Delivering the EU Green Deal: LNG is key
LNG is set to play a pivotal role in the European Green Deal by making a strong contribution to the energy transition through diversifying supplies, delivering flexibility, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality.
To make this happen, EU policymakers must give the correct signals, by delivering stable policies and adequate market mechanisms. This will ensure that liquefied natural gas (LNG) can continue to play a key role in enabling the energy transition in Europe and in decarbonising the heavy-duty maritime transport sector. These were the key messages emerging from the ‘LNG and the EU Green Deal’ event in Brussels last month. The event was organised by the LNG industry under the LNG Protocol platform (Eurogas, GIE, GIIGNL, IGU, Marcogaz, NGVA, SEA\LNG, SIGTTO, SGMF) and supported by the Florence School of Regulation and GasNaturally. This initiative aims to support European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen who outlined the potential of affordable LNG in her mission letter to Kadri Simson, Commissioner for Energy. Earlier this year, the LNG Protocol sent a signed Declaration to the European Commission President reinforcing this statement.
European commission: decarbonising Europe’s energy markets is key to achieving our climate goals
Florian Ermacora, from the European Commission’s DG ENER, told the audience that decarbonising Europe’s energy markets is key to achieving the EU Green Deal and the 2050 climate-neutrality goal. Ermacora said that, “the EU had not been ambitious enough on driving clean energy and needs to be more ambitious now.” He warned that, “becoming climate neutral by mid-century won’t be achieved by simply setting new renewable and energy-efficiency targets. We will also be looking at infrastructure and other energy carriers. Electricity on its own will not do the job; we need molecules as well.”
Existing gas infrastructure is ready to facilitate the expected higher volumes of decarbonised and renewable gases
Francisco de la Flor, board member of Gas Infrastructure Europe, told participants that, “the EU’s existing gas networks and LNG infrastructure are fundamental to achieving the switch to a decarbonised society. This existing infrastructure will facilitate the expected volumes of decarbonised and renewable gases such as biomethane, synthetic LNG and hydrogen.”
Ermacora pointed out that, in the short term, there are huge possibilities for gas to decarbonise the electricity sector. “I don’t think everyone appreciates that natural gas is already doing a great job in replacing coal. It is also clear, however, that if we want to go for a carbon neutral Europe in 2050, natural gas will not be able to do the job of decarbonisation as such. Yes, we need gas, but we also need to think about how to effectively decarbonise gas.”
The European Biogas Association (EBA), the Natural Gas for Vehicles Association (NGVA Europe) and the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) called on EU policymakers to accelerate deployment of infrastructure to deliver natural gas and renewable gas/biomethane across the EU by signing a joint declaration in this perspective
"Let’s not forget that you can already decarbonise today, if you use a gas-fired power plant instead of a coal plant" Vincent Demoury, General Delegate, GIIGNL
Coal to gas switching in power generation will drastically reduce emissions
The demand for natural gas is expected to sit at around 40 percent of total energy demand over the next 20 years. It will play an important part in reducing CO2 emissions in the power generation sector. Eurogas Secretary General and GasNaturally Steering Committee Chair, James Watson, said that, “LNG is now being discussed more than ever at European level”, as Europe is receiving record volumes of LNG in its facilities, as a consequence of increased global supply and a decrease in LNG prices. Watson said that “In the frame of the Green Deal, LNG will do a lot more than just enable the switching from coal and oil. It will also reduce a lot of the air pollutants that are highly detrimental to health. So, LNG will play an important role not just in providing flexibility and diversity of supply, it will also result in CO2 reduction and improved air quality.”
Peter Fraser from the International Energy Agency (IEA) flagged up the IEA’s World Energy Outlook report on the role of oil and gas companies in the energy transition. This highlights how “the great LNG influx into Europe depressed spot gas prices, resulting in substantial coal-to-gas switching and emission savings in the power sector. This led, for the first time since 2009 to a significant coal-to-gas switching in the European Union’s power sector. While coal-fired power generation declined by 25 percent, gas-fired power generation increased by over 10 percent. This led to an approximate emissions saving of 42 million tonnes of CO2.”
