LNG Blue Corridors - across (parts of) Europe
Since the beginning of 2014 three new stations have been launched across Europe as part of the LNG Blue Corridors, thus slowly, but inevitably pushing the western part of the continent towards achieving the goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions and becoming independent from imported oil. The corridors, which are essentially LNG filling stations located at regular distances along Europe's major transit roads for heavy transport, will eventually lead from e.g. Great Britain to Greece, France or Spain to Italy or Portugal through Germany to Sweden. They cut through Austria, too, but none of them extends further east to reach Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary or beyond. For now at least.
Completing and launching the three stations is just the beginning – eleven more are planned or already under construction. At the moment there are 52 LNG refueling stations across Europe, so with the eleven under way the number is set to grow to 63 within foreseeable future. It is also estimated that it will rise further to 70 as early as in 2015. But don't be misled – while in the case of conventional fuel stations 70 may be just about enough for a single city (and not a particularly big one), 70 LNG stations across the Old Continent could actually suffice. Since long-range trucks travel regularly along the same routes, at roughly the same speeds and fuel consumption, LNG filling network doesn't need to be particularly dense. It's all about a minimum necessary to facilitate cross-continent oil-based-fuel-free transport, even if it requires certain effort to plan the route (with one station every 150 km refueling may need to be planned in advance).
The recently opened three stations (in Italy, Belgium and Sweden) are in fact the very first since the LNG Blue Corridors project kicked off in 2013. While the figure of three in a year fails to impress, construction of new ones will speed up considerably – the aforementioned eleven new stations will be all launched in 2015 and then a test fleet of 100 LNG-powered trucks will be unleashed on the roads of Europe to collect day-to-day use data to be used during construction of future stations. New sites are planned and erected where they're expected to make most sense, e.g. where there are fleet operators ready to use LNG, but there's no LNG to be used. Or where there actually already are stations, but only within a certain country, with no possibility to transport goods internationally with the use of LNG.
The project encounters certain obstacles, which are gradually overcome. For instance, there are no homogenous regulations concerning LNG work pressures or filling valve coupling standards (vehicle manufacturers use and promote various, usually incompatible ones). Once these barriers are gone, they're gone once and for all and should new countries join the LNG Blue Corridors in the future, it will be easier for them to adapt. And let's hope the project will spread eastward – the more LNG in use instead of oil-derived fuels, the better for everyone.
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