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LNG: an energy of the future

LNG: an energy of the future

LNG is the cleanest fossil fuel. In the context of the current energy transition sought by the European Commission, it represents an excellent alternative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help combat global warming. By developing the use of LNG - particularly for industry and transport - Elengy aims to actively contribute to protecting the environment.

Natural gas and liquefied natural gas in the energy transition

The properties of natural gas (low environmental impact of its combustion), its energy performance and its abundant reserves distributed around the globe make it an energy of the future: natural gas use is expected to account for 25% of the world energy portfolio by 2035, compared to 21% today, i.e. a demand of 5,1000 billion m3 (Gm3). To meet the challenges of the 21st century - in particular combating global warming and protecting the environment - the European Commission has adopted a framework of actions aimed, more specifically, at achieving a target of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (compared to 1990), along with a set of measures designed to reduce pollutant emissions. The success of these initiatives is inherently dependent on the development of new energy sources and changes in behaviour. In this respect, natural gas is an excellent complementary solution in the context of an energy mix with renewable energies (solar, wind power, biomass) to produce electricity or fuel.

The cleanest fossil fuel The combustion of natural gas does not emit soot, dust or fumes. It generates 30% less carbon dioxide (CO2) than fuel oil and 45% less than coal, with a twofold reduction in nitrogen oxide (N0x) emissions and almost no environmentally-damaging sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions.

In the current context of the energy transition, Elengy is actively contributing to the development of new uses for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) around the world, particularly applications in the field of transport and industry.

Natural gas as a road vehicle fuel

In 2012, according to INSEE (French national institute of statistics and economic studies), road transport accounted for 85% of the transportation of goods over land in France, making this sector the second biggest energy consumer behind the tertiary residential sector, responsible for almost a third of the country's CO2 emissions. To address the problem of these polluting emissions, the objective of the Grenelle de l'Environnement French forum on the environment is to cut the sector's CO2 emissions by 20% by 2020. On a European scale too, the Euro VI standard applied from 2014 requires nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions five times lower than Euro V.

The development of natural gas fuel - either in compressed form (CNG) for urban transport or short distances, or in liquid form for regional and long-distance transport (LNG) - is seen as a promising alternative to achieve the new environmental targets.

Natural gas makes it possible to comply with the new environmental standards. Compared with diesel, natural gas fuel represents the following reductions:

  • a 25% reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2),

  • an 80% reduction in nitrogen oxide (NOx),

  • a 97% reduction in carbon monoxide (CO) emissions.

In terms of inconvenience caused to local residents, trucks fuelled by LNG are half as noisy as the equivalent diesel-fuelled trucks; consequently, urban areas where truck traffic is prohibited due to noise pollution can be accessed at certain times of the day.

Consequently, for over 20 years now, 40% of cities with a population of over 200,000 have operated vehicle fleets running on CNG: buses, refuse collection trucks, municipal light vehicles. Since 2008, CNG has been extended to road freight. In France, the Office Parlementaire d'Evaluation des Choix Scientifiques et Techniques (OPESCT - parliamentary office for the assessment of scientific and technical choices) recognises the benefits of natural gas fuel and encourages its use and development in order to promote a transport energy mix.

One of the substantial advantages of LNG is that while fuel represents the biggest proportion of the overall cost of operating a truck, LNG costs less than diesel, leading to palpable savings on a truck fleet scale.

Tomorrow, LNG fuel stations

On a European scale, the "LNG Blue Corridors" projects recognises the economic and environmental advantages of LNG. Launched in May 2013, this project brings together European truck constructors, transport companies and LNG suppliers and distributors and aims to establish LNG as a credible truck fuel alternative for medium to long-distance journeys. Elengy is closely monitoring the development of LNG fuel in Europe as a potential growth driver.

The 14 filling stations of the LNG Blue Corridors project

The competitiveness of LNG and its low impact on the environment herald promising development: by 2050, it is estimated that the use of LNG as a road vehicle fuel will amount to 20 Mtpa (million tons per annum).

