As a fuel, LNG offers many upsides including drivability and fuel consumption, but with a significant reduction in CO2 emissions and costs. Refuelling is as fast as diesel and the average range of an LNG truck is good, making liquefied gas a viable alternative fuel for long-haul transport. Until recently, the main barrier has been the lack of LNG infrastructure, but that is quickly changing.
A surge in LNG refuelling stations
Since 2018, the number of LNG stations in Europe has quadrupled and now exceeds 400 including planned stations. At the current pace there will be 750 stations by 2025, and by 2030, it is estimated that there will be over 2000 stations. This growth is the result of support from the EU and various national governments, who see LNG and Bio-LNG as an effective means for reducing CO2 emissions in the logistics and transportation sectors.
The strongest growth has been in Germany, where the government has introduced various incentives since 2019, such as an exception from road toll tax for LNG powered trucks. Today, there are 70 LNG stations in Germany, compared to just three in 2018.
“What is happening in Germany has really been a game changer,” says Henrik Persson, Business Manager for Long Haul, Volvo Trucks. “Because of the size of its truck market, and its geographical location which makes it a transit point from east and west, this is impacting the number of LNG trucks on European roads.”
The growth is not limited to Europe either with China seeing a significant shift from diesel to LNG powered trucks in recent years, and in India the government has announced plans to open 1000 LNG stations across the country in the next three years.
Reaching its full environmental potential through Bio-LNG
While a Volvo Trucks LNG powered vehicle typically emits up to 20 percent less CO2 than its standard European diesel equivalent (Tank-to-wheel), the reduction can be up to 100 percent (Tank-to-wheel) if using Bio-LNG with HVO (Hydrogenated/Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil). This is because Bio-LNG is produced from feedstock, such as household waste, agricultural waste and sewage. Otherwise, Bio-LNG is indistinguishable from regular LNG when it comes to performance. The same infrastructure for gas storage, transportation and refuelling can be used, and an LNG powered truck can switch seamlessly between the two. In fact, some gas companies are blending biogas with LNG, which is a good first step towards extending the benefits of biogas to all LNG users.
Main barrier lack of large-scale production
The main barrier to using Bio-LNG is a lack of large-scale production. “Currently the availability is scarce in the EU, with the exception of the Nordic region,” says Henrik Persson. “In Norway, all LNG stations use 100 percent biogas. In Sweden it is about 75 percent biogas and will soon be 100 percent, and Finland is on the same path. As more LNG trucks are released into the market, many of the larger gas companies are starting to invest in Bio-LNG in the rest of Europe too.”
In December 2021, 28 European companies and organisations presented the Biomethane Declaration to the European Commission, pledging to contribute to scaling up biogas production to at least 350 TWh by 2030. The intention is to help the EU meet its “Fit For 55” target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent by 2030.
Other companies are also taking their own initiatives. For example, Shell recently announced that its refinery in Wesseling, Germany, will shift away from crude oil towards renewable fuels including Bio-LNG. Shell has also established a collaboration with Nordsol’s newly built Bio-LNG plant in Amsterdam, which will see Shell distribute Bio-LNG through its LNG service stations. Meanwhile Biokraft AS’s Bio-LNG production plant in Skogn, Norway, the largest of its kind in the world, will double its production to 50 tonnes per day in 2022. And leading Nordic producer Gasum now has 17 biogas plants in Sweden and Norway.
As more refuelling stations are opened, LNG will become a viable alternative for an increasing number of transport operators. This will enable them to make an immediate reduction of CO2 emissions in the short-term, and the growth of Bio-LNG should enable them to achieve net zero CO2 emissions in the long-term.