Reducing heavy traffic emissions is much more challenging than reducing emissions on the passenger car side. There are several technologies available, such as biodiesel, electric, biogas and hydrogen, but each with their own limitations. Many technologies will be only available in the more distant future.
“The general opinion is that there is no silver bullet for reducing heavy traffic emissions, but the solution is a mix of different options,” says Matti Oksanen, Director of Gas Business at St1.
The advantage of biogas is that production and equipment for using it already exist. The EU's goal is to increase biomethane production tenfold by 2030.
“We have a vast potential of raw materials to be harnessed for reducing road transport emissions in Finland and throughout Europe. Biogas-powered trucks have already been on the market for a couple of decades.”
Sweden is ahead of Finland in using biogas. Nearly fifteen percent of new trucks registered in Sweden are gas-powered, compared to just over one percent in Finland. St1 is the leading biogas operator in Sweden with six production plants and over 50 filling stations.
“The use of biogas in Finland is still in its infancy compared to other Nordic countries. In Sweden, the government has taken an active role and created an investment support program that works across sectors, which has significantly facilitated investments and brought predictability and clarity.”
However, production is already available in Finland. Biogas is currently produced in Finland to meet the annual needs of 2,500 trucks.
- Number of gas-powered trucks currently: about 400.
- The distribution network is a hindrance to widespread use.
- St1 is opening its first two stations still this year. However, there is a great need for incentives similar to those in Sweden.
“The government holds the keys to significant emission reductions. Finland should follow Sweden’s example in procurement subsidies in addition to investment incentives. The cost of reducing one tonne of CO2 is low compared to many other emission reduction methods.”
Biogas Production Creates Emission Reductions, Security of Supply and Regional Vitality
More diversified raw material streams can be used in biogas production than, for example, in renewable diesel production. Suitable raw materials include, among others, cattle manure, bio waste and various agricultural by-products.
“The biggest potential for emissions reductions is cattle manure. The biogas process can be used to produce fuel for transportation from manure and at the same, create fertilizer products, which can even lead to negative emissions,” says Oksanen.
Gas will be produced in the future in Kiuruvesi, Finland. St1's and Valio's joint venture Suomen Lantakaasu Oy is planning Finland's largest biogas production plant complex in Ylä-Savonia in Kiuruvesi, an area with many dairy farms. The plant ferments the manure, producing biogas and liquid digestate. Nitrogen-rich digestate is then used as a fertilizer, reducing the need for other nitrogen fertilizers and eliminating odor nuisance.
“There are many similar investment opportunities in Finland. They are ready to be seized if the operating environment is predictable and there is demand in the market.”
Domestic production also contributes to supply security. “Each energy unit obtained from local biogas removes the need to use any other energy source.”
- The majority of raw materials for renewable diesel are imported.
- In the case of fossil fuels, practically everything is imported.
- In fertilizers, nitrogen is mainly produced using fossil fuels, in which Russia is a major player.
The potential that biogas has is very positive and significant from many perspectives. Regulations are crucial in selecting targets for biogas investments. “I hope Finland will set clear goals and monitor the use of biogas as Sweden does. They also create predictability, which is one of the most important factors behind corporate investment decisions.”