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Biogas has a significant role in Finland's goal of carbon-free transport by 2045

The Transport Climate Policy working group under the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications has published its final report on actions for eliminating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the longer term. The working group highlights biogas as a significant part of the solution for GHG emissions cuts. Measured in energy terms, the amount biogas used in Finland's transport sector in 2045 would equal that of renewable diesel, a tenfold increase on current domestic biogas production.

According to Gasum’s Matti Oksanen, Director, Product Management and Solutions, biogas liquefaction of biogas makes it possible to distribute biogas for use as a fuel for the heavy-duty road as well as maritime transport (photo courtesy Gasum).

According to Finnish gas major Gasum Oy, the final report of the Transport Climate Policy working group under the Finnish Ministry of Transport and Communications contains a proposal for an action plan for eliminating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions over the longer term.

Transport currently accounts for around one-fifth of Finland’s GHG emissions, with road transport generating as much as 93 percent of domestic transport emissions.

It’s great that gas was highlighted in the report as a key way of reducing transport emissions. To achieve carbon-free transport, we must take all possible immediate action during the next government terms: the vehicle fleet must be renewed and alternative propulsion systems must become more common. The working group raised biogas alongside electricity and liquid biofuels as an equal option in transport use in 2045. The production of Finnish biogas will need to increase considerably for the emission reduction targets to be reached, said Matti Oksanen, Director, Product Management and Solutions, Biogas, from Gasum.

The final report proposes a broad range of measures from various economic instruments to investments and information guidance. The key targets should be achieving a downturn in the volume of car use, accelerating the renewal rate of the vehicle fleet significantly beyond current plans, and rapidly increasing the share of biogas and other biofuels.

Play a significant role in GHG reduction

The working group regarded the role of biogas as “very important” in the efforts to achieve zero-carbon transport: biogas would, alongside electricity, be a significant alternative source of energy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in 2045.

In terms of the amount of energy, the amount of biogas used in transport would be almost as much as renewable diesel, around 10 TWh. This target means a ten-fold increase in production capacity from the current annual level of only around 1 TWh of biogas being produced in Finland.

Using biogas to fuel vehicles makes it possible to cut the greenhouse gas emissions generated over the fuel life cycle by up to 85 percent compared with traditional fuels. Renewable and 100 percent Finnish biogas is produced from feedstocks such as biodegradable waste, sewage sludge, and industrial and agricultural side streams. Biogas production also represents the circular economy at its best as the recycled nutrient and fertilizer products created as by-products can be used for industrial as well as agricultural needs, which helps reduce the emission load even further, said Oksanen describing the additional benefits of biogas.

New gas-fueled vehicles needed on Finland’s roads

To reach the working group’s target, the number of gas-fueled cars (NGVs) should be increased significantly in Finland. Their number on Finland’s roads should be around 130 000 in 2030 and around 250 000 in 2045. The target set for heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) is around 6 000 vehicles in 2030 and as many as 22 000 in 2045 and the target for gas-fueled vans 14 000 and 41 000, respectively.

The number of gas-fueled vehicles is increasing at a record rate in Finland, and Gasum is promoting cleaner transport by expanding the vehicle gas filling station network using both biomethane and fossil gas (photo courtesy Gasum).

The renewal of the vehicle fleet can be accelerated by measures including the excise duty on fuels and support for the acquisition of low-emission vehicles. Applying a sliding scale of the car tax and vehicle tax on the basis of emissions can also enhance the impact of the excise duty on fuels and acquisition support.

The working group recognized that predictability will be needed in the future, too, for the creation of the biogas market and gave a clear signal for the continued excise duty-free status of biogas. Fixed-term support for the acquisition of clean vehicles can also help accelerate the rate of emission cuts. The acquisition and operating costs of gas-fueled vehicles are already very competitive, whereas the switch to electric is currently only being anticipated as an option for ordinary people, said Oksanen summing up some of the discussions that took place within the working group.

Distribution infrastructure must match customer needs

According to the working group, the gas distribution infrastructure must also match customer needs. Support for the development of the distribution infrastructure will, therefore, be needed at least in the initial stage in Finland.

Gasum has been taking clear action to build the Nordic gas market. The transport sector plays a key role in the company’s strategy and it has increased the number of gas filling stations in Finland. The company is planning to construct a total of around 50 HDV filling stations in Finland, Sweden, and Norway within the next few years.

The new stations will be located at key transport nodes as regards logistics operations, and they will support the use of low-emission gas to fuel heavy-duty transport in the Nordic countries.

Fast-tracking the Nordic LNG/LBG infrastructure with planned and existing Gasum sites as shown by Sofie Lärkhammar and Mikael Antonsson, Gasum AB during the Elmia Lastbil 2018 trade show in Jönköping, Sweden. A first time exhibitor, the duo report that there has been a “tremendous response” for LNG and LBG at the show.

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