Interview | Marcin Plocharski, Vicepresident, Polish LNG Platform

17 January 2020

Polish LNG Platform is the leading LNG association in the country with a shared mission to promote LNG as a cleaner, quieter, and more economical fuel for road transport and shipping.

First and foremost could you introduce the advantages of LNG, as well as the role you envision it playing in today’s economy?

There are three main reasons for embracing LNG: economy, ecology and availability. Gas is cheaper than other sources, and benefits from various tax reliefs. For example, Germany instituted a zero road toll for LNG powered vehicles. Poland will also launch the Low Emission Transport National Fund in 2020, which will benefit electric and gas run vehicles. It is also far cleaner than diesel, and incomparable superior to heavy marine fuels. Gas is already widely available and we do not need to wait fot technological breakthrough to start using it.  

 

The world is growing at an accelerated pace with a nearly 10 billion human population expected by 2050. Rising socio economic conditions and a desire for a modern, comfortable standard of living translate into a doubling of energy demand by 2050, a trend that renewable energy and sustainable practices cannot as yet counterbalance. More action and creativity is required, and LNG is well positioned to help in the given context.

 

What if we compare it to electric vehicles?

We can only draw comparisons based on what is feasible under present day conditions. Electricity is not yet viable for long haul transportation due to storage limitations - batteries weigh up to 5-10 tons, and in Europe we have a 40 ton limit for the entire truck, not to mention charging hassles. As such, LNG and Bio-LNG are clearly the best options we have at present. 

LNG was used as a transportation fuel ever since we had the first truck. China currently holds over 2,300 fueling stations and every second truck sold is LNG powered. In Europe the first sites appeared in 2015, and Warsaw made its first inroad in 2016 with the purchase of 35 buses. Recent years (2018-2019) was when things really starting ramping up, in many ways due to favorable legislation. 

If released into the atmosphere methane is even more harmful than CO2 – how do we ensure we harness its strength in the most environmentally sound manner?

Indeed methane when released into atmosphere is 20 times more harmful than CO2– waste collection areas are particularly problematic as they inevitably release methane, for instance. If we can somehow capture these gases, store, liquefy and make proper use of them, the benefits would be manifold. As an example, in Poland, in the past, Venture Capital, where Royal Dutch Shell had its part, ran a pilot project to capture methane from the coal mine. Other projects to capture methane are on the horizon. 

Thank you for contextualizing LNG for our readers – turning our attention to Poland, PGNiG will stop supplying gas from Gazprom as of 2022. How will this influence the LNG market locally?

The government is expanding the LNG terminal which is a great opportunity to attract new players. There are also regional connectors with neighboring countries, however their scale is yet too small to adequately supply Poland. PGNiG also discovered a gas field on the border with Ukraine, which they plan on exploiting jointly. 

 

Currently ca. 15 bcm of methane is consumed on the Polish market, and we definitely believe this number will increase to 20+ bcm in the near future. According to estimates, the Baltic Pipe from Norway will cover at least 20% of imports. 

 

There still seems to be a long road to walk before Poland develops a strong LNG footprint – what do you consider to be the main challenges?

 

One inescapable fact is that the Polish gas sector is dominated by one main player, which always presents a set of challenges. If we ever want to become a hub and attract more players, we need to move away from the monopoly model and allow for transparent and diversified gas supply and trading mechanisms, as well as favorable regulations.

 

Usage of LNG in marine is also problematic, as Polish bunkering regulations need fundamental change. The bunkering facilities are very limited to Truck-to-ship options only. The expansion of Swinoujscie terminal covers also bunkering barges supply, but it might not be enough for entire Polish coast.  Once bunkering options in Polish harbors and bunkering barges supply facilities will available, then LNG can become the dominant marine transport fuel in the country.

What is Polish LNG Platform prioritizing for the coming two to three years?

Next year’s priority is to maintain the positive context of LNG in Polish. Secondly we wish to grow awareness and popularize LNG, showcasing key applicability and correcting the misinformation spread by certain “reports” which understate the advantages and ecological nature of LNG. 

We are also trying to encourage the adoption of incentive projects, such as the zero road toll, or more lenience in bunkering regulations. LNG is the future. To keep our future alive – we need to act now.. Our slogan is LNG – fuel of tomorrow, available now. 

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