The Role Of Infrastructure For Low-Emission Road & Shipping Transport

What’s the role of gas infrastructure for our transport needs? Is it something that we will need in the future or is it associated with methane emissions and the inability to innovate?

This article is a collaboration with Gas Infrastructure Europe (GIE). GIE is the European association of renewable and low-carbon gases infrastructure operators. GIE members are active in transmission pipelines, storage facilities and LNG terminals. We will rely on their knowledge to provide you with accurate and current information on their most favorite topic – infrastructure.

Here’s what you’ll learn in this article:

  • Do we increase our emissions because of the gas infrastructure?
  • Are we locking ourselves in by building infrastructure?
  • Is infrastructure related just to land? Is there something that could be said about maritime emissions?

To make this information a bit more interesting, we wanted to address those three points as myths and debunk them here for you.

Let’s dig in.

Myth #1 – Gas produces methane emissions, so why would we need more infrastructure?

Cutting GHG emissions must come hand-in-hand with affordability and technology availability, in order to guarantee a successful transition towards carbon-neutral transportation.

Cutting GHG emissions must come hand-in-hand with affordability and technology availability, in order to guarantee a successful transition towards carbon-neutral transportation.

Talking about vehicle emissions, we did an in-depth article explaining how emissions are actually occurring and how to understand them.

Liquefied Natural Gas – LNG – has great potential to drastically cut GHG emissions from heavy-duty transport and shipping, as an enabler to integrate a growing share of bioLNG in the European fuels mix. 

Europe’s market for bioLNG is expanding, driven by a combination of government support and demand from the private sector. The path for bioLNG in road transport starts to bloom, for example in Norway (Norske Skog Skogn Bio LNG plant, Cryo Pur and Sunnhordland Naturgass project in Stord) and in the Netherlands (Nordsol project).

The gas industry has done and continues to make big steps towards substituting natural gas with renewable gas.

Looking towards the future, the industry roadmap developed by NGVA Europe and the EBA outlines the growth of LNG stations in Europe towards 2030. According to this document, LNG stations will increase to about 2,000 across the EU28, if properly supported by EU legislation.

It is a solution that is available today, ready to decarbonise trucks and shipping fleets at a reasonable cost. From its production to its use as a fuel, LNG, and increasingly bioLNG, is a key solution to kick-start transport’s transition towards carbon neutrality without further delay.

Reality: As you can see, natural gas is already a better solution than traditional diesel and petrol fuels. More importantly, the gas industry has done and continues to make big steps towards substituting natural gas with renewable gas (biomethane).

Because of this, developments in infrastructure will continue to pay dividends for a long time and will help you reach our climate targets. 

This brings us to the next myth.

Myth #2 – We are locking ourselves in with a technology that has no future and cannot be climate neutral

Myth: We are locking ourselves in with a technology that has no future and cannot be climate neutral.

There is a strong existing CNG and LNG refuelling network already in place in Europe, supporting the uptake of bioCNG and bioLNG. Let’s examine how this can be a benefit for our future.

The opportunity that the gas infrastructure presents to us is that we can use it today for conventional LNG and it can be easily switched tomorrow for bioLNG – without almost any additional investments. Soooo – the more infrastructure we build today for LNG, the better prepared we will be for bioLNG. Not investing in LNG infrastructure today would only lock us in a highly polluting world of heavy fuel oil.

Our politicians should recognise the role of LNG infrastructure as an enabler for integrating higher shares of bioLNG, in particular by supporting the development of refuelling infrastructure for road and maritime transport.

Reality: Gas infrastructure is not locking us in with a decaying technology. In fact, infrastructure is an enabler of not only a ‘clean future’ but also a ‘clean today’.

Thanks to decades of effort and work in this area, today conventional gas, but importantly renewable gas too, can fuel our transport and help us reduce emissions effectively. 

 Infrastructure is an enabler of not only a ‘clean future’ but also a ‘clean today’.

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Certainly, gas is not just helping transport to reduce its overall emissions. Perhaps, many of you reading this article use gas in your home for heating and cooking. The use of gas doesn’t end there, either. Of course, it is also used in our European industry to produce power.

And here, we can transition to our final myth and take a look at a lesser know topic – the role of infrastructure for maritime.

Myth #3 – There are no benefits for maritime transport, which actually produces a lot of emission in and around ports

Gas infrastructure has been and continues to be very important for our climate. Thankfully, here in the EU, we have spent decades developing it across all our countries and today we can enjoy the benefits it provides.

We’ve already covered the benefits of LNG as a maritime fuel. According to the different engine technologies, switching from conventional fuels to LNG in the maritime sector offers an immediate CO2 emissions reduction (decarbonising) up to 28% at the exhaust. 

Stepping away from conventional LNG, bio LNG can help to further decarbonise the transport sector, with the use of synthetic and bio LNG. This is because it offers almost 100% GHG emissions reduction and contributes to achieving net-zero emissions. 

Furthermore, for ship bunkering (see example here), bioLNG presents a very viable business case. In Europe, as at summer 2020, nine vessels dedicated to LNG bunkering have been registered, with five more expected to be delivered by the end of 2020, while in 2017 there were only two in operation.

The benefit for the maritime industry is quite clear - the use of natural and, particularly, renewable gas reduces emissions from maritime tremendously.

“LNG bunkering facilities are now established in 118 ports and under development in 90. This includes most of the leading oil bunkering locations. Ship-to-ship bunkering is upscaling dramatically. In early 2019 there were just six LNG bunkering vessels in operation; five in Europe and one in North America. As of July 2020, this has grown to 13 with a further 28 on order and/or undergoing commissioning.” (BioLNG in Transport: Making Climate Neutrality a Reality, 2020)

Did you know Finalnd uses a gas-fuelled ice-breaker?  It is the most powerful icebreaker ever to fly the Finnish flag and the first icebreaker in the world to feature dual-fuel engines capable of using liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Reality: The benefit for the maritime industry is, in fact, quite clear – the use of natural and, particularly, renewable gas reduces emissions from maritime tremendously. Perhaps, the easiest way to perceive how beneficial gas is would be to look at a port city. 

Thanks to the built infrastructure, gas can be easily transported and can feed maritime ships which often have to leave the engines of the ships turned on. This is a solution that can drastically improve air quality in a very short time. 

In conclusion, gas infrastructure has been and continues to be very important for our climate. Thankfully, here in the EU, we have spent decades developing it across all our countries and today we can enjoy the benefits it provides.

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