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IFPEN study finds biomethane the best transportation fuel to preserve air quality

The European Environmental Agency (EEA) has warned against the increase of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions of new passenger cars since 2017 and recalls that the transport sector remains a significant source of air pollution. A recent study of IFPEN shows that the biogas sector is part of the solution to reach climate-neutrality in transportation.

A bioGNV filling station in France (photo courtesy IFPEN).

A recent study by IFP Energies Nouvelles (IFPEN) in France shows that on a well-to-wheel basis,
the biogas sector is part of the solution to reach climate-neutrality in transportation (photo courtesy IFPEN).

The study, Etude ACV de véhicules roulant au GNV et bioGNV, was conducted by IFP Energies Nouvelles (IFPEN) in France. It reveals that light vehicles running on biomethane are better for the climate than other technologies.

The study compares the carbon footprint of the entire life cycle of compressed natural gas (CNG) and biomethane vehicles to that of diesel, gasoline and electric vehicles (EVs) and it concludes that biomethane is the best transportation option to preserve air quality.

This research anticipates the intention of the European Commission to evaluate in 2023 “the possibility of developing a common Union method for the evaluation of CO2 emissions throughout the life cycle of these vehicles “.

Well-to-Wheel perspective

At present, the EU has agreed to reduce the average CO2 emissions from new cars by 15 percent in 2025 and by 37.5 percent in 2030. These standards measure the emissions produced by car usage (Tank-to-Wheel) but do not consider the full the carbon footprint of the vehicles (Well-to-Wheel).

This becomes very relevant when comparing the emissions from different types of low-carbon vehicles. Electric vehicles, for instance, would be carbon neutral from a Tank-to-Wheel perspective, but the results are different from a Well-to-Wheel measurement, as the IFPEN study shows.

Biomethane upscaling needed

However, the same study points out the need for further biomethane upscale. The current biomethane capacity in France can only supply 100 000 to 150 000 vehicles. As a mid-term solution, the study recommends a 60-40 percent mix of natural gas (GNV) and biomethane (bioGNV) up to 2030, which would power vehicles with a climate impact equivalent to that of an electric car.

The EEA and many other organisations are highlighting the urgency to decrease CO2 emissions from the transport sector. We have a responsibility towards the environment and our society, and we need to consider every option to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. Renewable natural gas (RNG), together with various other renewable sources and low-carbon technologies, must all be part of the solution. The development and upscaling of these technologies will need a holistic, technology-neutral and long-term legislative framework to make this development possible commented Susanna Pflüger, Secretary General of the European Biogas Association (EBA).

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