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Today, global mobility is based almost exclusively on crude oil, which is the feedstock for petrol, diesel and kerosene. However, its combustion releases not only the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2) as well as other emissions that are sometimes even more harmful to the environment. Compared to these fossil fuels, natural gas emits significantly less pollutants. During combustion, around 90 percent less sulphur oxide and 80 percent less nitrogen oxide develop – and no heavy metals or soot particles!
The environmental guidelines for cars, trucks and aeroplanes are all increasing. Equally, shipping regulations set down by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) are becoming increasingly stringent. Expert opinion pinpoints marine transport as one of the biggest future markets for LNG. Thresholds for sulphur levels in fuel have lately been subject to much stricter legislation, with limits for shipping in the Baltic Sea and parts of the North Sea set to drop from the current 1.5 percent to 0.1 percent by 2015. A further challenge to the shipping industry involves the strict nitrogen oxide (NOx) regulations that must be fulfilled by all new ships. Ships docking in European ports today must already comply with a 0.1 percent limit.
In February 2012, Swedish member of The Linde Group, AGA Gas AB, signed a delivery agreement with Viking Line Abp for liquefied natural gas (LNG). The Finnish company plans to capitalise on the environmental benefits of LNG to power its new cruise ship. Large enough for 2,800 passengers, the ship will ferry between Stockholm, Sweden, and Åbo in southwest Finland, starting in January 2013. Annual fuel requirements are estimated at around 22,500 tonnes of LNG, which corresponds to around 60 tonnes a day. Linde Gas AB will supply the gas from its local LNG terminal in Nynäshamn, near Stockholm.
In addition, Linde agreed with the Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) to drive usage of LNG as an environmentally friendly fuel in the Hamburg port. A joint feasibility study reached positive results, and the first LNG terminal will be constructed in Hamburg by 2015. The newly founded joint venture Bomin Linde LNG GmbH & Co. KG will develop all documents required for authorization.
LNG for trucks
On the streets, too, the benefits of natural gas are becoming increasingly apparent. Natural gas can be stored compressed or as LNG onboard the vehicle. For local distribution trucks, buses and garbage trucks, the storage of compressed gas in cylinders on the vehicles is the best alternative while for the heavy trucks on regional or long-haul operation, the amount of fuel on the vehicles is not enough. In this case LNG can be used instead, allowing for up to three times more fuel compared to a compressed gas storage solution. Swedish manufacturer Volvo Trucks recently started a pilot project with heavy trucks for long-haul operations with LNG stored onboard that run on a mixture of 25 percent diesel and 75 percent LNG.
Other manufacturers like Mercedes and Iveco are also providing an increasing program of vehicles with LNG onboard storage options. In Australia the interest and rationale to use LNG for heavy transport has been growing quickly over the last years. There, most goods are transported across the country by roadtrains – trucks up to 50 metres long that weigh 150 tonnes fully loaded. However, high price and fluctuations of imported diesel is causing an increasing amount of businesses to start converting to the cheaper LNG. Australia is the third-largest producer of LNG in the Asia-Pacific region, exporting half its yield. This abundance of natural gas makes it a cost-effective alternative to crude oil.
Network of micro-LNG plants
Under the lead of Australian Linde Group member BOC, several transport companies have already joined forces to launch an LNG pilot project. Linde has developed an LNG supply and refuelling concept to ensure the necessary infrastructure, with a network of small LNG microplants and refuelling stations along key strategic highways. BOC, now a member of The Linde Group, built Australia’s first LNG plant in Dandenong near Melbourne, Victoria, thirty years ago. This is now being modernised and expanded, while a second facility opened in Westbury, Tasmania in mid-January 2011.
Linde has been concentrating on the densely populated south-eastern region of Australia to expand its microplant concept. Over two thirds of Australia’s trucks travel the inland and coastal highways between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. This is why a third LNG microplant is now being constructed in Queensland’s resource-rich Surat Basin.
Keeping transport costs low
When planning the LNG infrastructure and setting up liquefaction plants, the challenge was to enable cost-effective, needs-driven production of smaller volumes. Considering the vast distances in Australia, it makes better economic sense to establish multiple smaller facilities close to customers and keep the transport costs low. The microplants have a daily capacity of 50 tonnes of LNG, which corresponds to around 70,000 litres of diesel.
The plan is to build a number of refuelling stations between the LNG microplants in Queensland and Victoria. Depending on driving patterns and mileage, the conversion to LNG can pay for itself in just a few years.