Europe, don’t forget biomethane on the road to zero emission

There is not a single ‘silver bullet’ clean fuel for the transition to clean transport


Making road transport more sustainable by using cleaner fuels is a dire necessity. It is responsible for more than a fifth of the CO2 emissions in Europe and is the primary cause of air pollution in our cities. As Maroš Šefčovič, vice president of the European Commission, stated during a recent speech in Paris: “Road transport is responsible for diseases and premature deaths of millions of people around the world every year. We can no longer stand by and watch.” I firmly agree with Šefčovič on this point. Our visions of how to achieve 100% clean transport are somewhat different. Let me explain why.

Green Growth Group: Limit global warming in 2050 to 1.5°C

Šefčovič shared his vision on the state of sustainability in Europe and the role of transport during the 20th anniversary celebration of the European Metropolitan Transport Authorities (EMTA). Besides reflecting on the energy transition over the last two decades, he also looked at the uphill battle that Europe is facing today.

Thankfully, Europe’s sustainable ambitions are just as big as the task at hand. Governments, companies and citizens – conversations encouraging the transition to sustainable energy are getting louder from every corner. For example, a group of fourteen EU countries are calling upon the European Commission to take more rigorous action to fight climate change. This so-called ‘Green Growth Group’, is challenging Europe to come up with ambitious changes to the current climate agreement at the next UN Climate Change Conference: The new EU strategy must include an action plan for reaching zero emissions by 2050, as well as further limiting the increase in global temperature to 1.5°C.

The potential of natural gas and biomethANE

The fighting spirit demonstrated by the Green Growth Group is one requirement for success. But in my opinion, it will take more than that. Our emission of CO2, NOx and particulates must be reduced quickly. To achieve this, a broad range of solutions and efforts will be necessary. We simply don’t have the luxury of focusing on one alternative fuel option, and ignoring others. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening.

For instance, CNG or Compressed Natural Gas, is often overlooked. Or, as Anton Pelka of SEAT recently explained, CNG is still treated like a neglected stepchild (‘stiefmütterlich’). The reason why Pelka recently announced his company will heavily invest in CNG technology for the Volkswagen Group becomes clear from a recent article by Global Fleet. No less than ten advantages of CNG are listed, including lower emissions, cost-effectiveness, and safety.

Biomethane is 100% sustainable and renewable

The green equivalent of CNG, biomethane is another alternative fuel that is underexposed (and as a result underutilized) in Europe, in my view. This became apparent once again from Šefčovič’s EMTA speech. He made it clear that his future vision of sustainable transport focuses primarily on electric driving. I believe that this is a missed opportunity for the air quality in our cities, as well as the global climate.

Why? There are certain transport markets where electricity isn’t yet feasible, for financial or operational reasons. For these markets, biomethane is an excellent alternative that is fully sustainable and renewable. It is made from biogas and produced by the fermentation of organic waste such as plants, sewage, animal manure, and roadside grass. It is virtually carbon-neutral and produces more than 70% fewer CO2 emissions than diesel. Last but not least, it can be transported, distributed and consumed using existing natural gas grids and equipment.

There isn’t a single ‘silver bullet’ clean fuel solution

The energy transition in Europe requires multiple fuel solutions. There’s not just one ‘silver bullet’ clean fuel to achieve zero emission transport. For every market and every vehicle type the transition will look slightly different, depending on availability, affordability, and the required range.

That’s why at PitPoint clean fuels we offer a portfolio of clean fuels including LNG, CNG, biomethane, electricity and hydrogen: alternative fuels that allow businesses and governments to stop using diesel, and start reducing harmful emissions caused by transport today. We’re keeping an open mind when it comes to the road to zero emission. Let’s hope that our European leaders do the same.

Erik Kemink
CEO, PitPoint clean fuels

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