Transport cleanly with gas

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquefied biogas (LBG) are clean and price-stable fuels for tractor units used in heavy-duty road transport. The use of LNG reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 20% compared with fossil diesel on life cycle analysis. LBG reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90%.

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Gas offers solutions to lower transport emissions in Sweden

There is considerable potential for lowering the emissions that are being generated along Swedish highways every day. As the regulations concerning traffic emissions are further tightened, the time has now come to tackle this problem – and gas needs to be considered a crucial part of the solution. As a third of the emissions released from highway traffic comes from heavy-duty vehicles, cargo transport can play an essential role in delivering positive change.

According to the Swedish Energy Agency, gasoline, diesel and biodiesel-powered traffic consumed approximately 86.9 TWh of energy in 2016. Approximately 2 TWh worth of biogas is currently produced in Sweden each year. If the raw material being used today was utilized to its full potential, the production could be 7 TWh. Furthermore, with new technology such as the gasification of by-products from forestry, production of biogas has the potential to reach 15 TWh. This means that around 17% of Swedish traffic could make the change to biogas.

Heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) have a key role in terms of lowering emissions, since a truck uses, on average, as much fuel as 40-50 passenger cars. These days, the transition from fossil-based fuels to clean fuels in traffic HDV segment is already possible through the use of biogas, liquefied natural gas (LNG) or liquefied biogas (LBG).

LNG-powered HDVs offer a notable opportunity to lower both CO2 and other emissions like particulate emissions. With liquefied natural gas, the emissions reduction is approximately 20% lower than for other fossil fuel options. Even greater benefits can be seen when using liquefied biogas, which reduces CO2 emissions by up to 85%. LBG works in the same engines as LNG, so companies switching to LNG now can therefore start utilizing LBG directly.

“The demand for these vehicles will rise rapidly, as the EU is preparing the Third Mobility Package and RED II directive, which will set even more ambitious environmental goals for companies operating in the EU. This means we have to lower emissions in heavy-duty highway traffic, which now amounts to a third of all traffic emissions in Sweden,” states Markus Olsson, Commercial Director, Gasum.

Gas-powered HDVs at the core of the solution

Gasum has plans to open 50 filling stations across the Nordics for heavy-duty vehicles in the next few years. Approximately 25 of these planned stations will be located in Sweden. The stations will be built in areas where the HDV long haul traffic flows are at the highest levels. This way, the stations will best serve the ambitious goals that have been designed to reduce traffic emissions.

“As the demand for cleaner transport solutions is growing rapidly, we aim to satisfy that demand by building a suitable and widespread network of filling stations for these vehicles,” Olsson says.

The Government of Sweden has set a target to make the Swedish energy system climate neutral on net basis by 2045. There is still a long way to go to achieve this benchmark, but there are intermediate goals to reach: greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) are to be reduced by 40% by 2020, compared to 1990 levels. Another national goal is to reduce CO2 emissions from domestic road transport with 70% by 2030, which makes it the most ambitious goal in the world.

One example of a concrete action being taken to curb emissions, and to drive Sweden down a more sustainable track, is the fact that the two major HDV manufacturers in Sweden, Scania and Volvo, have now brought their own LNG/LBG vehicles to the market.

Production of both compressed and liquefied biogas to increase

The feedstock from which biogas is manufactured varies from country to country. Currently, most of the biogas produced by Gasum in Sweden is made from agricultural side flows, such as grain hulls and straw. There are plans, however, due to the increasing demand and the need to find new circular solutions, to modify Gasum’s biogas plants to increase the amount of waste utilized in biogas production. In Finland, this is already the main feedstock, so Gasum therefore has the know-how to deliver the change.

As for the production of biogas, Gasum is already the largest producer in Sweden and is looking to expand production further. Gasum and Stora Enso have signed a contract to build a biogas plant at Stora Enso’s Nymölla paper mill in Sweden. The plant, built and operated by Gasum, will turn the mill’s waste water effluent into renewable energy.

“The Swedish government is conducting a parliamentary investigation in 2019, which will outline the long-term rules and regulations for biogas in Sweden. This will hopefully mark a shift in the biogas market and create an environment where we can expand our operations,” Olsson explains.

Currently, there are about 55,000 gas-powered vehicles operating in Sweden. The vast majority of these are passenger cars, but there are also regions where gas-powered buses are in operation.

There are now 155 stations where these vehicles can fill up their tanks. Most of the stations are open for customers. Others are privately-operated stations which are directed towards servicing privately-operated buses.

Solutions have to be found to combat vehicle emissions, as societal demand for sustainable energy is increasing with each passing day. Biogas, LNG and LBG offer excellent solutions, as clean fuels with low emissions. With a growing biogas infrastructure, the positive impact on Swedish road traffic will be evident in the coming years, as greater numbers of both people and companies switch to biogas and then to LNG to LBG. The result will be a significant decline in the amount of emissions that cargo transport produces in Sweden.

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