There is much argument about sustainable transportation, with many seemingly attractive alternatives vying for market attention. Some stay longer than others, some glimmer with hope for a brighter future, but thus far, none have endured like natural gas. Diego Goldin, NGV Global’s Executive Director, spoke to this topic at the St. Petersburg International Gas Forum 2014 in October.
NGV Global was invited to participate in the opening plenary, with Goldin joining Alexei Miller, Gazprom CEO (keynote address); Jerome Ferrier; IGU President; Olivier Lazare, Shell Russia; Uwe Fip, E.ON Global Commodities; Marcel Kramer, Consultant and Counsel to OAO Gazprom; Pavel Zavalny, Russian Gas Society NPO; Ruslan Gorukhin, Association of Equipment Manufacturers “New Technologies in the Gas Sector”; and Ms. Debora Giorgi, Minister of Industry in the Argentine Republic.
Speaking at the new International Convention & Exhibition Center ExpoForum Saint Petersburg, the venue for NGV Global 2016, Goldin spoke about the role of Natural Gas as a sustainable transportation fuel. The debate on whether NGVs or electric vehicles are the main options for sustainability is present in many discussions. In his speech, Ferrier stressed that because coal is still the main source for power generation., it could therefore be implied that electric vehicles can be considered as fuelled by coal, lacking the sustainability that many attribute to this kind of mobility.
Goldin argues that there cannot be sustainable development without sustainable transportation, and there cannot be sustainable transportation without sustainable fuel. Clearly, sustainability is an issue of the present that projects to the future of our children and their children; that means we have to act responsibly now, before it is too late.
In general, the three pillars of sustainability are Economic, Environmental and Social; or in Venn terms, sustainability lies at the intersection of these three principles. Does natural gas meet the conditions of sustainability?
The economic advantages of natural gas are obvious and measurable. Natural gas is much cheaper than any other fuel option. In fact, for ages we have seen that it was too cheap and producers often flared it because they found that its value did not justify the investment. Those times are gone because every bit of energy is needed, but although natural gas is now a widely traded fuel commodity its price is much lower than the alternatives. Even countries that due to their geographic location pay the highest international price for LNG, like Argentina, Japan or Korea, only pay about two thirds of what they pay for importing gasoline or diesel. This difference is maintained or even increased when natural gas reaches the final user.
The environmental benefits of using natural gas are almost as clear as the economic ones. Natural gas is intrinsically a much cleaner fuel than the liquid ones (fossil or bio). When ignited, its single carbon atom surrounded by hydrogen produces almost 25% less CO2 emissions compared to gasoline or diesel. Furthermore, being a gas there are no particles when it burns in the engine, and there is practically no carbon monoxide either.
Can natural gas contribute to social advantage? Yes – the reduction in the cost of transportation results in a direct reduction of the costs of goods, mainly food, not only locally but also globally. If we follow the evolution of the international food price index we clearly see that it follows the evolution of the price of fuel. Also, affordable fuel contributes to increased mobilisation, enhancing delivery of food and resources and strengthening communities.
Finally, one of the most important but often disregarded benefits of natural gas transportation comprises the sum of these advantages. Sustainability is a concept conceived out of concern for maintaining and improving human life: the improvement in health of the population in areas with Natural Gas Vehicles is tangible and valuable. Goldin recently participated on a panel with the Ministry of Environment in Korea; their figures show that the health and environmental benefits of replacing diesel by CNG on their 35,000 buses saved the government close to 1.5 billion US dollars in only seven years.
The technology, infrastructure, vehicles and experience are ready now. Natural gas fuel is being used and it is has been proven to fulfil all the promises. Technology to bring renewable natural gas to the equation is already well advanced and available, enhancing the benefits through the elimination of environmental liabilities and the capture and use of greenhouse gases.
It is NGV Global’s mission to let the world know that the solution is here. It is the mission of policy makers to allow us, and help us to do so.
Natural Gas is the sustainable fuel by excellence, and its adoption will contribute to a better legacy for future generations.