LNG – The sustainable fuel of the future, available today – Part 2

What is the infrastructure’s role in the development of an important transport market for a long-term sustainable future on LNG?

In the last article of the gmobility blog, we opened the subject to explore LNG. There, we started by discussing an important question, which was “What’s the fuel that would allow our heavy-duty transport to operate affordably, long-term and with low-emissions?“. 

If you haven’t had the chance to read it, we would highly recommend checking it out. There, we go in detail about how liquefied natural gas helps to decarbonise transport and how much CO2 we’re able to cut out thanks to it. Also, you can learn why renewables and air quality represent such a vital part of this sustainable fuel.

In this article, we can go deeper into the topic and spend some time looking at the other side of the coin, so to say. In other words – the role of the gas infrastructure and the future of transport that LNG will enable.

How should we understand the gas infrastructure in simple terms?

When we talk about infrastructure, this means the physical components necessary to allow the produced LNG to be transported from point A and point B. This would also include the starting point of that journey (be it a seaport or other liquefaction factory) and the endpoint (the place where the driver would fill their vehicle), i.e. an LNG station.

Let’s start this part by talking about small-scale applications of the LNG infrastructure. Such, for example, are the small-scale bunkering and road refuelling infrastructure.

As it can be liquefied, transported, stored and regasified in small volumes in decentralised facilities, liquefied natural gasboosts economic development by providing energy access to customers who do not have access to gas grids, in developing but also in developed countries.

Using it to transport goods

The utilisation of LNG in transport strongly depends on the development of the refuelling infrastructure, the small-scale bunkering facilities and of the availability of competitive transport modes, both in the road, shipping and railway. 

Small-scale LNG is developing into a reliable and effective solution for off-grid energy supply and as the fuel of choice for clean road and maritime transportation. Certainly, small scale LNG infrastructure is more developed in the regions where large-scale LNG import terminals are used.  

The use of liquefied natural gas as a cleaner fuel is also highlighted by the increase in the number of LNG stations across Europe. You can see how many LNG stations there are in your country by visiting the NGVA Stations Map

An ongoing development

The European gas industry has been engaged in the continual development of the liquefied natural gas infrastructure over the last years to create the so-called ‘corridors’ across Europe. Those allow the heavy-duty LNG vehicles to travel efficiently and without the difficulty of finding a nearby station.

Such a rapid development was executed thanks to the “LNG Blue Corridors” project, launched in 2013 and funded by the EU Commission.

LNG Blue Corridors

The aim was to have a large demonstration project on vehicle LNG technologies, refuelling infrastructure and operations. To meet the objectives, a series of LNG refuelling points have been defined along the four corridors covering the Atlantic area (green line), the Mediterranean region (red line) and connecting Europe’s South with the North (blue line) and its West and East (yellow line), accordingly. 

To implement a sustainable transport network for Europe, the project has set the goal to build 14 new LNG stations. Those will be both permanent and mobile, on critical locations along the Blue Corridors while building up a fleet of approximately 100 Heavy-Duty Vehicles powered by LNG.

The project was finalised in May 2018 with an overall mileage of more than 32,500,000 km, and nearly 15,000 t LNG dispensed through more than 115,000 filling operations.

LNG market development in transport

Heavy-duty transport operations are progressively including LNG as an alternative to diesel due to the positive balance among environmental performance, Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and to the growing refuelling infrastructure.

Based on the data collected through the LNG Blue Corridor project, the average delta fuel price across Europe results in 30% in favour of LNG compared to diesel. Considering an annual average mileage of 120,000 km, yearly saving from the fuel operating cost could compensate for the price difference for the LNG truck after a period from two to three years.

Today, leading European manufacturers (Iveco, Scania, Volvo) offer LNG trucks with engine performance equivalent to diesel. Those are suitable for long-haul missions (see a catalogue of gmobility vehicles here). Recently, a first coach for inter-city operations has also been launched, equipped with an LNG storage system.

The current fleet is expanding quite fast in Europe, and LNG engines are quieter than those using diesel. This represents an advantage for urban areas, particularly for deliveries at night or areas subject to high traffic density.

In the next article we will explore if LNG is compatible with maritime and railway transport. Stay tuned to find out more about that.

So, is LNG the sustainable future for today and tomorrow?

We hope that this article has given you some additional information and has helped you to find the right answer and in the next article we will see how it all fits into the 2050 climate targets. 

When it comes to the role of infrastructure, it is necessary to keep in mind that it’s a complex system which Europeans have spent decades developing. Thanks to all this effort, the addition of sustainable fuel, such as LNG is possible, and we see significant development across the EU. 

Today, this infrastructure serves not only road transport and heavy-duty trucks or buses but also maritime and railway transportation. It offers immediate climate benefits which support our European goals. Additionally, integrating renewable biomethane into the mix, we can achieve unparalleled CO2 emissions reduction, making LNG an essential fuel and technology for today and the future.

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