Improving air quality is currently one of the planet’s biggest challenges. According to official figures this is not a minor issue, as the World Health Organisation estimates that over 400,000 people die prematurely every year in the European Union due to poor air quality. Currently, more than 65% of urban pollution has its origin in road transport.
International agencies are aware that measures have to be taken on this matter, as demonstrated by the European Union having set the objectives of reducing CO2 emissions by 40% (compared to 1995 levels), increasing energy efficiency by 30% and boosting renewable energies in the energy mix to 27%.
Sustainable mobility: a key aspect
Natural gas is said to be one of the keys to reaching these objectives, as it is a cleaner and less polluting energy source which contains less carbon than other fuels.
- It reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by 85%.
- It reduces sulphur oxide emissions by 100%.
- It reduces emissions of suspended particles by 95%.
- It reduces CO2 emissions by 25% compared to petrol.
In Spain, according to the report by Sedigas (the Spanish gas association) Air quality in Spanish cities: Urban transport and the housing and service sector, replacing 5% of heavy vehicles and petrol and diesel passenger cars with natural gas vehicles would result in between 1.5% and 5% emissions reduction for all the gases responsible for urban pollution. This is clearly indicative of the urban air benefits of using natural gas.
The advantages not only affect the environment, as natural gas is also cheaper than petrol or diesel. For example, with 20 euros you can travel 555 km with VNG, compared to 375 km with diesel and 275 with petrol. Another benefit of this fuel is that it produces up to 50% less noise emissions and vibration compared to diesel engines.
Evolution of natural gas vehicles in Spain:
By the end of 2016, there were already more than 6,000 natural gas vehicles travelling on our country's roads:
44% are passenger cars and light vehicles.
56% are heavy vehicles (lorries and waste collection vehicles).
On a worldwide scale, it is calculated that 22 million vehicles run on natural gas and predictions estimate that this will grow to 200 million by 2030.
In Spain, as of July 2017, there are 117 service stations that supply natural gas, although only 52 of these are open to the general public. This number will grow in the near future, as 52 new public service stations are due to open in the next months to create infrastructure which can guarantee the supply of gas in the transport sector.
Liquefied natural gas can also be used as marine fuel. LNG use reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by 80%, practically eliminates nitrogen dioxide emissions, and reduces carbon dioxide emissions by between 20% and 30%.
In this context, Gas Natural Fenosa put the first natural gas engine for passenger ferries in Spain into operation in March of 2017 in partnership with Baleària. Together, the companies drove the development and installation of an engine on board Baleària's Abel Matutes ferry, which operates daily from Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca. The energy engages in intense European-level commercial activity to promote the use of natural gas as a maritime propulsion fuel, given its awareness of the environmental benefits this energy can offer in urban and maritime environments.
Household heating is another factor most affects air quality, because its sulphur dioxide (SOx) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions produce urban smog, that, in turn are the main reasons for respiratory problems. Natural gas reduces emissions of both pollutants, which makes replacing boilers with natural gas a step further towards obtaining better air quality.
The benefits of switching
|Air pollutants||What do they cause?||Reduction in % of emissions of pollutants with the use of natural gas|
|Solid particles (SP)||The most harmful are particles with a diameter of 10 micron (SP10) or smaller, particularly SP25, which can lodge themselves in the lungs. According to the World Health Organisation, the burning of firewood and other biomass fuels can be a major source of particles.||95%|
|Sulphur oxide (SOx)||This can affect the respiratory system and lung functions, cause eye irritation and heart diseases. The main source of SO2 derived from human activity is the burning of fuels which contain sulphur, particularly diesel, for heating, power generation and transport.||100%|
|Nitrogen oxide (NOx)||This causes bronchitis in asthmatic children and a decline in lung function. It originates mainly in combustion processes. It reacts with light from the sun and forms ozone, one of the main components in smog, at ground level.||85%|
|Carbon dioxide (CO2)||Main cause of the greenhouse effect.||25%|