Within the framework of the EU Green Week 2021, the European biomethane industry via the European Biogas Association (EBA) has presented three key recommendations to ensure the deployment of biomethane (aka renewable natural gas – RNG) in transport and consequently achieve a fast, cost-effective shift to carbon-neutral mobility in Europe by 2050.
In a statement, the European Biogas Association (EBA) says that the biomethane industry “welcomes the gradual replacement of fossil fuels in the transport sector but that the replacement of these fuels should not penalize the technology they use.
Internal combustion engines (ICE) are compatible with renewable fuels, including biomethane. Just as renewable electricity is compatible with the same batteries that are now mostly powered by electricity from fossil origin.
Emissions from transportation will need to be reduced by 90 percent by 2050 relative to 1990. However, the current trends suggest that the transport sector will fail to contribute to the reduction in emissions required to meet EU targets.
To ensure the full decarbonization of the transport sector, Europe needs to couple electrification with the deployment of all alternative fuels and technologies including biomethane (aka renewable natural gas – RNG).
In a paper ‘Smart CO2 standards for negative emissions mobility’ published on June 3, 2021, as part of the EU Green Week 2021, the EBA notes that current standards have adopted an approach to measure the emissions performance of the vehicles that considers only the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions produced by the use of the vehicles (Tank-to-Wheel), instead of considering the emissions produced across its whole vehicle lifecycle.
This penalizes the deployment of ICEs. Yet even a natural gas vehicle (NGV) using fossil gas has lower emissions than a fossil diesel or gasoline alternative and is high performing in emissions reduction when used with biomethane such as compressed biomethane (CBG or bioCNG) or liquefied biomethane (LBG or bioLNG).
According to the EBA, the “environmental performance of biomethane over its complete lifecycle is excellent and has been scientifically proved in different studies”, as the paper demonstrates.
Biomethane-powered vehicles can reach even negative emission levels depending on the feedstock and technology used, but this is not recognized by the current regulation.
Call for LCA approach
The EBA stresses that the updating of the CO2 emission performance standards together with other legal frameworks, such as the Renewable Energy Directive (RED II) or the Directive on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure (DAFI), must set out a harmonized approach that enables genuinely carbon neutral and cost-effective solutions to reduce CO2 emissions in transport.
Eventually, this should lead to the adoption of a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) approach in EU vehicle legislation, says EBA
Manufacturing and recycling can represent anything from one-fourth to half of the total vehicle emissions but are entirely omitted from the current standards. LCA is the “only means to ensure that CO2 emissions in the transport sector are accurately and comprehensively quantified.”
The CO2 emission standards should also include a new mechanism ensuring that compliance assessments for vehicle manufacturers consider the contribution of biomethane to emissions reduction. This mechanism could take the form of a crediting system or a carbon correction factor (CCF) as a function of the renewable fuel used.
If a new mechanism cannot be implemented by 2025 at the latest, then the most efficient gas vehicles should be acknowledged as low emission vehicles within the current system.
The decarbonization of transport could also be encouraged with a binding obligation for the EU to steadily increase the share of sustainably produced biofuels and renewable gases in transport, reaching 50 percent in ICE and hybrid vehicles by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.
Biogas at the heart of the circular economy
The sustainable production potential of biomethane for the coming years is large. The EBA notes that there is a “consensus within the industry” that by 2030, the biogas and biomethane sectors combined can almost double their production and by 2050, production can more than quadruple.
The benefits of the use of biomethane for clean mobility go far beyond the transport sector. Biomethane is at the heart of an efficient circular economy: it is the best way to recycle organic waste, produce valuable renewable gas and biofertilizers, promote sustainable and efficient farming practices, and create jobs in rural areas.
The potential of biogas and biomethane was also pointed out in the recent Farm-to-Fork and Methane strategies of the European Commission.