Momentum appears to be gaining to increase use of compressed natural gas in vehicles in the U.S., both to decrease the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and as a “bridge fuel” to fight global warming.
- Last Week, the Potential Gas Committee issued a report estimating that the toal U.S. natural gas resource base at year-end 2008 was 1,836 trillion cubic feet, an increase of 39% from its 2006 estimate. Most of this increase comes from newly discovered shale reservoirs. Boone Pickens said that the new estimate “is the equivalent of nearly 350 billion barrels of oil, about the same as Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves.”
- Boone Pickens’ energy plan includes greatly expanding the use of natural gas as fuel for transportation.
- At current natural gas prices, compressed natural gas is about $1.00 cheaper than gasoline.
- Natural gas is clean-burning: greenhouse gas emissions are 20 to 22 percent lower than comparable gasoline or diesel vehicles. Natural gas vehicles (NGVs) are the cleanest-emission vehicles now on the road. In tests conducted in metropolitan areas that have been designated by EPA as non-attainment areas for air quality, exhaust from NGVs has sometimes tested cleaner than the ambient air. Natural gas produces about half of the carbon dioxide emissions as coal for the same amount of heating energy.
- The biggest obstacle to use of NGVs is lack of available refueling stations. The map at the following link shows compressed natural gas fueling stations in the U.S.: http://rpm.nrel.gov/transatlas/launch/ . Most are in California and along the east coast.
- In the rest of the world, natural gas is a major transportation fuel. In Italy, there are more than 800 CNG stations. In Germany, NGVs are expected to increase to 2 million vehicles by 2020. Worldwide, there are more than seven million NGVs on the roads, with the largest numbers in Argentina, Brazil, Pakistan, Italy, India, China, Thailand and Iran.
- Many manufacturers make bi-fuel vehicles, capable of burning either gasoline or compressed natural gas. Major manufacturers of NGVs include Fiat, Opel, Peugeot, Volkswagen, Toyota, Honda and others. The Honda Civic GX is the only CNG-powered car currently sold in the U.S, mostly in California. Fiat’s expertise in NGVs is expected to be imported into U.S.-made Chrysler vehicles.
- Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake, drives a bi-fuel Chevrolet Tahoe and says that CNG has cost him on average about 95 cents per gallon.
- Many state and federal incentives are being enacted to encourage construction of NGV fueling stations. For example, Oklahoma passed a new law that will allow the State to provide a refueling structure for fleet services used by schools, county and municipal governments, and sets up a fund to provide money to state agencies and political subdivisions to lease or buy NGVs.
- “Compressed Natural Gas” and “Compressed Natural Gas Vehicles” have their own entries in Wikipedia.
So when are you going to by your first NGV?