Vincent Demoury, General Delegate for the International Group of Liquefied Natural Gas Importers (GIIGNL) recalled that just by switching from a coal-fired to a gas-fired power plant, fifty percent of the emissions are already saved: “Let’s not forget that you can already decarbonise today, if you use a gas-fired power plant instead of a coal plant.”
Methane emissions taken very seriously
Fraser suggested that “although methane emissions are a threat, particularly from the so-called super emitters, there are also tremendous opportunities to reduce those emissions at low cost”. De la Flor explained that methane emissions management and reduction is among the top priorities of the European gas industry to actively contribute to accelerating environmental commitments. He referred to the report “Potential ways the gas industry can contribute to the reduction of methane emissions” in which representatives of entire gas value chain, from production to utilisation, including biomethane plants participated. The report reflects the commitment to build a culture towards net zero methane emission.
"The use of natural and renewable gas is a quick and easy way to complement a complex system. Recognising its role in transport decarbonisation…is the best way to create a safe, secure, sustainable and efficient system in favour of European citizens’ mobility and companies’ logistics" NGVA Europe Secretary General, Andrea Gerini
Road transport – powering engines with sustainable solutions
Heavy-duty transport is expected to play an increasing role in any future EU transport scenario, with a global economy and logistics that will require a growing number of freight trade across Europe. LNG has been used in the sector for a few decades; vehicle technologies are mature, affordable, safe and ready to provide a fast and strong contribution to the transportation challenge. On top of the continuous engines and powertrains technological evolution, the use of natural gas results in immediate CO2 tailpipe emissions, up to 15 percent compared to diesel, thanks to the combination of a highly efficient engine and the fuel properties.
During the event, The European Biogas Association (EBA), the Natural Gas for Vehicles Association (NGVA Europe) and the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) called on EU policymakers to accelerate deployment of infrastructure to deliver natural gas and renewable gas/biomethane across the EU by signing a joint declaration in this perspective. NGVA Europe Secretary General, Andrea Gerini explained, “The use of natural and renewable gas is a quick and easy way to complement a complex system which will gradually change how we move and transport freight around the world. Recognising its role in transport decarbonisation in the future revision of the legislative measures is the best way to create a safe, secure, sustainable and efficient system in favour of European citizens’ mobility and companies’ logistics.”
Maritime transport – cleaner cruising to 2050
On 1 January 2020, the International Maritime Organisation began implementing a new regulation placing a 0.5 percent global sulphur cap on marine fuels. The importance of this clean air initiative, in which LNG will play a key role, will also have a significant positive impact on global health. Steve Esau from SEA\LNG emphasised that “with increasing orders for LNG-fuelled vessels and LNG bunker vessels, together with expanding infrastructure shoreside to provide the critical last-mile delivery of LNG to ships, LNG as a marine fuel remains the economic and environmental choice. LNG safety and operational guidelines, as well as infrastructure, will act as best practice for the adoption of alternative fuels over the longer term.”
Several speakers emphasised that, in these sectors, the use of LNG will not only provide immediate greenhouse gas emissions reductions but also a pathway to full decarbonisation through zero emissions bio LNG and synthetic LNG. Demoury made it clear that "if you are using an LNG-fuelled ship, you have already saved up to 20 percent of CO2 emissions - that is decarbonisation. It may not be full decarbonisation, but it is already part of it.” This message was reinforced during discussions on road and marine transportation where alternatives for heavy-duty vehicles and deep-sea shipping, such as electric powertrain or hydrogen ships, are not a viable option today.
"LNG Protocol associations are committed to deliver on these benefits and to ensure that LNG plays a leading role in delivering the EU Green Deal. Let’s make it happen” GIE Deputy Secretary General Roxana Caliminte
Conclusions of the day
GIE Deputy Secretary General Roxana Caliminte summed up the conclusions of the day saying that “LNG is available, affordable and good for CO2 emissions. It cleans the air by massively reducing particulate matter and hence is good for public health. LNG Protocol associations are committed to deliver on these benefits and to ensure that LNG plays a leading role in delivering the EU Green Deal. Let’s make it happen”.
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