NGVA Europe: Expert Group Report Highlights Need for Alternative Fuel Infrastructure

NGVA Europe: Expert Group Report Highlights Need for Alternative Fuel Infrastructure

In December the Expert Group on Future Transport Fuels (DG MOVE) published its second report on Infrastructure for Alternative Fuels, which includes policy recommendations and highlights the stakeholders’ view on necessary actions to develop an adequate refuelling infrastructure for alternative fuels. NGVA Europe was deeply involved in the elaboration of this report and is the only member of the expert group representing natural gas as a motor fuel.

The report points out that refueling stations for alternative fuels have to be built up first to facilitate and enable the market development of zero and low carbon fuels like NG/biomethane.

In particular, important recommendations of the Expert Group include (extract):

All alternative fuels are viable options for the future fuel mix, high infrastructure investment needs would, however, only be required for electricity, hydrogen and methane in the short and medium term. Special support measures for the build-up of the required infrastructure are, therefore, only necessary for these fuel options. 

  • Road transport could be powered by electricity and hydrogen for short distances, hydrogen, methane and LPG up to medium distance, and biofuels/synthetic fuels and LNG up to long distance. However, out of the mentioned alternatives, only biofuels/synthetic fuels and methane (CNG and LNG) are viable options for the heavy duty sector.
  • Railways could be electrified wherever feasible, otherwise use biofuels and/or hybrid solutions to bridge gaps in the electrified network. Non electrified trains or locomotives can also use LNG.
  • Aviation could be supplied from biomass derived kerosene. LNG might also be a possible option and there are also some examples where CNG has been used in short distance traffic.
  • Waterborne transport (maritime and inland waterways) could be supplied by biofuels (all vessels), hydrogen (inland waterways and small boats),LNG, (short sea shipping and inland waterways transport), and nuclear (maritime).

The development of methane vehicles is strongly hampered by high investment costs that are required for the build-up of the needed methane refuelling infrastructure (CNG and  L-CNG stations).

Worldwide Methane-fuelled vehicles are annually increasing at a two digit rate in percentage. About 13.5 million vehicles are in operation, 1.1 million units thereof in Europe (EU/EFTA). Natural Gas vehicles cover all types of vehicles from light to heavy duty. Biomethane can be successfully applied in short and long distance transport. HDV for public transport are increasingly used in cities aiming to reduce emissions and noise. LNG/LBG trucks for long-distance transport (dedicated and dual fuel) are already offered by several OEMs and new versions with a range of up to 800-1000 km are being introduced into the market. There is a high density natural gas grid available throughout Europe, which can also be used for the distribution of biomethane. Currently about 200 biogas upgrading plants and injection points are operational.

Concerning the market outlook of methane and LNG for transport, any significant penetration would require the availability of a minimum refuelling infrastructure. If the refuelling network of CNG and L-CNG were rapidly developed across Europe, the market for methane powered vehicles could grow significantly in Europe in the short, medium and long term, with the expectation to reach a total market share of 5% by 2020, 9% by 2030 and 16% by 2050, both in passenger and freight transport, combining all transport modes. 

The application of Euro VI in 2014 reinforces the relevance of environmental and economic benefits via CNG and LNG, especially in HD trucks and buses. Today the natural gas combustion engine technology, with minor modifications, already meets the Euro VI standard, outlined in Regulation (EC) Nº 595/2009. In particular, for trucks and buses the Regulation foresees a reduction of 80% in nitrogen oxides (NOx) and 66% in particulate matter (PM) emissions compared to the Euro V standard, which was introduced in 2008. Today’s main concern for city air quality is NO2, a part of the total NOx. The percentage of NO2 in NOx is much lower from methane than from diesel engines. The new requirements will result in major modifications and investments in the diesel technology. Hence, the price gap between methane powered HD vehicles and conventional diesel vehicles will consequently be reduced and could sooner or later disappear

Some of the policy recommendations on methane include:

With the opening of the European gas market in 2007, harmonisation of standards for biomethane use became a priority issue. Harmonised standards will have to ensure flexible technical specifications in order to become a driving force, rather than excessive regulation. EU standards for biomethane will lead to a distinct reduction of investment and operation costs. A harmonised filling station standard for CNG and L-CNG refuelling stations and also a harmonised type approval procedure for dual fuel applications need to be developed. Some of these issues are currently being dealt with at UNECE and ISO level, but a clear position from the European standardisation side in coordination with the industry is of outmost importance. Another important open issue is to regulate the possibility to install CNG and L-CNG stations all across the European territory including urban areas in general.

As a few countries, such as Sweden have shown, where an obligation was established for larger filling stations to sell at least one alternative (renewable) fuel, the petroleum industry is ready to make an additional step helping to increase the renewable fuel market. Binding conditions could be in the form of a quota for all alternative fuels. Then the market would decide which fuel to favour.

But the diversity of national strategies has led to a very fragmented development of methane refuelling (public filling stations or private fleet depot stations) across Europe. In total there are around 3.000 refuelling points (public and private) in the EU and EFTA countries, of which 2.300 are public. Of these, 2.000 public refuelling stations are based in Austria, Germany, Italy, Sweden and Switzerland alone. So far there are 23 stations that are equipped with the LCNG technology, mainly in UK and Spain (as of June 2011).
Considering infrastructure investment costs of approx. 300.000 € for public methane stations and 1.000.000 € for private depot stations, the establishment of an European infrastructure fund in combination with a European Directive requiring Member States to implement a minimum refuelling infrastructure, would ensure that more CNG and LNG vehicles are put on the market in the future.


Complementary measures to new EU funding schemes could be supported by the following legislative measures in phase with the development of market demand:

  • Linking permits for new multi-fuel stations to the inclusion of CNG or L-CNG refuelling facilities.
  • A requirement that stations above a certain total volume of fuel sales must offer methane refuelling facilities if this is economically viable.



  • Transport develops slowly, it is therefore important to start investing and supporting the build-up of alternative, sustainable low carbon refuelling already in 2012 wherever possible, also in order to reach the 2020 targets.
  • It will be crucial to link the alternative fuel infrastructure strategy of the EU to the TEN-T programme in the first place, which can be used to provide the needed investments (…) across the EU in a harmonised way.
  • Some alternative fuel options need more time before entering the market. A coherent and sustainable investment policy is important, in order to avoid investments into technologies where the vehicles are not yet commercially available for the end users.


  • Implementation should be promoted of different projects on alternative fuels by the private sector, including the “LNG Blue Corridors” concept and other initiatives.
  • Improving local air quality in urban areas should be supported by promoting viable alternative fuels and the refuelling infrastructure needed for captive fleets (e.g. taxis, municipal fleets) and heavy duty vehicles (buses, garbage collection trucks, city logistics).
  • The convenience of amending the Fuel Quality Directive and reviewing the Energy Taxation Directive should also be considered to ensure that those fuels with a high CO2 content attract the highest level of tax.


LNG World News Staff, February 16, 2012; Image: NGVA Europe

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