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Policymakers need to acknowledge the full potential of biomethane as a green transportation fuel – EBA

The European Biogas Association (EBA) has launched a new position paper providing a comprehensive analysis of the potential of biomethane for the fast decarbonisation of the transport sector and policy recommendations to ensure the further scale-up of this green fuel. The paper has considered 11 comparative studies analyzing transport emissions per type of fuel, which show that biomethane can reach even carbon negative levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) reductions in transport.

The European Biogas Association (EBA) has launched a new position paper providing a comprehensive analysis of the potential of biomethane for the fast decarbonisation of the transport sector and policy recommendations to ensure the further scale-up of this green fuel.

According to the European Biogas Association (EBA), the further development of biomethane (aka renewable natural gas – RNG) will support a strong automotive industry within Europe and provide additional resources for farmers from energy production.

All studies on alternative fuels since 2010, including the EU Joint Research Centre (JRC) reports, show that biomethane can reach even carbon negative levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) reductions in the transport sector.

Decarbonise transport and support automotive industry

In its position paper entitled “Acknowledging the full potential of biomethane as transport fuel“, the EBA highlights that biomethane is readily available, scalable, and contributes to maintaining a strong automotive industry within the EU. It is now crucial to tap into the valuable role of biomethane and put it on an equal footing with electric mobility (e-mobility) to ensure decarbonisation of the EU transport sector.

Despite all current efforts by the EU, transport is the only sector that shows an increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on a yearly basis since 2014. The need for further actions to reduce emissions in the transport sector must be addressed without delay.

A biogas-to-biomethane upgrading facility at a wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) in Sweden complete with a public bioCNG filling station.

The development of green e-mobility is advancing but it alone will not ensure the expected and much-needed decarbonization in time and it will fall short to adequately cover all areas of transport. Other alternative green fuels can contribute, together with green e-mobility, to speed up transport decarbonization in the coming years and make sure its economic benefits remain in the EU.

Call on policymakers to recognize the role and value of biomethane

Based on the factual data, the EBA calls upon EU policy-makers to recognize the valuable role and potential of biomethane in the Strategy on Sustainable and Smart Mobility and create a level playing field allowing for this scalable green fuel to contribute to the most needed decarbonization of the transport sector on an equal footing with e-mobility.

EBA points out that biomethane is currently the only sustainable fuel besides green electricity which is readily available and allows for the fast decarbonization of all transport areas. It is a versatile sustainable fuel that can be compressed to bioCNG (aka compressed biogas – CBG) or liquefied to bioLNG (aka liquefied biogas – LBG) and these are already being used in light passenger vehicles and in heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) such as trucks and busses.

The maritime sector too is showing increasing interest in bioLNG as a sustainable fuel and in rail transport locomotives can replace the use of diesel by bioCNG or bioLNG. The technologies to enable the further deployment of biomethane are readily available.

In November 2018, M/S Tern Sea belonging to Gothenburg-based shipping company Terntank became the very first operator to bunker liquefied gas – liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquefied biogas (LBG) –  at a new bunkering facility at the Port of Gothenburg, Sweden.

In November 2018, M/S Tern Sea belonging to Gothenburg-based shipping company Terntank became the very first operator to bunker liquefied gas – liquefied natural gas (LNG) and liquefied biogas (LBG) –  at a new bunkering facility at the Port of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Important to distinguish CO2

Standard gas-fueled Internal Combustion Engines (ICE) are compatible with biomethane. The EBA acknowledges that this may seem controversial as ICE’s also use fossil fuels but stress that ICE emissions are dependant on the type of fuel used and not on the ICE technology per se.

Indeed EBA points out that initial studies on this suggest that ICE engines are not only performing better than the electric powered engines in terms of CO2 footprint at a production level but also at the end of life phase.

While the combustion of biomethane does emit CO2, the EBA stresses that this CO2 is of a biogenic nature, which is different from fossil CO2. The impact of biogenic CO2 emissions is offset by the sequestration of an almost simultaneous (or at least close in time) equivalent CO2 absorption from biomass, unlike fossil carbon, for which the sequestration occurs over a geological timescale.

Therefore biogenic and fossil CO2 should not be accounted for in the same way.

Apart from significantly reducing fossil CO2 emissions, biomethane is at the heart of a circular economy: it is the best way to recycle biowaste, to produce valuable renewable gas and biofertilizers.

E.ON Sverige’s Högbytorp closed-loop waste recycling and energy recovery facility is built adjacent to a materials recycling depot in north-west Stockholm, Sweden. It consists of a dry fermentation plant with biogas upgrading to biomethane that is sold as a transportation fuel and digestate composting for energy and nutrient recovery of fermentable green and organic waste and a combined heat and power (CHP) plant for energy recovery of non-recyclable combustible waste.

This potential of biogas and biomethane is also pointed out in the recent Farm-to-Fork strategy of the European Commission that encourages farmers to “grasp opportunities to reduce methane emissions from livestock by developing the production of renewable energy and investing in anaerobic digesters for biogas production from agriculture waste and residues, such as manure.3 ”

This paper sheds light on the significant potential of biomethane to reduce emissions in the transport sector, which is currently underestimated. Biomethane is a readily available green fuel produced in Europe. The multiple socio-economic and environmental benefits associated with the deployment of this renewable fuel will directly benefit EU citizens. Biomethane is a no-regrets option to decarbonise transport, said Harmen Dekker, Director of the EBA.

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