Resurgent NGV Market in Italy

Italy is Europe’s leader for natural gas vehicles. It’s NGV population exceeds 1.13 million vehicles, placing it seventh among NGV countries globally. Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) refueling stations number 1,326 at the end of March 2019. This short overview of the current NGV market is prepared by NGV Global with the assistance of in-country commentators.

IVECO Stralis NP 460s at Pesaro C-LNG station opening
IVECO Stralis NP 460s at Pesaro C-LNG station opening

Refueling Network

For many years Italy’s natural gas refueling network has been consistently growing at almost one new filling station per week.

The CNG network renovation and development process started at the beginning of the 90’s. In 1992 there were 150 installations, mainly in the central and north-east areas of the country. Now all regions have NGV refuelling stations, excluding the island of Sardinia which is entirely without gas supply.

Over the next decade further momentum was added by some important regions (e.g. Piemonte, Lombardia, Trentino-Alto Adige). There was increased attention paid to the environmental benefits of NGVs, and fuel operators were successfully encouraged to expand the CNG network in their territories.

In the 2010’s, in response to the attention paid to the benefits of using natural gas fuel for long distance transportation and logistics operations LNG and/or L-CNG refuelling stations begun to appear, today numbering 38.

Refuelling stations are available also on many the highways; recently the Italian Ministry of Transport, in underlining the importance of developing also the NG distribution network, solicited the motorway concessionaires companies to present the detailed plan for CNG and LNG dissemination (such plan was to be presented by December 31, 2018).

CNG retailers suffered a significant revenue decrease in recent years, due to the decline of the average sales arising from the increasing plants number versus reducing vehicles. See comments under Vehicles below. Growth in 2019 is anticipated.

Biomethane (renewable natural gas)

The use of biomethane as renewable energy source in transport sector is receiving growing attention in Italy, as it is worldwide, as part of the movement toward sustainable mobility and ultra-low carbon fuels. It is expected to play an increasingly significant role over the next decade, especially given this fuel can be used by natural gas vehicles without any changes to existing vehicle technology.

Additionally, biomethane can be mixed with fossil-natural gas in any combination to increase the emission advantage of this gaseous fuel.

Vehicles

For the years 2014-2017, Italian NGVs were in decline, substantially due to the lack of new NGV models offered by car manufacturers. (In this period there were no significant changes in fuel price competitiveness and the refueling network continued to grow). Noticeable was the lack of successful replacement of the FIAT Multipla, one of the most popular OEM-NGV on the Italian market since the end of the 90’s.

CNG-powered Seat Arona TGI

A turnaround came in 2018, mainly due to the wider NG model range offered by the VW-Audi-Seat-Skoda group; that upward tracking looks set to continue into 2019 and beyond, helped in part by the growing awareness of the environmental benefits derived from consumption of renewable natural gas (RNG). New vehicle orders in the first half of 2018 were so high that a temporarily to stop new sales of the Golf occurred due to overbooking.

Summary

Despite Italy’s major OEM, Fiat, previously a dominant force in NGV production and range, being extremely quiet with regards new models, there is renewed interest in the NGV marketplace. Major energy suppliers are reinvesting in this sector which should re-stimulate OEM activity. Even for a relatively mature NGV market that Italy represents, the famous chicken-and-egg paradox can still affect NGV development. Government and policy makers appear to become distracted by socially appealing technologies and fail to recognise that the NG market is still relatively young and in need of ongoing support. Yet this same market is ready now to be a major contributor to achievement of national emissions targets.

Today in Italy, natural gas fuel system technology and vehicle prices are equal to or better than traditional fuels and emissions performance is better, especially with the increasing availability of biomethane (RNG). 2019 will unfold with great interest for all market stakeholders.

Expert knowledge of the Italian NGV industry be obtained from NGV Italy, an affiliated association of NGV Global, and from AssogasMetano, the National Association of Methane Distributor Firms.

