Why Sardinia needs LNG
1 Jun 2021 - ConferenzaGNL
by Diego Gavagnin
Over the past few days, on the occasion of the first refuelling and start of service of the first coastal LNG depot in the Mediterranean in the Port of Santa Giusta (see news item), I stressed on social media the importance of this event for Sardinian citizens. I recorded some comments that basically say: too late for the island’s methanisation, the future is now “sun, wind and trees”. Sardinia has already given”.
I agree on the delay, but it has prevented the construction of huge gas pipelines from Algeria and Tuscany, while now – thanks to the courage of private investors – natural gas can be used by those who want it, thanks to the new small-scale LNG industry.
This is an opportunity that cannot be compared to the ‘cathedrals in the desert’ of the last century, because it is ‘small’. Plants that pay for themselves in a short time and which, when better comes along, can also be resold etc. to those who are further behind. Certainly we will not be able to have only renewables immediately everywhere in the world.
With natural gas in particular, there will be no pollution of land and water, no reclamation when plants have to be replaced or have outlived their usefulness. There will be no need to cover industrial sites with panels to avoid the costs of remediation.
Now to renewables. We are all convinced that this is the future, and we can discuss when and how, but the road is marked out. But then, especially in Sardinia, we also have to worry about landscape protection.
But the point I want to make is something else. Electricity from the sun and wind is not directly usable; it requires important “hard” technologies to be exploited. Whether it is a question of batteries to provide continuity of power supply or large-scale wind power at sea, we always need technological development. Because it is also important not to always have to depend from abroad.
An example. With renewable electricity, we are thinking of developing the hydrogen chain, including in transport, not just in production and consumption on the same site, as is already done. Green hydrogen to power trains, cars, ships, trucks etc. This also requires cryogenic technologies, more advanced than those used for LNG. In parallel, the development of climate-neutral biomethane and synthetic gas, produced by mixing hydrogen with CO2, which is thus removed from the environment.
For all these reasons, small-scale LNG is the ideal technological (as well as logistical) platform, a forerunner in the use of hydrogen, with which it shares the same general architecture and components. It is possible to combine decarbonisation, the development of new technologies that will also be useful in the future, skilled employment and scientific research. All that is needed is a bit of vision and industrial strategy.
Dozens of cryogenic tanks are arriving in Sardinia to use LNG, and more and more will arrive in the coming months. Even from faraway places. But with demand for tanks of this size, why not build a plant on the island? The savings in transport costs would probably justify the investment.
This was discussed during the first day of work promoted by the University of Cagliari on 27 May, but these issues will be discussed again next 3 June with operators in the sector who are investing in Sardinia (here for the programme and to follow the event).
For Sardinia, small-scale LNG is a leap into the future, while keeping your feet on the ground.