Belgium’s Commission for the Regulation of Electricity and Gas (CREG), being the federal body for regulating the electricity and natural gas market in that country, has published a report on the competitive position of natural gas used as CNG (compressed natural gas) and LNG (liquefied natural gas) fuel for different vehicle types.
CREG says the the purpose of the study was to analyse, in complete independence and without value judgement, the market for natural gas as a fuel. It has been able to show that these fuels are more ecological (about 80 to 90 % less particulate matter and nitrogen oxides) and generally better economic alternatives than fossil fuels. This study focuses mainly on the economic aspect.
For passenger cars and vans, the fuel cost of CNG is about 70% lower than that of fossil fuels, taking into account a lower price at the pump and lower consumption. Moreover, the fuel price of CNG is relatively similar to that of electricity. CNG appears to be generally more economical in comparison with both petrol and diesel and CNG fuel will be available from about 140 stations by end of 2019.
The current business case is positive for CNG and LNG trucks, provided that sufficient kilometers are covered and that regional support measures (purchase premiums) are taken into account. CREG observes that the restrictive problems identified a few years ago, such as the limited power of vehicles and the number of service stations, have largely been solved. There are currently seven LNG stations in Belgium with ten other projects foreseen for 2019 and 2020.
Unlike LPG vehicles, with which they are sometimes confused, CNG and LNG vehicles are mainly produced in a factory. The growth in the number of CNG and LNG stations in Belgium and in Europe makes it easier to rely on these alternative motorisations that are still relatively unknown.
The Executive Summary goes on to explain two main elements that weigh economically on all vehicles analysed are the fuel price and the purchase price of the vehicle. Other elements, namely residual value and maintenance costs, are only important for the truck market.
The study discusses technical and regulatory aspects, profitability analysis, and market development of refueling infrastructure and vehicles before reaching the conclusion that:
“Based on this study, carried out independently and without any value judgement, natural gas (CNG for passenger cars and commercial vehicles, LNG for international trucks) appears to be a real alternative to traditional fuels and demonstrates its relevance both in terms of the environment (significant reduction in particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, supply of CNG stations via pipelines and not by truck) and the economy (lower fuel costs).”