Q&A with Liquid Gas Europe’s general manager

April 16, 2024 By    

On June 18-20, the European Liquid Gas Congress, the flagship event of Liquid Gas Europe, will take place in Lyon, France. To learn more about the LPG industry in Europe, LP Gas magazine conducted this question-and-answer with Ewa Abramiuk-Lété, general manager of Liquid Gas Europe.

Ewa Abramiuk-Lété

Ewa Abramiuk-Lété

Can you tell us about Liquid Gas Europe and its mission in the LPG industry?

Liquid Gas Europe represents the producers, distributors and manufacturers of liquid gases used mostly in off-grid applications. These gases include not only conventional LPG (propane/butane) but also renewable and bioLPG as well as renewable and recycled carbon dimethyl ether (DME).

Overall, our mission is to advocate for a safe and stable regulatory environment to ensure liquid gases can contribute to a just energy transition for all. We work very closely with the entire liquid gas value chain – producers, distributors and manufacturers. We engage in various initiatives at [the] EU level, and develop reports and analyses for our members.

The association is engaged in technical work on the transportation of goods and works on European standardization for liquid gases. Liquid Gas Europe is a member of technical stakeholder groups collaborating with European institutions and works closely with industry stakeholders around key regulatory challenges.

Can you explain your role and daily responsibilities as general manager of the association?

Although I joined Liquid Gas Europe in 2021, I have been active in the EU Brussels energy arena since 2007. Over the years, I have specialized in energy policy and particularly in gaseous and sustainable fuels. I have always been an ardent supporter of Europe’s rural communities.

My daily activities aim for Liquid Gas Europe to structurally engage with key stakeholders, ensuring that a just energy transition is accessible and affordable to all, whether on or off the grid. My role is to ensure that the voice of our industry is being heard in Brussels and that it translates into a favorable legislative framework. But the association also offers a platform for the industry to engage, share ideas and learn from one another. For this reason, each year Liquid Gas Europe organizes its flagship event, the European Liquid Gas Congress, where companies can network and explore business opportunities. This year, the event will take place in Lyon, France, in June.

How many members do you have, and how many are companies selling LPG to end users?

Liquid Gas Europe has almost 50 members from across Europe. The strength of our association is that it not only consists of individual companies but also national associations. This network of companies and associations ensures that Liquid Gas Europe covers the entire value chain, from producers to distributors and manufacturers of equipment. The corporate members of Liquid Gas Europe have direct contact with end users, as they deliver directly to people living in off-grid and rural areas. Amongst our members, we count the eight largest distributors of liquid gases in Europe, as well as their subsidiaries at [the] member state level. We also have other members who directly deliver to consumers.

How much LPG does Europe sell annually?

In 2022, Europe (the EU and eight other countries, including the U.K.) consumed 34 million tons of liquid gas. In the EU, the highest consumption was registered in Italy (3.622 million tons) and Germany (3.367 million tons), followed by the Netherlands, France, Poland and Belgium.

In 2022, the EU 27 and the U.K. exported almost 9.5 million tons of LPG, with the biggest exporters being the Netherlands, with over 2 million tons of LPG exported; the U.K., Sweden and France with over 1 million tons; and Belgium with almost 900,000 tons. Other notable exporters include Spain, Poland, Romania, Italy and Germany.

Can you share any notable LPG-related facts about your countries?

According to the 2023 Argus European Statistical Report, LPG consumption in Italy grew strongly in 2022. Growth in consumption was seen in all sectors, except for industrial applications. The transport sector is the biggest consumer of LPG, accounting for 42 percent of all consumption. Residential consumption is the second-biggest demand sector in Italy, making up 32 percent of the market.

Looking at Germany, residential demand is the largest sector for liquid gases. Autogas demand rose by 1.2 percent to 247,000 tons in 2022. It is also worth noting that Germany has a strong refining sector that produced 2.77 million tons of LPG in 2022.

