, one in Wolfsburg between Stuttgart and Nuremburg, and another in Nordlingen, east of Hanover. Germany has a total of 18 LNG fueling stations in operation.