LNG truck gas worse for the environment than diesel?
LNG, fossil fuel, which many believe should replace diesel in heavy transport, does not bring such benefits for the environment and the climate as promised to the transport sector. In most cases GHG emissions by gas engines is in fact even higher than in the case of diesel. It has been proved by a study commissioned by a Dutch magazine Down to Earth.
LNG, liquid natural gas, is a mixture of mainly methane and other waste gases, refrigerated to -161 degrees to reach liquid state. For several years, the Dutch government has been stimulating the introduction of this new fuel for heavy transport industry to eliminate polluting diesel engines. LNG is used in Dutch transport industry since recently. It is cheaper and is considered better for the environment. The Dutch LNG Platform, a public-private partnership with industry partners such as Shell, Scania, Volvo and three largest Dutch ports, in order to promote LNG in the transport sector, claims that the fuel emits 15% less greenhouse gases than Diesel.
It's not about the air quality but counteracting the climate change
LNG boasts far lower emission of harmful substances than diesel. The emission of nitrogen, particulate matter and sulphur is certainly lower, especially compared to fuel oil used by ships. If the local air quality was the only environmental problem, using LNG fuel would certainly be a good decision. However, our biggest challenge is currently tackling climate change, and it puts the LNG in a slightly different light. Practical tests carried out by a company conducting scientific research TNO and Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership show that driving a car using LNG only in the best case results in emission of 10% less greenhouse gases than diesel. Most often, it is however about 35% more. By conducting the first tests TNO based their calculations on a purely theoretical model as there were no practical measurements yet. Now, when they are available, the results are quite different.
Worse engine performance and methane leakage
First – worse engine performance. In the case of a gas engine there is a performance drop of between 20 and 30% which virtually eliminates the benefits from lower fuel consumption.
However, there are also bi-fuel vehicles. Here, in turn, there is another matter, namely the release of more unburned methane. Methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas. Even small quantities have a huge impact on the climate.
Is it worth going that route?
LNG platform wants half of Dutch trucks and one-third of ships to use LNG by 2050. They give arguments wanting to prove that the gas is eco-friendly but the Down to Earth magazine proves that in this case it is difficult to be entirely sure of it. It looks like LNG is not an optimal solution to tackling climate change.
Photo: Shell/Volvo Trucks