Boom of methane vehicles in Italy: “there is not only electricity”

Boom of methane vehicles in Italy: “there is not only electricity”
Boom of methane vehicles in Italy: “there is not only electricity”

In Italy, over one million vehicles run on natural gas, the highest number in Europe and in any case among the most important in the world, with a consolidated consumption of around one billion cubic meters of gas. Of all this methane, at least 20% is consumed in the organic form, without environmental impact. User demand continues to grow, although it could do so more quickly, and now some self-service facilities are also coming after years of waiting. Thus, for the energy transition of transport, this sector can also be relevant, beyond the ‘boom’ of electricity. He believes it Federmetano, that today brings together managers and technicians at a conference, at the Savoia Hotel Regency in Bologna, to take stock and not lose sight of opportunities. This is a stage of “Changes in progress”, the appointment of the ‘energy’ association aimed at spreading new good practices.

So, we study how innovation will make it possible to reduce methane emissions by 2025 and 2030, trusting that in the medium to long term they will not be a problem with respect to the EU objectives on air quality. “We can play an important role in the decarbonization that Europe asks of us by using the biomethane paper, a product that has nothing related to fossils”, assures the president of Federmetano, engineer Dante Natali. Natali highlights on biomethane: “From the chemical point of view there are no differences and therefore we can take advantage of the same infrastructure as today, hitherto used only for fossil methane. We want to ferry towards the green and in part we are doing it, with already 20% of biomethane that is already used today by those who run on natural gas. A fifth of the kilometers traveled by methane cars, a significant portion therefore, are zero impact, without emitting CO2 ″.

By consumers, however, warns Natali, there is not enough awareness of all this, “The potential of our sector is not well known: the problem of carbonization is being tackled, in fact, only from the point of view of electric mobility. We think it is wrong. There is a lot of misleading information. We forget about biomethane, a methane that, instead of ending up in the atmosphere, is conveyed into the tanks of cars. It offers a double advantage, therefore: it does not disperse in the air and at the same time allows us not to use fossil fuels ”.

And then Federmetano’s number one insists: “Electric is not the only solution. It does not cover the entire transport and mobility market as required. Rather, more technologies are needed, all in the same direction, in the decarbonization process. We guarantee performance superior to those of the electric, even if it is a message that in general we struggle to get across ”.

In the meantime, CNG cars are increasing again. To date there are 24,300 methane cars registered in the period January-August 2021 compared to 23,000 in the same period of 2019 (+ 5.4%). In March, in particular, a + 59.2% was recorded compared to the same month of 2019. He explains this Enrico Franciosi, head of the Constructors division of Federmetano: “There is a constant increase in methane vehicles and in the distribution network in one country, Italy, which remains the one with the most distributors in Europe. With the Simplifications decree, we now have a great opportunity which we will discuss in a few weeks, we trust, with the Ministry of Transport. Taking advantage of the opportunities of international regulations, the target– the manager Federmetano points out- is to ensure that the end user is facilitated as much as possible in accessing natural gas mobility, also from an economic point of view. In the sector the distribution network is growing a lot but the vehicles – Franciosi remarks – could do it much more. Therefore, from authorities and ministries, like Federmetano, we will ask for incentives for the purchase of these vehicles, bearing in mind that today we have biomethane: a renewable source, no longer fossil ”.

He confirms it Claudio Piazza, national president of the lpg-methane sector for transport of Confartigianato, a little worried about the delays that have occurred in recent years at the ministerial level: “We are working with the ministries to equalize, from two to four years, the revision and therefore the requalification of the CNG4 tanks for methane. We collaborate closely with Federmetano on this path. In the ecological transition, obviously, the electric and the hybrid play a role, but we can continue to exploit a low-cost fuel such as methane “.

“Unfortunately – confirms Piazza- there is some delay, due to the various directors who have succeeded one another in the Ministry of Transport.
“On self-service systems, still little known although regulated by the thematic decree of March 2019, explains for Federmetano the designer Marco Rinaldi: “The one towards self-service methane distribution plants– insures the engineer, whose family has been managing a plant for many years – it is a transition that can be made, indeed that we must make. The new decree is a flexible tool that greatly simplifies the transition for the design especially of new interventions. But with a few changes, it also makes it possible to update existing plants, to switch from the ‘served’ service mode on the apron to a self mode, taking advantage of the classic liquid fuel distribution activity. It is a very important aspect, to meet the users “.

Even from a technical point of view there are no particular problems, adds Rinaldi: “These are small improvements that do not constitute substantial variations to the structure of the existing distributors, with all that that entails. Each owner and each manager, therefore, will be able to evaluate together with their technicians every cost-benefit ratio“. Still, however, it seems like a ‘revolution’ that has just begun, little known: “We are at the beginning of the transition, for this reason – says the designer Federmetano – the numbers are still small. We are in the midst of a change that the whole sector has been waiting for, between payers at a predetermined amount and much more. Within a few years the network will update in this direction. Is there a desire for change on the part of the managers? Of course, as in every step that brings news, a little patience will be needed, but we are confident ”.

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