The Role of LNG in the Directive on the Deployment of Alternative Fuels Infrastructure

By Mr José Fernandez Garcia, Policy Officer, Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport, European Commission
Autumn 2014

Europe relies heavily on imported oil for its mobility and transport. The share of oil-based fuels in transport energy demand stands at around 94%. We spend up to 1 billion euros per day on oil imports and burn more than half of it in our vehicles, aircrafts and vessels. This equals approximately 2.5% of GDP and 7% of average household expenditures.

The EU's strategy to reduce the oil dependency of transport builds on a number of complementary initiatives, including (1) the introduction of alternative fuels, (2) encouraging greener and more sustainable urban transport, (3) making the best possible use of intelligent transport systems, (4) encouraging the use of a combination of different modes of transport (multimodality) (5) investing in research and innovation as well as (6) a charging policy.

The transport sector has a high priority for the introduction of alternative fuels substituting oil based products, as motorised transport highly depends on oil as an energy source and fuel at present. The 2011 White Paper on Transport specifically requested a sustainable alternative fuels strategy including also the appropriate infrastructure. Following this request, the Commission has set out a series of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and consumption of transport fuels, including an alternative fuels strategy.

The objectives of introducing alternative fuels in the EU are primarily:

  • Improvement in security of energy supply by source diversification and oil substitution;
  • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions on the grounds of climate change concerns.

Energy savings, low emissions, better air quality, reduced congestion and technological leadership can all go hand in hand; and alternative fuels, together with increased transport efficiency, are an indispensable tool.

In early 2013, the European Commission adopted a package entitled "Clean Power for Transport". The cornerstone of the package is a proposal for a Directive on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure which addresses the currently missing link to reach a sustainable transport sector: putting in place a standardized recharging and refuelling infrastructure to allow EU-wide mobility with alternative fuel vehicles.

EU Member States will have to take measures so that the Directive can start taking effect from 2020. The Directive mandates the build-up of infrastructure for the alternative fuels that are most promising in reducing both oil dependence and emissions: electricity, natural gas and hydrogen.

Natural gas is a mature and readily available technology for both road and waterborne applications. There are a number of cars and vans available on the market right now and it is the most promising alternative fuel for trucks, as well as maritime and inland waterway vessels. Natural gas offers today a technology with performances equivalent to petrol or diesel units and with very clean exhaust emissions. Natural gas use in buses and trucks can substitute diesel fuel.

Natural gas - both as CNG and as LNG - figures among the alternative fuels for which the Directive mandates the deployment of infrastructure.

For heavy duty vehicles LNG, including liquefied bio-methane, can offer a cost-efficient technology to meet the stringent pollutant emission limits of Euro VI standards. The TEN-T Core Network should be the basis for the deployment of LNG infrastructure as it covers the main traffic flows. Member States should ensure that refuelling points are put in place by the end of 2025 and within adequate distances taking into account the minimum range of LNG heavy-duty motor vehicles. As an indication, the necessary average distance between refuelling points could be approximately 400 km.

In this context it is worth mentioning the European Commission's co-funded LNG Blue Corridors project. The project aims at improving knowledge and awareness of LNG as an alternative fuel for medium and long distance road transport. The core of the project is the deployment and demonstration of four LNG Blue Corridors. This will include building 14 new LNG stations and building up a fleet of about 100 LNG Heavy Duty Vehicles which will operate along the corridors. The project will run for 4 years and will connect over 12 Member States and align itself with existing demonstrations running at national level.

LNG is an attractive fuel alternative for vessels to meet the requirements for decreasing the sulphur content in marine fuels in the Sulphur Emission Control Areas, affecting half of the ships sailing in European Short Sea Shipping. LNG is therefore an important element in the effort to comply with sulphur emission reduction legislation: 0.1% in Sulphur Emission Control Areas as of 1 January 2015 and 0.5% in all EU waters as of 1 January 2020. According to the Directive LNG refuelling points at maritime and inland ports should be available at least by the end of 2025 and 2030 respectively to allow circulation in the TEN-T Core Network.

In this context it is worth mentioning the Costa project, which aims at developing the framework conditions for the use of LNG for ships in the Mediterranean, Atlantic Ocean and Black Sea areas. If Costa's policy recommendations are implemented, it is expected that CO2 emissions from shipping could drop by 25% in 2020 and by 50% in 2050. Considering air pollutants, the use of LNG would eliminate SOx and reduce NOx by 90%.

The Directive on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure shows the political will at the European Commission, the European Parliament and EU Member States to go forward with reducing our dependence on oil for transport, whilst at the same time making our transport greener and more sustainable. The measures that we are taking create a favourable regulatory framework to provide manufacturers, investors and consumers with the necessary confidence that alternatives to oil are there not only to stay but will become increasingly important over the years and decades to come. In this context LNG will play a gradually important role both for road transport as well as for waterborne applications.

Disclaimer: The content of this article does not reflect the official opinion of the European Union. Responsibility for the information and views expressed in this article lies entirely with the author.