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31.10.2018  

Natural gas and biogas as part of action to reduce transport emissions

On October 24, 2018, the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E) published its report seeking to assess the climate impacts of the transport use of fossil natural gas. According to the T&E study, sustainably produced biogas is a good way of reducing emissions from transport. On the other hand, the report states that, when taking life-cycle emissions into account, the environmental impacts of the transport use of fossil gas are along similar lines to those of petroleum based fossil fuels.

We have participated in the debate on the topic in Brussels as well as in Finland because it is good to also include the Nordic perspective in the debate.

According to the T&E report, assessments of the environmental impacts of the use of fossil gas in transport should take emissions from the entire value chain better into account. According to the study, methane emissions from production and transport may considerably increase the life-cycle emissions of fossil gas.

Gas sector players have made a commitment to cutting methane emissions from the value chain. The required technology already exists, and players are reducing their methane emissions in the value chain. More extensive utilization of experience already available from areas such as North Sea gas fields will help cut methane emissions in the next few years. This is advantageous not only from the environmental but also from the business perspective.  As stated also in the T&E report, 40–50% of current methane emissions could be avoided with no net cost.

It should also be taken into account that it is not a simple task to determine the life-cycle emissions of natural gas. According to a study conducted this autumn by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland for the Finnish Government, ”there is major variation in emissions from production chains depending on, for example, the technologies and fuels used in production and on transport distances and methods. Therefore it is almost impossible to determine a single all-encompassing emission figure.” The data for natural gas used in the T&E study is not directly applicable to Finland or the Nordic countries. Instead, the baseline and figures it is based on are very different. Therefore the life-cycle emissions of fossil transport fuel gas used in Finland should not be compared with the EU average.

Awareness of the environmental impacts of the natural gas supply chain and seeking to reduce emissions is one of Gasum's key corporate responsibility targets. According to a study conducted in 2015, consumption by Gasum’s customers accounts for 87.5%, Russian functions for 12.2% and natural gas transmission in Finland for 0.3% of the greenhouse gas emissions over the entire life cycle of the natural gas used in Finland. In recent years, Gasum has taken significant measures to reduce methane emissions from and improve the energy efficiency of the natural gas transmission network (including compressor stations). Energy-saving measures and environmental programs have resulted in the successful reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 12% from the 2012 level.

Also as regards liquefied natural gas (LNG), the value chain of each player should be assessed instead of basing assessments on data such as EU averages. The largest LNG player in the Nordic countries, the Gasum subsidiary Skangas only uses electricity from renewable energy sources in its liquefaction process taking place in Risavika, Norway. Partly thanks to this, the life-cycle emissions of Norwegian LNG are around 30% below the EU average. In addition, it should be noted that gas engine technology for heavy-duty vehicles and marine transport has developed significantly in recent years, which has already reduced methane emission levels.

Transport is the sector where the most can be made out of the emission reduction potential offered by biogas

The T&E report regards sustainably produced biogas primarily as a good thing – presuming that no methane emissions are generated in the biogas production process. Various types of waste and manure in particular are viewed as the best raw materials for biogas production from the sustainability perspective. However, the report recommends that, given the limited raw materials potential, the use of biogas should focus on replacing fossil natural gas primarily in heating and industry.

It should be taken into consideration that, in the Nordic countries, the raw materials base used in biogas production is broad (including manure and agricultural biomass, biowaste and sludge, industry side streams, wood-based residue and by-product feedstocks). The widespread Nordic view is that the value of biogas is maximized specifically in the reduction of transport emissions where the selection of tools available for emission cuts is limited compared with the energy sector. Renewable biogas currently already accounts for around 50% of road fuel gas sold in Finland and in Sweden the share of biogas in transport has been raised through determined action to almost 90%.

The switch to gas-powered heavy-duty road transport currently taking place will be initially based on fossil LNG. The broad raw materials base suitable for biogas production, and Gasum’s investments in biogas liquefaction capacity in areas including Turku, Finland, and Nymölla, Sweden, will soon provide maximized access to liquefied biogas (LBG) for LNG-fueled heavy-duty vehicles, too. Of course this alone will not be a solution to the emission reduction targets, but it does provide players and consumers with one opportunity for significant cuts in emissions arising from their mobility.

More information:
Jussi Vainikka, Business Development Manager, Gasum
Tel.+358 553 3033, forname.lastname@gasum.com

Olga Väisänen, Vice President, Communications, Gasum
Tel. +358 40 554 0578, forname.lastname@gasum.com