Mr. Schmidt, in view of the increasing demands on the transportation industry worldwide, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) – a liquid gas and byproduct that is produced, for example, during the extraction of crude oil – and liquefied natural gas (LNG), the liquefied form of methane, could play an important role in the transportation sector. Which of the two forms of liquefied gas has the greater potential for Germany’s future mobility?
First of all, this is a question of the sector. There is potential for LPG in light commercial vehicles and in the passenger car sector. CO2 emissions, Nitrogen Oxide and particulate matter pollution can be reduced by LPG. The situation is different in the heavy-duty sector. Currently, there is no truck engine that runs exclusively on LPG. Therefore, the potential of LNG is greater there.
Heavy goods traffic in particular leads to a large amount of harmful emissions. How does LNG technology help there?
At the moment, there is no alternative to diesel propulsion in heavy-duty transport apart from LNG. Hydrogen technology is under development, but not ready for the market. Battery-powered vehicles are not suitable for long hauls because of the extra weight. In the LNG sector, on the other hand, there is a steadily growing infrastructure that can be used immediately.
With the amendment to the Climate Protection Act, the German government tightened its climate protection targets. The increase in the CO2 reduction in the transport sector to 26% by 2030 is a clear signal in the direction of sustainable drives. With LNG, 20% less CO2 emissions are emitted compared to the use of diesel trucks. This impact can be realised immediately and should be used. The major common goal of reducing emissions should be at the forefront for all players. Generally speaking, the factors of air pollution and noise disturbance also play a much smaller role with LNG-fueled trucks than with diesel-fueled tractor-trailers. In the short and medium term, LNG will be replaced by BioLNG – liquefied and processed biogas. The emission reductions will be even higher again, over 80% depending on the source materials. No other technology can do this in the heavy-duty sector.
How do you look at the federal government’s strategy so far?
The implementation of the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction quota was enormously important. It has brought a certain degree of planning certainty for the entire industry and thus investment security. Alternative solutions such as LNG are more in demand than ever. While the GHG reduction quota could have been higher, it was very helpful in setting the course.
What is proving to be more difficult is the multiple counting of electricity, which sends a clear signal for electromobility as a key technology for the coming years. And this on a European level. Even an e-vehicle charged with coal-fired electricity is charged with fewer emissions than a bio-LNG truck. In addition, the entire life cycle of a vehicle should be taken into account when emissions are calculated. Until now, emissions have been counted down on paper. If you cut out the entire upstream chain for Battery-Powered Electric Vehicles, for example, that only helps the environment on paper so it’s sleight of hand, if you will. If we take a look at the building sector, for example, the upstream chain – emissions during extraction, provision, logistics, etc. – is of course also included when determining the primary energy factor. Which only makes sense if you want to take the emissions of a product into account.
So what would you like to see from a new German government?
Firstly, this discrepancy should be eliminated; the so-called well-to-wheel approach must become the standard in all sectors. It must be about the emissions savings, not the technology used. A new German government should push for this technology-open approach at the European level. In addition, clarity and long-term planning in the area of subsidy programs would be desirable so that industry and investors can plan accordingly. In general, all areas from e-mobility to hydrogen to liquefied gas should be taken into account in the federal government’s strategies. In addition, a strategy and thus a clear target direction regarding the development and utilization of the potentials of biomethane would also be of great advantage.
How can the use of LNG develop in the coming years? What potential can actually be realized?
Currently, there is more LNG available than is needed. So the use of the fuel can be expanded considerably. Germany’s infrastructure is very well developed and offers the best conditions. Fossil LNG can bridge bottlenecks as a bridging technology. However, the path toward biofuels is clear. It is also clear that a mix of technologies will be necessary to meet Germany’s future mobility needs. Today, for example, you can see that Deutsche Post is using e-vehicles for the so-called “last mile” – i.e., immediate delivery – simply because it makes sense in many places. However, you will look in vain for an e-truck moving the large volumes of shipments from A to B on the way to the last mile via highway and country road, because it doesn’t make sense. That’s where the future of (bio)LNG and its contribution to reducing emissions in the transport sector lies.