As for Poland, the consumption of LPG for the transport sector has been historically strong, making up 75 percent of the nationwide demand. On the contrary, in France, the residential sector is the largest sector for liquid gases.

Can you provide an overview of the top issues the association is navigating currently?

The key challenges Liquid Gas Europe is facing are related to the European regulatory framework as well as the standardization work around liquid gases. The recent changes in the EU regulatory framework, and the EU ambition to reach a 55 percent CO2 emissions reduction by 2030 and climate neutrality by 2050, resulted in many legislative files focusing on the energy sector, in particular heating and transport. The overall ambition of the EU is to limit CO2 emissions and encourage an uptake of clean technologies, with the electrification of heating, transport and industrial activities being high on the agenda.

Liquid Gas Europe engages in work around policy files as well as technical and standardization work in the heating, transport and industrial sectors, entering into dialogue with policymakers and other stakeholders on why liquid gases should be considered as part of the just energy transition in Europe.

One of the top issues we are currently facing is the impending ban on new internal combustion engine (ICE) sales in 2035. While the ban of the new ICEs is in place for 2035, Liquid Gas Europe, with the support of other industry groups, is still in the process of discussing the possible inclusion of CO2-neutral fuels as transport fuel after 2035. If successful, this would allow the use of biofuels and renewable liquid gases in transport, and all lower carbon options would remain available. Today, autogas is the No. 1 alternative fuel in Europe for vehicles to run on renewable liquid gas or LPG, and Liquid Gas Europe believes that it is a viable and cost-effective option for consumers.

Another issue is related to heating. Through the recently agreed Energy Performance of Buildings Directive, the EU aims to cut subsidies for standalone oil and gas boilers from 2025, to phase out fossil fuel boilers by 2040. But a just energy transition will require the deployment of suitable and cost-effective heating solutions for rural communities, such as liquid gas boilers.

Where are the biggest market opportunities for sellers of LPG in Europe?

Over the last few years, the overall situation in Europe has been volatile: We witnessed strict lockdowns in many European countries because of the COVID-19 pandemic, followed by rising inflation, a war in Ukraine and an increase in natural gas and oil prices, as well as the recently announced sanctions on Russian LPG. Despite this, the LPG market has been relatively stable. Until 2022, it had enjoyed almost a decade of uninterrupted growth in LPG demand, according to the European Statistical Report by Argus Media.

Looking more closely, the domestic demand in 2022 fell by 4 percent in Europe, which represents a decrease of around 250,000 tons, whereas autogas became more popular with many countries witnessing sales growth. For instance, sales of autogas grew by almost 70 percent in France, by 45 percent in the Czech Republic, by around 25 percent in Spain and Latvia, and by 20 percent in Norway and Portugal.

In the other sectors, 2022 was a mixed year with a substantial increase in LPG use in refining. The move to replace natural gas with LPG saw refinery use of LPG more than double to 900,000 tons in 2022.

Moving forward, we will most likely continue to see a stable uptake of LPG in most sectors in Europe: heating (domestic), transport (autogas), industrial and petrochemical applications. But much will depend on the upcoming regulatory, geopolitical and macroeconomic situation both in Europe and globally.

What poses the greatest challenge to LPG interests in Europe? How is the association responding?

I believe that the greatest challenge is for the liquid gas sector to remain relevant and be recognized as part of the solution in a just energy transition. I also believe that challenges can create opportunities.

While conventional LPG as a byproduct of natural gas or the refining production has its benefits in terms [of] lower CO2 and air pollutant emissions, the industry needs to provide even more emissions reduction to reach net zero.

Bio- or renewable LPG and renewable and recycled carbon DME are slowly gaining attention in Europe. They offer up to 80 percent CO2 emissions reduction compared to conventional LPG. These renewable alternatives can be dropped into existing supply chains and can be used by consumers in their existing heating appliances or cars, stored in existing bulk tanks and cylinders, and transported using today’s infrastructure and skilled workforce. They can offer a long-term, cost-effective pathway to reduce carbon and air pollutant emissions from hard-to-decarbonize sectors such as transport and rural heating.

