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Quick decarbonisation of transport in Europe is possible with biomethane – EBA

In the race towards decarbonisation, the transport sector has become the number one priority. Transport is the only sector in Europe which the emissions have continually risen since 2014 due to growing demand in passenger and freight transport despite increasing use of electric vehicles.“Biomethane can be easily scaled-up and can play an important role in the needed fast decarbonisation of transport, says Harmen Dekker, recently appointed Director of the European Biogas Association (EBA).

A Volvo 460 methane-diesel tanker truck transporting liquefied biogas (LBG) from Air Liquide Group subsidiary, FordonsGas Sverige AB, a Swedish gas distributor, gas refuelling station developer and operator. 
A Volvo 460 methane-diesel tanker truck transporting liquefied biogas (LBG) from Air Liquide Group subsidiary, FordonsGas Sverige AB, a Swedish gas distributor, gas refuelling station developer and operator.

According to the EBA, the transport sector represents one-third of Europe’s overall carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and is the main cause of air pollution in urban areas. Road transport alone is responsible for 70 percent of these emissions.

The urgent need for decarbonisation of the transport sector has taken the EU to set a goal of 60 percent emissions reductions in transport by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. Meaningful transport sector decarbonisation is required throughout the next decade to reach that target and comply with the Paris Agreement obligations at a global level.

All technologies will need to play a role in the transition to carbon-neutrality, especially in the transport sector. The deployment of electric vehicles (EV) and related infrastructure is crucial but will not be enough to decarbonise transport in a fast and cost-effective way.

E.ON’s bio-CNG public refuelling station at its Högbytorp waste-to-energy (WtE) and biogas facility in Stockholm, Sweden.

The European Commission is working on a new transport strategy and the Director-General for Transport, Henrik Hololei, has already stressed the need for all alternative fuels, including biomethane, to lower emissions.

Boosting renewable gas deployment in transport

The advantages of renewable gas are backed by significant scale-up potential. A recent study from the Centre on Regulation in Europe (CERRE) estimates the EU could produce 124 billion m3 (bcm) renewable gas. In transport, this potential can be tapped with already available technologies: light-duty vehicles equipped with internal combustion engines (ICE) are ready for the switch to renewable gases.

New Holland Methane Tractor
For agriculture, New Holland launched its award-winning Concept Methane Tractor already in 2017.

The immediate deployment of renewable gas vehicles could be ensured with additional measures, such as support for retrofitting of vehicles powered by diesel and standard fuel engines. The promotion of blending obligations for renewable gases could also help speed up the transition to low-carbon fuels, coupled with a significant increase in filling stations and availability of alternative fuels like bio-CNG and bio-LNG.

Additional environmental benefits

The EBA points out that the use of renewable gases has additional environmental benefits. Apart from the substantial improvement of local air quality by lowering NOx emissions and particulate matter (PM), renewable gas provides a bridge to a circular economy, one of the top priorities of the European Green Deal proposal presented by the European Commission in December 2019.

Biomethane can help cities and municipalities establish local and circular bioeconomy – through organic waste processing and wastewater treatment plants (WWTP). In addition, biogas production can make European agriculture greener and more resource-efficient.

A farm-based biogas plant. The anaerobic digestion (AD) process helps reduce organic waste volumes, odour and closes the nutrient loop through returning digestate back to the soil. According to the World Biogas Association (WBA), there needs to be at least 1 million large scale installations, each handling over 100 000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of feedstock plus millions of smaller-scale digesters in operation by 2030 requiring some US$5 trillion of investment if the sector is to achieve its global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction potential of 12% within the next decade.

With farm-based biogas plants, farmers can find alternative uses for organic residues, lower greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by replacing the use of fossil fuels and fossil fertilizers on farms and receive a diversified income.

This production process provides some of the lowest GHG emissions when measuring lifecycle emissions of vehicles and fuels compared to any currently known energy source in the automotive industry.

Green gas for a Green Deal

The European Green Deal has set a clear ambition towards carbon-neutrality by 2050. The EBA says that it is fully committed to the decarbonisation of the transport sector. Earlier this year, it joined forces with the Natural & bioGas Vehicle Association (NGVA Europe) and the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) calling for the acceleration on the deployment of renewable gas infrastructure.

It has also announced that the 2020 edition of the European Biogas Conference will take place on September 2-3, 2020 in Brussels, Belgium. This annual conference provides a platform for open dialogue and discussion with policymakers, industry, academia, and other stakeholders on the latest developments on biomethane and other renewable gases in Europe.

The 2020 edition of the European Biogas Conference is scheduled to take place September 2-3 in Brussels, Belgium.

Biogas, biomethane and other renewable gases will play a key role in helping Europe’s transition to a clean energy system with a genuinely resource-efficient and circular economy. The EBA is now carrying out a comprehensive assessment of the measures that the EU is planning to put in place to make the transport sector more sustainable and recently launched an in-depth study on the state of play of biomethane in Europe.

Biomethane can be easily scaled-up and can play an important role in the needed fast decarbonisation of transport. We are calling for recognition of this opportunity and a level playing field of all available technologies that will allow for a balanced transition of the transport sector said Harmen Dekker, recently appointed Director of the EBA.

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