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RUHE Biogas calls on politicians to show greenwashing of fossil LNG the red card

Lüsche, August 1, 2023 – New LNG terminals are currently being built all along the coasts. The delivered liquefied natural gas is intended to ensure the country’s supply until renewable energy can take over. It is obvious that LNG from natural gas reserves cannot be sustainable. But there are now efforts from politicians, the fossil fuel industry and traders to legally secure precisely this in the form of so-called “virtual liquefaction”. If they get their way, there is a threat, according to Maximilian Ruhe, managing director of Ruhe Biogas in Lüsche, not just another case of greenwashing. At the same time, favoring the process by law could stall the development of the new bio-LNG circular economy, which is actually green and also regional. It calls on the EU Commission and the relevant federal ministries to show the red card to attempts to legally secure “virtual liquefaction” and to clearly differentiate between fossil LNG and biogas.

For the transport turnaround, the legislator has obligated mineral oil companies to make increasing annual contributions to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, measured in terms of emissions from diesel and gasoline fuels. The required rate increases for them from an initial 3.5 percent in 2015 to 25 percent for 2030. In return, the industry can invest in e-charging stations, promote the blending of biofuel with fossil fuel, or put alternative fuels on the market. However, if industry plans go ahead, an option will soon be added: If policymakers and authorities allow the practice of “virtual liquefaction” of natural gas from LNG storage facilities, it would be available in large quantities for quota fulfillment.

Under the concept of “virtual liquefaction,” the sustainable properties of biomethane injected into the gas grid are to be transferred unceremoniously to liquid natural gas from LNG terminals. The term itself is misleading, because the gas is not liquefied at all. However, if this balance sheet conversion into supposedly green energy succeeds, theCO2 emissions associated with natural gas production and transport across the world’s oceans will at best still be quantified with an inaccurate standard value.

“Virtual liquefaction”: a step backwards for the traffic turnaround

“Relabeling makes it no longer possible for consumers to distinguish sustainable from fossil energy. They must be protected from this,” says Maximilian Ruhe of RUHE Biogas. In his view, “virtual liquefaction” would be a clear step backwards for the transport revolution, as greenhouse gas emissions would only appear to be saved. “Nothing speaks in favor of proving sustainability. The chemical composition remains the same as for natural gas. The biogenic, or sustainable, properties of biomethane cannot simply be transferred when LNG is fed from fracked gas, among other sources.” In addition, “virtually liquefied” LNG does not have the purity of true bio-LNG.

Giving “virtual liquefaction” a legal basis would be more than dubious for these reasons. An assessment must now be made by the EU Commission and, in the second instance, by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Food (BLE) in coordination with the biofuel quota office (customs). Legislators had banned fossil LNG from counting toward the German quota starting in 2022. Reason: Supposedly, emissions are reduced by about 20 percent compared to fossil diesel. But it remains undisputed that liquefied natural gas is a fossil fuel.

“Why should the same fossil LNG now suddenly become sustainable on paper through a purely mathematical transfer of the property of biomethane?” therefore comments Maximilian Ruhe critically. “The independent certification systems haven’t even determined the actual greenhouse gas footprint around LNG.” A case of mislabeled biofuel volumes from Asia had also already shown how difficult it is to make overseas production processes transparent.

Potential for agriculture and transport: decentralized circular economy for bio-LNG

Should “virtual liquefaction” nevertheless be legally secured, this would have fatal consequences for the ramp-up of climate-friendly, off-grid and decentralized biofuel production for the transport sector – in Germany and throughout Europe. “Green energy from agricultural residues would be at a clear disadvantage in price competition compared with fossil LNG producers,” fears biofuel specialist Maximilian Ruhe. “Farmers would be unsettled, and their willingness to invest in planned new bio-LNG projects would decline.” Another consequence would be that Germany’s dependence on LNG imports would increase instead of decrease. At the same time, LNG would become even more attractive, because corporations would be able to use “virtual liquefaction” to make their emissions look good.

Unlike “virtual liquefaction,” a regional circular economy can provide traceable sustainable energy. It is based on the processing of residual materials such as slurry and manure in on-site agricultural operations. The liquid bio-LNG produced can be used to power heavy trucks and tractors – and thus the traffic turnaround. “Decentralized bio-LNG production holds the opportunity to convert a considerable share of heavy traffic to a demonstrably green fuel ‘made in Germany,'” says expert Maximilian Ruhe. “This not only allows us to massively reduce ourcarbon footprint, but also frees us in Germany from dependencies outside Europe through our own production facilities.”

For a long time, agricultural businesses had mainly used biogas to generate electricity in order to take advantage of the guaranteed feed-in tariff. Now that the compensation has expired, a new revenue model based on bio-LNG can give a new perspective to the existing infrastructure in the regions. Last year, RUHE Biogas presented a new type of bio-LNG compact plant for this purpose, which can serve as a blueprint for agricultural operations. Thecarbon footprint of bio-LNG is negative, provided that agricultural waste products – so-called advanced substrates – are used. The fermentation process in the plant produces biogas from the biomass, which consists almost exclusively of biomethane (CH4) andCO2. The biomethane can be upgraded fromCO2 to natural gas quality and liquefied to bio-LNG in the next step. Thus, the Bio-LNG compact plant produces green fuel with a positive effect on the climate.

About us

RUHE group of companies
is a family business based in Lüsche near Vechta in Lower Saxony, which was founded by Kunibert Ruhe in 2010. RUHE wants to contribute to the success of the energy transition with innovative, sustainable concepts for agriculture. The growing group of companies currently employs around 200 people in Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt. The area
RUHE Agrar
focuses on the management of farms as well as biogas plants at agricultural locations. The range
RUHE Biogas
which is managed by the son of the founder, Maximilian Ruhe, provides its customers with solutions for the construction, operation and service of bio-LNG plants.
RUHE Biogas
built the first compact bio-LNG plant in Germany in 2022 for the production of green fuel for trucks, buses, tractors as well as ships. The standardized and scalable plant is marketed domestically and internationally.