Liquid Gas Europe is in frequent contact with key European policymakers and stakeholders to ensure that LPG and renewable liquid gases are supported by a regulatory framework promoting R&D activities and further means of production.

In recent months, we have seen bioLPG and renewable and recycled carbon DME included in the Italian, Czech and Spanish National Integrated Energy Plans.

Are gas ban threats part of the industry’s fight in Europe? Where are they most severe?

The European Union has targeted the heating sector with several legislations, as it is one of the key contributors to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, representing 35 percent of energy-related EU emissions in 2021. Instead of banning one specific technology, the EU chose to target the fuel itself, proposing to move way from fossil fuels, ending subsidies for fossil fuels in heating and encouraging the phaseout of boilers at [the] national level. However, the discussions in member states about potential boiler bans did raise some concerns among the local population and caused, in some cases, political turmoil. We are currently witnessing some changes in several member states, namely in Germany or France, as electrification is not always feasible, especially in rural and off-grid areas.

Almost 137 million people live in rural areas, which have an elevated risk of transport and energy poverty when compared to urban ones. To be part of a just energy transition, these communities need reliable and affordable energy solutions. Gas boilers would allow consumers to simply switch to renewable fuel without requiring a full rebuild of their current heating infrastructure. Another recognized option both at EU and national levels are hybrid heat pumps, a system that uses a heat pump alongside another heat source, typically a fossil fuel (gas, oil or LPG) boiler.

What are the differences/similarities between the European and U.S. LPG markets?

I believe that both the European and U.S. markets have at heart to safeguard consumer choice – it is paramount that consumers, both European and American, can choose the energy solutions that best meet their individual needs. Consumers should have access to a broad range of energy-efficient technologies for reliable and affordable backup and primary power, and in their path towards decarbonization.

Even though autogas is not as established in the U.S. as it is in Europe, it represents an incredible opportunity to lower nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions. To improve air quality today, we need sustainable transport solutions that are cleaner, accessible and cost-effective.

Lastly, renewable liquid gases, including renewable LPG as well as renewable and recycled carbon DME, are already available in growing quantities today and are of the utmost importance for our industry. They can offer a long-term pathway to reduce carbon and air pollutant emissions, and according to estimates by the World Liquid Gas Association, they could meet half of the world’s liquid gas demand globally by 2050.

What can we learn from each other?

I believe that we can learn a lot from each other as we face many similar challenges and opportunities. For instance, last year Liquid Gas Europe participated in the 2023 Southeastern Convention & International Propane Expo in Nashville, and the National Propane Gas Association representatives attended the 2023 LPG Week featuring the European Liquid Gas Congress. It was an excellent opportunity to exchange information and discuss common challenges such as boiler bans, the uptake of renewable liquid gases and to exchange information on how these challenges could be addressed.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our U.S. readers?

I would like to encourage everyone to join the European Liquid Gas Congress, the leading industry event in Europe.

Each year since 1971, the congress has taken place in a different European city, showcasing the diversity and vitality of the European liquid gas industry. From the vibrant Barcelona in 2022 to the historical city of Rome in 2023, the congress has impacted each host country’s industry and the attendees.

Over the years, the congress has served as a crucial platform for industry professionals to discuss, network and share ideas on the latest developments and pertinent challenges in the field. With over 60 countries represented, more than 1,400 attendees and over 100 exhibitors each year, the congress has facilitated numerous new business opportunities and collaborations within the industry.

The 2024 program brings a lot of novelties and is designed to provide a platform for discussion and knowledge sharing, featuring keynotes from leading industry experts, interactive panel discussions, technical workshops and exhibitions showcasing the latest technological innovations. Attendees will be able to engage in insightful conversations and connect with industry peers. Please join us in Lyon and experience it firsthand.

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