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Natural gas vehicles can NOx your SOx off

A natural gas car is like any other car to drive. The only difference is that it uses natural gas instead of petrol or diesel. Substituting natural gas for conventional fuels provides tangible environmental benefits: cars driven on natural gas emit significantly less carbon-dioxide (CO2), sulphur (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) per kilometer travelled than those using diesel or petrol. Emissions of CO2 are reduced even more when renewable bio-methane is blended in (40% CO2 savings with a 20% share of bio-methane). When one adds the reduced noise levels of natural gas vehicles compared to diesel cars, natural gas appears as an interesting fuel option, especially in urban environments.

Natural gas can be used as a fuel for any mode of transportation: on-road vehicles, scooters, heavy duty vehicles, ships, locomotives, even aircrafts. Natural gas vehicles (NGVs) are not zero-emission but their environmental, economic and availability advantages make them a realistic alternative to vehicles running on conventional fuels.  

With all this in mind, on 21 January a test drive of natural gas cars was organized at the Palais des Nations during the meeting of UNECE’s Group of Experts on Gas, in cooperation with the Natural & Bio Gas vehicle Association (NGVA) Europe. Gazmobile SA, Swiss member of NGVA Europe, provided the cars.

The Secretary General of NGVA Europe, Mr Pilskog, explained the advantages of NGVs. “The world is rapidly increasing the use of gas for transport. European decision makers have ambitious plans to improve the environment by reducing emissions from transport and reaching CO2 reduction targets. Very important long term decisions were taken last year to lower the EU’s dependency on oil and to establish natural gas as a real alternative to diesel and petrol.” 

UNECE Executive Secretary Christian Friis Bach, who tested one of the cars, said: “we need more research, notably on methane emissions, but we know natural gas can be transformational.  I have seen it in Delhi: it helped to bring down air pollution, cancer rates went down, you gained not only in terms of energy efficiency but also in terms of environment and health. Natural gas can play a key role in the transition towards a transport system driven by even cleaner fuels such as electricity or hydrogen.”

The use of natural gas in transport faces many barriers, related to infrastructure, fuel composition, and public perception of using compressed or super-cooled gases in a vehicle. To overcome these obstacles, UNECE’s Group of Experts on Gas established a task force on removing barriers to the use of natural gas in transport. The Task Force is now developing policy guidelines for using natural gas as an alternative fuel in the inland and maritime transports. A principal benefit is mitigating the negative effects of climate change. Over the next two years the Task Force will develop policy recommendations on removing barriers to the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel. These recommendations will focus on technology support measures, measures aimed at stimulating the use of alternative fuels more widely, the provision of appropriate gas-based infrastructure, the introduction of vehicle-specific performance targets or standards, fiscal measures, and measures aimed at improving air quality. NGVA Europe and NGV Global will take a leading role in the initiative, which is expected to deliver its first report at the beginning of 2016.

The Directive 2014/94/EU on the deployment of alternative fuels infrastructure, published by the European Union in November 2014, requires the EU member States to establish national policies that guarantee a refuelling infrastructure for CNG (compressed natural gas) or LNG (liquefied natural gas) cars. To reach the targets of the Directive, EUR 26 billion of investment support for transport infrastructure development will be made available during 2014-2020. This represents a major breakthrough for the market that will accelerate the development of Europe’s gas refuelling network. Moreover, a shift to LNG as a fuel will take place in the shipping sector due to stricter limits for the sulphur content of bunker fuel used in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea, and the English Channel. The new legislation benefits natural gas in all transport modes as gas infrastructure for marine transport and road transport complements each other.

For more information on the work of the Expert Group, please visit:  http://www.unece.org/index.php?id=36606#/