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By 2050 our industry wants to switch fully to renewable feedstock – interview with Bartosz Kwiatkowski, Director of the Polish Liquid Gas Association

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), a lower-emission fossil fuel used across the transport sector, heating, agriculture, industry and households, including those off the grid has a stable market in Poland. In the transport sector alone, around 12 per cent of all registered cars run on LPG, also referred to as Autogas. In fact, the country has the largest Autogas market in Europe and the fourth-largest globally.

CEENERGYNEWS spoke with Bartosz Kwiatkowski, the Director of the Polish Liquid Gas Association, the authoritative voice of the LPG market in Poland about the industry’s intentions to shift to the production of bioLPG, the role of biogas in the development of hydrogen technology in Poland and additional uses of LPG.

Despite the fact that LPG is a much cleaner alternative to other fossil fuels such as coal or oil, it is not completely emissions-free. In light of the European Green Deal’s decarbonisation imperative, however, surviving the clean energy transition race means for this fuel becoming carbon-neutral. The European LPG Association is already proposing pathways for bioLPG, a renewable alternative to fossil LPG which generates 80 per cent fewer greenhouse gases than its conventional counterpart and can be produced from the organic feedstock such as biomass, forestry residues, agricultural residues, municipal solid waste and even sewage.

The members of the Polish Liquid Gas Association are following the decarbonisation suit as they want to keep their products competitive in the climate-neural energy future. Bartosz Kwiatkowski tells CEENERGYNEWS that the switch to the renewable LPG is a major vector of the strategy shift that his industry adopted in 2021.

“Two major industry players, UGI International and SHV – both key members of the Polish Liquid Gas Association (POGP) – just recently, on 22 December, announced that they received European Commission approval for a joint venture to advance the production and use of renewable dimethyl ether (rDME). The project is a major initiative to develop required supply capabilities by building up to 6 new production plants within the next 5 years.”

“rDME is a very promising molecule – not only can it be blended with LPG, but also used in diesel engines as a clean substitute of diesel oil. By 2050 our industry wants to switch fully to renewable feedstock and we perceive that objective as ambitious but realistic”.

As Poland’s liquid gas industry is looking at the ways of shifting to renewable LPG, some barriers stand in the way and the major one is the ambiguous attitude of the European Commission towards renewable fuels, according to Mr Kwiatkowski.

“While RED III Directive provides endorsement for development and commercialization of sustainable fuels, calls for banning sales of [internal combustion engine] ICE cars from 2035 onwards discourage potential investors,” he says. “Had the EU adopted the zero-tailpipe emission principle, what would be the rationale behind developing a technology providing superior decarbonisation benefits as a drop-in fuel for internal combustion engines? More than anything else, the industry needs regulatory clarity concerning the role of sustainable, synthetic fuels in the future European energy policy.”

LPG has saturated the small-scale gas consumer market in Poland. Still, it can be utilised for additional applications that are likely to increase demand for this fuel in the near future, points out Mr Kwiatkowski.

“The most promising segment for us in terms of the growth potential is heat generation for households and [small and medium enterprises] SMEs in rural areas, as well as hybrid energy systems combining LPG boilers, energy storage and RES installations. Such hybrid systems are deemed to proliferate over the forthcoming decade, as demand for electricity generation, transmission and distribution soars and grid investments necessary to accommodate exploding demand fail to keep up.”

“The expected outcome is the emergence of local self-balancing clusters and largely self-sufficient systems relying on the power grid only as a supplementary source. From the economic standpoint, advanced LPG/LNG boilers are likely to feature as an important part of such hybrid systems in decades to come”, he underlines.

Municipal heating is another prospective application for LPG and liquid gas, more broadly.

“The industry, based on old, inefficient coal-fired heat plants is quickly entering the radical transformation phase. I believe that the status quo will be replaced by a Heat-as-a-Service approach supported by a combination of local gas-fired CHP plants, heat pumps and – in the long term – maybe even small modular reactors. Here is the role to play for liquid gas”, notes Mr Kwiatowski.

The clients of the Polish Liquid gas association supply customers not only with LPG but with liquid natural gas (LNG) too. How do these two fuels compare, especially if small-scale LNG is considered?

According to Mr Kwiatkowski, “[…] small-scale LNG is economically less appealing due to the costs related to cryogenic storage, requiring both stable energy source and specialized equipment – LNG has to be stored at -160˚C temperature. However, it is a perfectly viable option for propelling heavy-duty vehicles or urban transport.”

On the other hand, “LPG doesn’t need any special treatment, as it can be stored at the ambient temperature, what makes it especially convenient for small applications: cylinders, household heating, small scale food processing and passenger cars.”

At the same time, “for major off-grid companies– like big farming and meat processing – LNG and LPG are largely substitutional and will have to compete against other technologies, like solid biomass,” adds Mr Kwiatkowski. “To continue to serve the medium size off-takers, suppliers of LNG and LPG will have to prove the validity of our long-term transition towards renewable feedstock. Any customer compelled to fill the ESG report will demand a commitment to reduce the carbon footprint of heat production over a period of time.”

In December 2021, European Commission unveiled a new gas package that covers a new regulatory framework for hydrogen too. While hydrogen projects exist primarily as proof-of-concept installations in Europe, as Mr Kwiatkowski notes, “their ultimate fate relies on support measures yet to be adopted”. Yet, he believes that gas and specifically biogas could play a role in the development of hydrogen in Poland.

“First of all, our industry has great expectations regarding new pathways to produce renewable gas. Particularly gasification of organic waste and residues provides a pathway to producing hydrogen alongside carbon-rich gases.”

“[…] If the regulatory and economic framework is created that enable businesses to gasify waste and residues to produce syngas or methanol, and further process it to hydrogen at an acceptable profit margin – there is no reason why biogas could not be used for the development of hydrogen,” he concludes. “Technological viability is no longer a major barrier, as such technologies are already in the demonstration or commercialization stage.”

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