Finland rejoined RES-T methane leaders

31.03.2017 15:53

Updated 7 April 2017

 

Share of renewable energy (RES share) is one of the indicators used to evaluate sustainable development. RES share of methane consumed by road vehicles belongs to these indicators within transportation sector, and especially the RES-T (Renewable Energy Sources in Transportation) sector. In 2015 there were 4 countries in the world, where this indicator reached value of over 50 %. They are listed in the table below.

 

The reason for limiting this indicator to road vehicles only is the completely different mindset behind fuel choices in marine transportation. The role of methane is increasing rapidly as a ship fuel. Renewable methane has been used in boats since 2012, but it has never been used in ships. Methane ships are always powered by liquefied fossil methane (LNG). Although liquefied biogas (LBG) has been utilized as road vehicle fuel since 2005, shipping industry still has similar mindset as road transportation industry had in the 1980s, i.e. even when turning to alternative fuels, they have to be fossil. The mindset behind national policies also drastically differ between road and marine fuel choices. As a result of this mindset RES share of marine methane is 0 % (or nearly 0 %) in all countries. Combined RES share of methane consumed in all transportation modes has lost its practicality as a sustainable development indicator, because rapid growth of marine LNG consumption shadows growth of CBG and LBG consumption in road transportation. Therefore, separate indicators for road and marine transportation must be used. Even in Sweden and the Netherlands, where LBG has been utilized in road vehicles since 2010, still only LNG is utilized in marine vehicles.

 

In Iceland and Finland renewable methane is used in vehicles only in compressed form (CBG). In Sweden and the Netherlands it is also used in liquefied form (LBG). In all these countries renewable methane consumed as vehicle fuel was in 2015 and had also been before 2015 waste based (100 % or at least 99 % in every year until 2015). But waste resources exploited for this purposes differ between these countries. In Finland reactor biogas (BG) has always been the only form of renewable methane, and sewage treatment plants have had the largest role. In Iceland landfill gas (LFG) has been the only source. In Sweden reactor biogas has been the main source, and sewage treatment plants have had the largest role in its production. But also wood waste based synthetic biogas (SBG) and LFG are utilized. In the Netherlands LFG was the original source, but later BG has become more important than LFG.

 

Table: Renewable energy shares of methane consumed by road vehicles in all countries of the world, where 50 % level was passed in 2015.

Country RES share 2015 RES-methane
consumption 2015
RES share history
1: Iceland
100 %

(LFG)
69 TJ

(CBG)
Always 100 %: 2000-
2: Sweden
74 %

(BG + SBG + LFG)
4180 TJ

(CBG + LBG)
- 100 % in 1942-1946
- over 50 % always since 2006
- under 50 % in 1992-2005
3: Finland
54 %

(BG)
83 TJ

(CBG)
- 100 % in 1941-1946
- over 50 % in 2015
- under 50 % in 2002-2014
4: Netherlands
53 %

(BG + LFG)
900 TJ

(CBG + LBG)
Not available

 

The table above includes some historical information. In Iceland methane was taken into vehicle use in 2000 by exploiting landfill gas. Production from landfills have increased and it remains the only source of methane consumed by vehicles. Natural gas and other fossil methane types have not entered the market in Iceland. Therefore, the RES share has always been 100 %.

 

In Sweden the RES share was 100 % in 1942-1946, when only reactor biogas (BG) from sewage treatment plants were exploited. When BG re-entered the Swedish market in 1992, it came to share a market where natural gas (NG) alone had existed since 1985. Share of BG gradually grew from very small original level to above 50 % for the first time in 2006 and the share has been over 50 % always since then. The share has been over 50 % since 2006 even when all transportation modes are accounted for. Biogas was taken into rail vehicle use in 2005, but fossil methane has not been introduced in the rail transportation sector. In 2013 LNG use in ships began. Despite a history of LBG powered buses and trucks since 2010, LBG has not even in Sweden been intoduced as a ship fuel. However, RES methane share has been over 50 % in all transportation modes combined despite 0 % share in ships. But this may change if the sectoral growth of LNG fueled ships continue.

 

In the Netherlands LFG was taken into vehicle fuel use in 1987 and municipal solid waste based BG followed in 1991. Originally it was consumed as CBG only, but since 2010 also by LBG powered trucks. In 2012 biogas utilization began in water vehicles: boats of various sized from the smallest to large public canal boats in both regular water bus service and in tourist sightseeing service. But in ships biogas has not been utilized. Although LBG is used in road vehicles (heavy trucks) it is not used in water vehicles (ships etc.). The Netherlands differs strongly with the other three countries with respect to statistics. Official statistics of renewable methane utilization in transport sector are not available. In fact, in most statistics, including the Eurostat renewable energy statistics, it is set as zero. It is rather peculiar in a country where over 70 public filling stations sell 100 % renewable methane.

 

Development in Finland is shown in a graph below. In Finland the RES share was 100 % in 1941-1946, and only reactor biogas from sewage treatment plants were exploited then. BG came back in 2002, 10 years later than in Sweden. Like in Sweden, BG came to a market, where NG already existed. Share of BG was only 0.01 % during the first year of re-introduction in 2002. Since then the share has gradually increased, finally passing the 50 % landmark in 2015 for the first time since 1946. Therefore, Finland rejoined the RES-T methane leaders in 2015 after being absent from the group for 68 years. LBG has never been used in Finland, but LNG was introduced both for ships and road vehicles in 2013. Consumption of LNG by road vehicles is, of course, included in calculations of these statistics.

In water transportation, RES share was 0. Due to ship use of LNG, the total RES share for all methane powered transportation was below 50 %. In 2014-2016 all Finnish LNG ships, which were refueled in Finland (i.e. affecting the domestic energy balance) are owned by the Finnish Government. In these ships imported fossil methane has always been required. Domestic LBG has been offered, but not accepted by the Government.

 

Notes of other countries:

There are several other countries, which have earlier achieved the 50 % and even the 100 % mark, but have later dropped below. Germany and New Zealand are especially significant former members of the "100 % club" due to their outstanding pioneering merits in the field. These merits far exceed domestic achievements, since industries in these countries were instrumental in development of this field in other countries, including all of those listed in the table above.

Nearest to the 50 % mark in 2015 was Norway (46 %). Large investments have been made there to increase biogas use in vehicles, so Norway may have already passed the 50 % mark in 2016. Although the USA as a whole is still far from the threshold, state of California was near in 2015 and could have reached it in 2016.