The Future of Diesel in the EU Series: Assessing CNG, LNG and Biomethane

04.30.19 | Member Reports | By:

This is the fourth in a series of reports and posts that will be completed this year and will attempt to provide insights for members into the question of what the future of diesel will be in the EU (and what that might portend globally). This project will be a series of posts and reports over 2019, with a final report to culminate the work, draw conclusions, present insights and provide a comparative analysis of the fuel options covered. The goal is to finish the series by the end of the summer, capping with the final report and a webinar to discuss the results. To refresh members, the fuel types that will be covered include the following: Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs); biodiesel and HVO; CNG, LNG and biomethane; gasoline; methanol and dimethyl Ether (DME); hydrogen; LPG; oxymethylene ethers (OME); Power-to-X or electrofuels.

This report focuses on compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG) and biomethane (also known as bioCNG or renewable natural gas (RNG)). In preparing this report, I spoke to industry and NGO contacts working on these issues. Based on those discussions and my research, I expect that natural gas will be a “bridge fuel” until full transport decarbonization can be reached. Advances in electrification, especially in trucking and shipping could change this. Biomethane also could be a bridge fuel and could stay in the pool even beyond that.

Key Points

  • It is clear that the European Commission envisions natural gas playing a role in its long-term net zero strategy, at least for heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) and shipping, but not as much for light-duty vehicles (LDVs). Biomethane is expected to play a role as well.
  • There are a number of supportive policies in place for natural gas and biomethane, most notably the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Directive (AFID), CO2 standards for vehicles and revised Renewable Energy Directive (REDII) for biomethane. Some Member States have much more work to do to implement the terms of the AFID.
  • Automaker/natural gas industry targets noted in this report could be a helpful barometer to watch to see how the market develops. Another barometer is Member State actions under the AFID and what kinds of policies they set (or do not set) to encourage natural gas and biomethane, especially when it comes to infrastructure development.
  • There are diverging views on how much or even whether natural gas reduces GHGs or air pollutants. Sustainability issues have been raised about biomethane. Methane leakage is an issue for NGOs.
  • I expect that natural gas will be a “bridge fuel” until full transport decarbonization can be reached. Advances in electrification, especially in trucking and shipping could change this. Biomethane also could be a bridge fuel and could stay in the pool even beyond that.
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