30 Jun 2023

Renewable gases, key to decarbonising heavy transport in Spain and Portugal

Renewable gases and their derivatives have avoided the emission of 500,000 tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere in the Iberian Peninsula in 2022. Decarbonising heavy transport involves, to a large extent, the use of renewable gases and their derivatives. This is one of the main conclusions of the report ‘The decarbonisation of heavy transport in Spain and Portugal’, carried out by the Institute for Technological Research of the Comillas Pontifical University and commissioned by Gasnam-Neutral Transport, which argues that decarbonising heavy transport depends, to a large extent, on the use of this type of fuel.

The study makes a diagnosis of the current status and use of alternative fuels in the heavy land and maritime transport sector in the Iberian Peninsula, the same two areas that are the focus of the European HYFUELUP project, in which BIOPLAT is the partner responsible for communication and dissemination. It is, therefore, an essential sector to achieve a carbon neutral economy by 2050, but which is currently heavily dominated by petroleum-based fuels due to the high energy density it demands and which makes renewable gases and their derivatives (biomethane, hydrogen and e-fuels) the solution to meet the climate challenge.

Biomethane represents an immediate opportunity for the decarbonisation of the growing fleet of gas-powered heavy-duty vehicles and ships, supported by the advanced development of the supply infrastructure, as demonstrated by these indicators:

  • In maritime, international orders for LNG-powered ships break records in 2021 and 2022, projecting 250% growth by 2030
  • Biomethane production is expected to increase exponentially to 10-fold in the next 2 years in Spain, a key factor for the decarbonisation of heavy transport.
  • Spain is far from meeting Europe’s ambitious hydrogen plant deployment targets, although one third of the announced hydrogen production plants will be used for transport.
  • The implementation of regulatory reforms, pending approval in Europe, will bring with it strong pressure to decarbonise the sector.

Our country is the third in Europe in terms of CNG buses and the first in terms of trucks. However, despite the fact that these vehicles can already run on biomethane without any modifications, less than 1% of the gas consumed in transport in 2022 was of renewable origin. This is very different from the situation in other neighbouring countries, where the share of biomethane in transport is as high as 95% in Sweden and 90% in Germany.

In the maritime sector, meanwhile, despite the fact that more than 99% of the world’s fleet runs on oil-based fuels, a record number of LNG-fuelled ships were ordered in 2021 and 2022, and the LNG-fuelled fleet is expected to increase 2.5-fold by 2030. Orders for methanol and hydrogen-powered ships were also placed in 2022.