Renewable biogas for efficient emission cuts

Biogas is a fully renewable and environmentally friendly fuel that can help to reduce life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% compared with fossil fuel use. 

 

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Gas solutions play an important role against climate change

Action against climate change cannot wait any longer – decisions and concrete measures are needed right now. Gas solutions play an important role in this transition. Biogas can help to achieve major emission reductions, and new types of innovations are emerging in fields such as the circular economy.

Global warming is persisting towards catastrophic consequences, but measures to cut emissions have proved insufficient.

One of the areas where the problem can be seen is transport.

“Progress in emission reductions has been slow. The measures currently in use are not enough to achieve the targets set for transport emission cuts,” says Senior Specialist Eero Hokkanen at the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications.

Hokkanen points out that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) estimates that global emissions from international shipping could grow 50–250% from the 2012 level by 2050 if efficient action is not taken to reduce emissions.

This spring, the Swedish Climate Policy Council issued a warning along the same lines concerning Sweden’s climate action. According to the Council, current measures will not take Sweden anywhere near the climate targets set.

Gas, especially renewable biogas, is an efficient and immediately available solution for cutting emissions.

The Nordic countries are already using many interesting gas solutions that reduce emissions from industry as well as from road and maritime transport.

Gas helps to cut emissions in practically all contexts

“Biogas will help to achieve emission reductions of up to 90%,” says Gasum Sustainability Manager Elina Saarivuori.

For several years, Gasum has been investing in developing the production and market of renewable biogas and its liquefied form, LBG. Emissions are cut even if the renewable option cannot be utilized immediately.

“Although not renewable, natural gas is still the lowest-carbon fossil fuel. Its carbon dioxide emissions are almost 40% lower than those from coal and around 20% lower than those from liquid fossil fuels,” Saarivuori explains.

With gas, emissions can also be reduced quickly because the solutions are available right away.

“Gasum has done a great deal of gas infrastructure development in the Nordic countries,” she points out. “The availability of liquefied natural gas (LNG) has improved enormously in recent years. Access to gas is no longer dependent on the gas pipeline network.”

LNG takes ships towards an emission-free future

The use of gas solutions is growing fast in the Nordic countries. One user is Samskip, a logistics company which mainly provides transport within Europe.

Samskip CEO Kari-Pekka Laaksonen says that, in a business acquisition three years ago, Samskip received two LNG vessels that operate between Norway and Continental Europe. The ships are fuelled with LNG at Gasum’s terminal close to Stavanger, on the south-west part of Norway.

“LNG is still a fossil fuel, but it helps us to achieve considerable emission cuts. We see it as a step towards an even more carbon-neutral solution,” Laaksonen says.

Another reason for using LNG technology is to reduce other types of shipping emissions. This is particularly important in the sensitive maritime environment of the Baltic Sea.

Eero Hokkanen at the Ministry of Transport and Communications says that particulate and black carbon emissions pose a particular challenge in the Arctic region. In addition, the entire Baltic Sea is designated as a Sulphur Emission Control Area (SECA) and is also due to become a Nitrogen Emission Control Area (NECA).

Gas is an efficient way to reduce such emissions. Particulate and sulfur dioxide emissions can be almost entirely eliminated and nitrogen oxide emissions reduced by up to 85%.

“Technically, we’ve been very pleased with the LNG solution. Both of the ships were dry-docked for the first time this year, and no surprises were detected. Environmentally friendly technology and fuels are slightly more expensive at the investment phase, but we see this as a path we have to take. Our customers also expect it from us,” says Laaksonen.

Gas is an important solution in heavy-duty road transport

Gas is a key solution for cutting emissions from heavy road transport, a sector with limited options for emission mitigation. Samskip is involved in this transition process, too.

“In road transport we’re about to switch to LNG. We already have partners who use LNG, and this year we’re starting to introduce it in our own fleet, says Laaksonen.

Numerous businesses in the Nordics have reached similar decisions.

Bring and Vähälä Logistics are two of the companies that have started using LNG vehicles, and in the food sector Lidl and Valio have started to use liquefied biogas (LBG). Finland’s leading postal and logistics service company Posti and the logistics company PostNord use gas to fuel their delivery vehicles.

Solutions like these have great potential in action against climate change. The burden on the climate from one heavy-duty vehicle typically equals the emissions from 40–50 passenger cars.

Demand for heavy-duty gas solutions is going to increase rapidly in the coming years, predicts Jukka Metsälä, Vice President, Traffic, at Gasum. This is because of the surging demand for low-emission logistics and the new mobility-related regulations that set even more ambitious requirements for emission reductions.

“It’s essential to reduce emissions from heavy road transport as heavy-duty vehicles account for more than half of Nordic energy consumption in road transport,” Metsälä says.

Gas provides industry with opportunities for a new kind of circular economy

Reductions in industrial emissions have, in many cases, not matched those of sectors like transport or energy production. Gas offers interesting opportunities to industry, too.

The steel company SSAB has used LNG to cut emissions from its mill in Raahe, Finland by 10%. At the same time, the company was able to modify the mill in preparation for future solutions that aim to reduce emissions to a near-zero level.

SSAB also uses LNG and LBG to fuel raw material shipments to the mill, enabling significant reductions in shipping emissions. The company aims to bring fully fossil-free steel to the market in 2026.

Projects implementing principles of a new kind of circular economy are particularly interesting.

A good example is the Stora Enso paper mill in Nymölla, Sweden. The company has entered into a partnership with Gasum where organic material is collected from the mill’s wastewater and turned into liquefied biogas (LBG).

“The amount of biogas produced equals the annual consumption of up to 150 heavy trucks. Interest in our cooperation project also has been high among other companies manufacturing pulp and paper,” says Erik Woode, Senior Manager for Business Development at Gasum.

How can businesses reach their climate targets?

Responsibility and sustainability have become core values that are integrated widely into business operations. Enterprises have understood the high expectations for sustainability by the stakeholders and that “doing good” is a competitive advantage”, says Saarivuori.

However, concrete measures must be stepped up greatly in all sectors.

Hokkanen gives maritime transport as an example.

“We must accelerate the switch to alternative propulsion systems in maritime transport. Two years ago, only 0.3% of the operational global fleet was using alternative fuels. In the same year, just 6.1% of vessels in the order book were to be powered by an alternative fuel.”

Hokkanen emphasizes that a switch to renewable fuels must be made as soon as possible in road and maritime transport alike. The technology choices made today must enable the use of renewable biofuels.

“There isn’t much time to make these decisions. In my opinion, it’s the duty of large players in particular to set an example and to act responsibly.”

Saarivuori encourages enterprises to set clear targets for emission reductions and adopt indicators to monitor progress towards the targets.

It is important for all actors to take part in the transition towards a low-carbon society, and gas is playing a significant role in this transition process.

4.9.2020

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