MARCOGAZ’s assessment on LNG and hydrogen in line with Commission’s proposal on alternative fuels and maritime transport
19 July 2021 | News
The “Fit for 55” package released by the European Commission, on 14 July 2021, includes proposals for the revision of legislation related to alternative fuels infrastructure and on the use of renewable and low-carbon fuels in maritime transport.
In particular, LNG’s role is emphasised in maritime transport and road transport for heavy-duty vehicles (HDV). The directive’s revision foresees publicly accessible refuelling points for liquefied natural gas (LNG) across EU members, at least along the TEN-T core network, in order to allow LNG heavy-duty motor vehicles to circulate across the Union.
The proposal also requires free circulation of LNG vessels along the TEN-T core network by 2025 (maritime) and 2030 (inland waterways) without setting a clearer mandate as to which ports need to be equipped with LNG bunkering facilities.
Moreover, the Commission projects that LNG will represent around 3.3% of the energy use in transport by 2030 and 8.2% by 2050 in a baseline scenario. More specifically, LNG would provide about 5% of maritime bunker fuels by 2030 and 19% by 2050 – especially in short sea shipping. This rise is expected to be driven by the implementation of the directive on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure and other complementing regulations.
MARCOGAZ technical analysis on LNG as transport fuel
The recent reports by MARCOGAZ titled “Liquefied Natural Gas as Transportation Fuel” and “Liquefied Natural Gas and Hydrogen as Transportation Fuel” stress that LNG, a low-carbon energy, performs well towards achieving the EU’s ambitions for the decarbonisation of industry.
Overall, the uptake of LNG in maritime is expected to reduce air pollutants. The Commission’s proposal highlights that LNG contains little sulphur and LNG engines are tuned to emit low NOx emissions. This means that LNG is an attractive fuel for ships operating in Emission Control Areas (ECAs), zones where ships must comply with more stringent air quality standards.
MARCOGAZ’s technical analysis reveals that, compared to diesel as fuel for HDV, LNG emits 7% to 15% less, and compared to marine diesel oil, LNG emits 25% less. The reports draw attention to the fact that LNG complies with the latest requirements set in the applicable regulations for all applications in road, rail, aviation, and maritime transports.
MARCOGAZ also points out that LNG as fuel in maritime gives the opportunity to vessels at ports to become “energy independent”. The vessels may not have to depend on the shore grid connection since frequencies might be different. When the electricity grid connection is not economic, or not possible due to the difference of currency frequency (ship at 60 Hz while EU grid at 50 Hz), LNG may provide an efficient and flexible alternative. For instance, power generation from a gas engine using clean LNG fuel can be installed onshore or on a barge and connected to the ship.
New engine technologies and LNG
The Commission’s proposal acknowledges that LNG is, technologically, a mature solution that contributes substantially to tackle air pollution. However, its contribution towards GHG reduction can be limited, particularly taking into account methane slip, depending on the engine technology.
Methane slip is gas that is not used as fuel in the engine, and it escapes into the atmosphere during incomplete combustion. Referring to new engine technologies such as the high-pressure direct injection (HPDI) truck engines using LNG, MARCOGAZ’s analysis stresses that the use of HPDI results in lower CO2 emissions and the methane slip is reduced substantially.
Elaborating on new engine technologies, MARCOGAZ’s analysis also draws attention to the differences in LNG’s quality due to its geographical origin, differences in natural gas sources, production technologies and target markets. Confronted with this range of fuel compositions, manufacturers must either derate the engine with the concomitant loss of performance or restrict the range of fuels. This may result in either a limitation of the supply options for the end user, increased processing cost for the fuel supplier, or in a (structural) reduction of the engine’s performance.
A better solution for both fuel suppliers and end users is the real-time adjustment of the engine settings, based on the measured composition of the fuel that enters the engine. The advantage of such a feed-forward fuel-adaptive engine control system is that the engine will only be adjusted from its optimal setting — maximum power and efficiency — when the methane number is lower than specified.
The future of Bio-LNG
The Commission further highlights that LNG vehicles can only contribute to the necessary emission reductions if, in the long run, natural gas becomes gradually decarbonised and fully replaced by biogas and/or renewable low-carbon e-gases. LNG can pave the way for the use of bio-LNG or e-gas, which would also offer climate-related benefits.
Although there is still a limited number of plants producing bio-LNG in Europe, MARCOGAZ’s assessment underlines that bio-LNG as a fuel for LNG trucks is expected to be available in a significant number of European countries. The increase in the share of Bio-LNG in transport will mark the achievement of another major milestone for the market and the environment, making almost GHG neutral operation possible for long-distance heavy-duty trucks, or by achieving Well-to-Wheel (WTW) GHG emissions reduction by at least 80% compared with diesel, depending on the bio-methane source.
By 2030, it seems reasonable to expect that bio-LNG will be produced in much larger volumes, not only from bio-methane (anaerobic digestion), but also from Power-to-Gas and gasification processes. Consequently, it will increasingly offer great opportunities for GHG emissions reduction in heavy road haulage as well as affordable zero or low carbon heavy goods road transport in Europe.