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Natural gas key element in mix of alternative fuels to clean up air in urban areas, says MEP
thursday, 9. July 2015
More buses and trucks on natural gas as fuel will offer a relative quick solution to air quality problems, said Christine Revault d’Allonnes-Bonnefoy, French MEP for the Alliance of Socialist & Democrats, during a forum organized by NGVA Europe and NGV Global at the World Gas Congres in Paris. Natural gas, she added, should therefore be seriously considered as an alternative fuel.
The French MEP is member of the Transport Committee of the European Parliament and also has a seat on the council of Ile-de-France region, which include eight departments around Paris.
Christine Revault is a strong supporter of cleaning up the urban transport environment quickly and is not wholly convinced of the measures that some local authorities have taken. In the case of the hybrid-electric buses that the city of Paris operates, she said, it can be found that they consume more diesel than electricity.
Given the need in urban areas for cleaner air and – in general – lower CO2 emissions, the French MEP said, natural gas should be part of ‘a mix of solutions’, in particular also biomethane.
“At present we talk in the European Parliament mainly about electricity being the only way forward, but I also talk about gas as part of the solution”, she said, adding she would work politically on several levels to promote natural gas as a fuel.
The World Gas Conference in Paris prominently featured natural gas as a fuel in transport, with for the first time a big exhibition of natural gas vehicles. On show were many cars, trucks and buses on the market today that drive on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). Alongside the exhibition, a host of gatherings and forums highlighted the benefits and challenges of natural gas as a fuel.
Representatives from the International Energy Association (IEA) and the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE) readily pointed out the opportunities for natural gas as a fuel, but also some of the challenges.
Natural gas cars lack for example the ‘buzz’ electric cars have among consumers in the passenger car market, Lazslo Varro of the IEA said. But then cars are a ‘fashion article’, he said, and in addition the infrastructure for electric cars is already there: everybody can plug it in at home.
But that doesn’t mean there will never be cars on natural gas, retorted Lennart Pilskog, secretary-general of NGVA Europe. Natural gas as a fuel offers cleaner air and significant CO2 reductions, all of them benefits that cannot be simply discarded. With an expanding infrastructure for CNG as a result of investments in a cleaner urban environment, and also more stringent standards for air quality, natural gas would only become more attractive as a fuel for car owners, he said.
Lazslo Varro of the IEA added he saw strong potential for natural gas in heavy transport and LNG and in urban areas, in spite of the needed investments in upgrading and developing engine technology and building the necessary infrastructure. He also said that the production of biomethane from renewable energy sources would be an essential element to natural gas. Ultimately environmental requirements would make the difference, he predicted, as it had done in Asia where air pollution from trucks had led to political decisions to switch from diesel to natural gas on a large scale.
Other obstacles to the growth of natural gas as a fuel are the lack of standards, said Scott Foster of UN-ECE. If gas as a fuel is to grow more rapidly, he added, it should focus more on trucks and buses and be stimulated more extensively, in particular through fiscal provisions and measures to improve air quality. In the meantime UN-ECE would work hard with the industry to get rid of technical barriers, in a special working group that is chaired by NGVA Europe.
Biomethane also features prominently on the priority list of the EU-commission, which gave an overview of measures already taken to promote the use of natural gas as a fuel, and where some more work is needed. Antonio Tricas-Aizpun of the EU-Commission repeated the overall target set out in the Climate and Energy Framework by the EU of 40 percent below the 1990 level by 2020 with at the same time an increase of renewable energy by at least 27 percent. Natural gas and biomethane are both part of the energy mix of alternative fuels required to substitute oil in the long term, with the Directive on deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure (DAFI) as one of the main drivers to promote its use.
During the World Gas Congres many companies related to the NGV-industry shared their views on the present and future of natural gas vehicles. The World Gas Congres is the biggest and most important global trade show for the gas industry. It’s held every three years.
This year’s edition had 3700 conference participants from 90 countries with 350 exhibiting companies. It was visited by 6000 people.
A special event was the finish of a rally of natural gas vehicles across Europe organized by the Russian company Gazprom and the German energy company E.ON and during which natural gas vehicles bridged the distance from St. Petersburg to Paris. More information on that rally can obtained here.
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