Japan Update 2017

Isuzu GIGA CNG truck

Isuzu GIGA CNG truck

Number of NGVs as at 30 September 2017: 46,316.

NGVs include 2,412 forklifts, more than 10,000 small cars and almost 20,000 trucks.

Filling Stations: 693 – 270 rapid refueling stations; 423 booster fueling device – slow fill Read more »

CNG Standard Published by Mexican Government

Mexico’s National Agency of Industrial Safety and Protection of the Environment of the Hydrocarbons Sector has published a new CNG standard for the country that sets out the requirements for Compressed Natural Gas filling stations and much more. It is referred to as the Official Mexican Standard NOM-010-ASEA-2016 (Standard), Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Read more »

NGV Standards – USA

In the United States, two entities are responsible for the development of standards pertaining to vehicles that use, and filling stations that dispense, natural gas fuel.

CSA Group, a not-for-profit standards organization, is responsible for vehicle and station standards for compressed and liquefied natural gas vehicles. (www.csagroup.org)

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a United States trade association, also has some jurisdiction. (www.nfpa.org) Read more »

US DOE Reports CNG Price Varies Little Over 16 Years

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) reported in January 2017 that based on data from selected dates between 2000 and 2016, two fuels stand out for their low price variability – Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and electricity.

The DOE states: “Retail prices for most transportation fuels have been highly volatile over the past 16 years. The prices are displayed in gasoline-gallon equivalents (GGE) which equate the energy content of any motor fuel to that of a gallon of gasoline. The prices are collected in gallons (except for CNG and electricity) and are converted to GGE. In this figure, the prices were also adjusted for inflation to 2016 dollars.” Read more »

Renewable Natural Gas for Transportation (Paper)

On August 1, 2012, The National Petroleum Council (NPC) in approving its report, Advancing Technology for America’s Transportation Future, also approved the making available of certain materials used in the study process, including detailed, specific subject matter papers prepared or used by the study’s Task Groups and/or Subgroups. NPC has kindly agreed that one of those reports: Topic Paper #22 — Renewable Natural Gas for Transportation: An Overview of the Feedstock Capacity, Economics, and GHG Emission Reduction Benefits of RNG as a Low-Carbon Fuel — also be made available from the IANGV Knowledgebase website. Read more »

NGV Inspections in USA

In the U.S.A., the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has jurisdiction concerning vehicle safety It requires that all CNG fuel storage cylinders have a label that (1) states the date of manufacture and the date that the cylinder is required to be removed from service (typically 15-20 years), and (2) instructs the vehicle owner/operator to have a qualified visual inspection of the tank every 36,000 miles or every 3 years (whichever occurs first) and/or after an accident or fire. Converters and vehicle owners should have documentation that this safety inspection has been done. Inspections are performed to look for tank and bracket damage (e.g., gouges, cuts, abrasions, dents, corrosion, rust, general wear, etc.). Qualified cylinder inspectors are located throughout the US and Canada. The cost/time associated with a cylinder inspection is minimal.

European Clean Fleets Project 2012-2015

Commencing 1st August 2012, the European Commission Intelligent Energy Initiative (IEE) implemented up a three-year Clean Fleets project, providing forms of assistance to vehicle procurers in Europe to meet obligations under EC Clean Vehicles Directive (CVD) , which has now been integrated into national law in all EU Member States. The directive — 2009/33/EC — presently supports three main alternative types of fuels and propulsion technologies which are being developed within the time horizon of 2020. Natural gas and biomethane fuels are included. The Clean Fleets project is set to conclude in September 2015. Read more »

U.S. Alt-Fuels Data Center — Petroleum Reduction Planning Tool

The U.S. Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Agency, part of the federal Department of Energy, has introduced a Petroleum Reduction Planning Tool to help vehicle fleet operators reduce petroleum consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Owners and Operators can create a comprehensive plan for their fleet by using several savings methods. The tool caters for multiple vehicle types.

Available here: afdc.energy.gov/prep/