LNG as a marine fuel

With sulphur emissions that are 10,000 times higher than diesel, the use of heavy fuel oil (HFO) as maritime fuel has a significant impact on the environment; in reality it accounts for almost 14% of global sulphur emissions into the atmosphere.

The growing impact of this human activity on the environment is pushing the International Maritime Organisation and the European Union to implement stricter regulations , lowering the maritime fuel sulphur limits in waters around the world. In Europe, adoption of directive 2012/33/EU imposes a maximum sulphur emission limit for ships of 0.1% in specific SECAs (Sulphur Emission Control Areas): Baltic Sea, English Channel and North Sea), from 1st January 2015, and 0.5% for all other European waters in 2020 or 2025. This ambitious directive positions LNG as a solution for the future for maritime fleets as they take the necessary steps to comply with this directive.

Compared to traditional heavy fuel oils, LNG represents:

  • a 25% reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

  • a 90% reduction in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions,

  • a 100% reduction in sulphur (SO2) and fine particle emissions.

In addition to a lower environmental impact, LNG is the primary energy offering the best thermodynamic yields and hence the best energy efficiency. In particular, the cost of LNG is considerably more competitive than that of other low-sulphur fuels, such as MGO (Marine Gas Oil). Currently, the great majority of ships fuelled by LPG are in Norway. However, vessels navigating coastal or river routes using LNG as a marine fuel are beginning to emerge in other European countries, such as Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. To support the growth in demand for LNG, it will be necessary to roll out port facilities across the entire TEN-T (Trans-European Transport Network) by 2025, in order to supply river or maritime navigation fleets, in compliance with directive 2014/94/EU. The potential uses of LNG are not limited to use as a file of maritime or road transport. It can also be used to supply industrials sites or communities not linked to the natural gas transmission grid.

LNG as an energy source for industry and communities

In France, almost 26,000 towns and villages have a geographical location that prevents them from being connected to the mains gas network. Homes in these areas are forced to use home heating fuel or electricity, for example, which are significantly more expensive than natural gas. The desire of communities and private individuals to control their budgets is shared by industrial players, seeking an economically stable and accessible source of energy. LNG is an alternative to fuel oil, LPG and coal, enabling industrial players to make savings in terms of both energy supply costs and equipment maintenance costs. In addition to its competitive cost, LNG is an excellent solution to help industrial players bring their facilities into line with current environmental regulations, with these regulations set to become even stricter in the future. While industry accounted for 85% of sulphur dioxide emissions (SO2) in 2011 according to the Centre interprofessionnel technique d'études de la pollution atmosphérique (CITEPA - French cross-industry technical centre for atmospheric pollution studies), conversion of these industries to LNG would lead to the generation of lower CO2 emissions, and of virtually no nitrogen oxide (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and fine particles. In Europe, 25% of electricity is produced in coal-fired power plants. These power plants can only convert 33 to 45% of the energy produced by the combustion of coal into electricity.

By way of comparison, a thermal power plant fuelled by natural gas rather than coal is associated with:

  • an 81% reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2),

  • an 8% reduction in nitrogen oxide (NOx),

  • a 100% reduction in sulphur (SO2) and fine particle emissions.

The lower impact of natural gas on the environment is such that if coal-fired power plants were replaced by thermal power plants fuelled by natural gas, the CO2 emissions of the European energy sector would be cut by 60%, and 20% on a global scale.

The stations at Montoir-de-Bretagne and Fos Tonkin offer more than 12 000 loading slots per year, and this capacity will double in 2019 thanks to the commissioning of the new station at Fos Cavaou LNG terminal (Fosmax LNG).

Launched in 2013 at Montoir-de-Bretagne and one year after in Fos sur Mer, the LNG truck loading services grow rapidly with nearly 6 000 trucks loaded in 2018. LNG loaded on trucks is used by industrials off-grid or as a cleaner fuel for road or maritime transport.

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