EU Launches Clean Fuel Strategy to Propel Refuelling Infrastructure Development

| Europe

LNG refuelling for road transport every 400 kms

EU-wide refuelling for CNG vehicles

All 139 maritime and inland ports to have LNG refuelling

Common EU standards; binding targets

The European Commission has launched an ambitious package of measures to ensure the build-up of alternative fuel stations across Europe with common standards for their design and use. Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), the latter for refuelling heavy duty vehicles and marine vessels, are included. Policy initiatives so far have mostly addressed the actual fuels and vehicles, without considering fuels distribution. Efforts to provide incentives have been uncoordinated and insufficient.

Clean fuel is being held back by three main barriers: the high cost of vehicles, a low level of consumer acceptance, and the lack of recharging and refuelling stations, creating the classic chicken and egg standoff. Refuelling stations are not being built because there are not enough vehicles. Vehicles are not sold at competitive prices because there is not enough demand. Consumers do not buy the vehicles because they are expensive and the stations are not there.

The Commission is therefore proposing a package of binding targets on Member States for a minimum level of infrastructure for clean fuels such as electricity, hydrogen and natural gas, as well as common EU wide standards for equipment needed:

  • Common standards for LNG and CNG refuelling stations for cars, trucks and vessels must be developed by December 2015.
  • LNG refuelling points for waterborne vessels shall comply with the relevant standards, to be adopted by 2014.

EC Vice President Siim Kallas responsible for Transport said. “Developing innovative and alternative fuels is an obvious way to make Europe’s economy more resource efficient, to reduce our over-dependence on oil and develop a transport industry which is ready to respond to the demands of the 21st century.”

The Clean Power for Transport Package consists of a Communication on a European alternative fuels strategy, a Directive focusing on infrastructure and standards and an accompanying document describing an action plan for the development of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) in shipping.

Other than the standards proposals mentioned above, the main measures proposed that pertain to natural gas are:

Waterborne LNG: LNG is used for waterborne transport both at sea and on inland waterways. LNG infrastructure for fuelling vessels is at a very early stage, with only Sweden having a small scale LNG bunkering facility for sea going vessels, with plans in several other Member States. The Commission is proposing that LNG refuelling stations be installed in all 139 maritime and inland ports on the Trans European Core Network by 2020 and respectively 2025. These are not major gas terminals, but either fixed or mobile refuelling stations. All major ports are covered.

Road Transport LNG: Liquefied natural gas is also used for trucks, but there are only 38 filling stations in the EU. The Commission is proposing that by 2020, refuelling stations are installed every 400 km along the roads of the Trans European Core Network.

The TEN-T core network covers the main transport corridors across Europe. It is estimated that some 181 LNG refuelling stations will be built and therefore an important market development is expected for LNG heavy duty vehicles, which will replace diesel trucks.

Road Transport CNG: Compressed natural gas is mainly used for cars. One million vehicles currently use this fuel representing 0.5% of the fleet – the industry aims to increase this figure ten-fold by 2020. The Commission proposal will ensure that a sufficient number of publicly accessible refuelling points are available, with maximum distances of 150 km, to allow the circulation of CNG vehicles Union-wide by 31 December 2020.

Hydrogen: Germany, Italy and Denmark already have a significant number of hydrogen refuelling stations although some of them are not publicly accessible. Common standards are still needed for certain components such as fuel hoses. Under this proposal, existing filling stations will be linked up to form a network with common standards ensuring the mobility of Hydrogen vehicles. This applies to the 14 Member States which currently have a Hydrogen network.

Member States will be able to implement these changes without necessarily involving public spending by changing local regulations to encourage private sector investment and behaviour. EU support is already available from TEN-T funds, cohesion and structural funds.

(This article compiled using information from EU press releases)

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