Cooperation as key to affordable fuel transition

Jan Theo Hoefakker looks back on the NGVA event


According to EC figures, 96 percent of European vehicles still run on petrol and diesel. And a zero emission approach is not affordable for all modalities at this time. Thus, the potential for greening the European mobility market with biomethane – in the form of bio-CNG and bio-LNG – is large.”

Biomethane market leaders

The Netherlands ranks among Europe’s biomethane market leaders together with Italy, Germany, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Austria, and Switzerland. Hence, the reason I was invited by the Natural & bio Gas Vehicle Association (NGVA Europe) to participate on behalf of PitPoint clean fuels in a panel discussion on the status of gas fuelling infrastructure in Europe. NGVA Europe saw the international Busworld 2019 trade fair in Brussels as an opportunity to organise the ‘Next Stop: gmobility’ event on 18 October. During the panel discussion, cooperation turned out to be the key word of the day.

Cost effectiveness

Every mode of transport, be it public transport buses, trucks, boats or taxis, needs its own sustainability approach. Electric buses are by and large already an attractive option for inner-city transport, while we see that regional transport demands are still often better served by biomethane. Anyone who wants clean transport with high fuel efficiency and better cost-effectiveness will quickly arrive at biomethane as a viable option. In many cases, biomethane can already be supplied at cost-neutral prices. Thus, we believe that the best approach would be to define the requirements and the most efficient method of meeting them on a project by project basis.

No “one size fits all” sustainable fuel

The example I always use, which I also did during the panel discussion, is the ferry boat from TESO to between the Dutch main land and the island of Texel. TESO’s primary goal involved clean and sustainable shipping, and initially the company considered using LNG as a clean fuel source. However, when we studied the case and asked the right questions, supported by in-depth analysis, the conclusion was that CNG was the most suitable solution. This same principle also applies to electric: everyone asks about it, but it is our job to keep asking. Does electric tie in with the objectives and budget of that customer? There is a risk that clean solutions, such as electricity, biomethane and hydrogen, will compete with each other for the title of ‘Best Alternative Fuel’. However, there is no “one size fits all” sustainable fuel. What may be the best solution for a given situation may be different for another situation. The fuel industry at large is working towards the same goal: clean, sustainable and affordable transport.

Saving on government spending

Thus, as gas industry, we should not rail at political decisions, other fuels or powertrains and avoid falling into the trap of silo thinking. Maja Bakran Marchich, deputy director general of the Mobility and Transport department at the European Commission, also stated during the event that creating a clean planet stands or falls with cooperation. To that end, I believe it is important not only to work more closely together as suppliers, but also with the production industry. Long-term partnerships can eliminate the uncertainty about whether a product should be brought to market or not. The contribution to achieving climate objectives is so great that biomethane can be produced without subsidies, based on the amount of CO2 avoided. This ultimately saves government spending of taxpayer money.

Our own strength

Throughout the discussion of what the future of mobility and transport looks like, it is therefore important to rely mainly on our own strength. Biomethane is a wonderful product, but we, as industry, fail to communicate this effectively. That is why initiatives such as gmobility are so important. Over 40 percent of the biomethane produced in the Netherlands is already used for mobility. While only 10 percent is used in the rest of Europe. More cooperation and the right set of rules will help to increase the share of renewable energy in a cost-efficient manner. This appeared to be on top of my fellow panelists’ list during the panel discussion. As you can see, there is a lot we can cooperate on.”

Photo credit: NGVA Europe

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