Compressed Natural Gas Makes Gains In Washington

After more than three years of ad purchases, television appearances, and meetings with politicians on both sides of the aisle, T. Boone Pickens may finally get the government support he says is needed to build natural gas into a major transportation fuel in the United States—potentially displacing millions of barrels of oil per day in domestic consumption. In a speech Wednesday, President Barack Obama endorsed long-stalled legislation intended to provide federal funding for compressed natural gas vehicles and infrastructure, in pursuit of the administration’s newly-stated goal of reducing foreign oil imports by one-third over the next ten years.

Introduced in 2008, the original NAT GAS Act mandated that 10 percent of new vehicles sold in the United States be powered by natural gas by 2018, and that every gas station in country have at least one CNG pump by the same year. To accomplish this, the bill extended or increased a host of federal credits for CNG vehicles and fuel pumps, and provided tax breaks to manufacturers, filling stations, and retrofitters.

Though the specifics of the new legislation aren’t yet known, the bill will be introduced in the House of Representatives on April 6th by two Democrats and two Republicans.

This time around, the incentives could be targeted more heavily toward private and government transportation fleets, including everything from service cars to garbage trucks, to 18-wheelers. The commercial trucking industry currently uses about 8 million heavy trucks, burning roughly 2.5 million barrels of oil per day. At a price of about $40,000 per vehicle, converting the entire sector over the CNG wouldn’t be cheap—about $320 billion according to one estimate—but could save businesses and the federal government a good deal of money over the long run.

The only consumer compressed natural gas vehicle available in the United States is the the Honda Civic CNG. Compared to its ICE equivalent, the Civic CNG saves the average driver nearly 45 percent on fuel costs—and that number just gets higher as oil prices rise. Unlike oil, natural gas is abundant in the United States, which is commonly said to posses enough of the resource to meet its total energy needs for at least a century.

Clean Burning, Dirty Drilling

Natural gas isn’t without its critics though, and a drilling technique that is vital to reaching the majority of American gas reserves has come under heavy fire from environmentalists. “Fracking,” which is currently employed to release about 90 percent of annual American production from subterranean shale deposits, is a toxic, messy—and by most accounts—lightly-regulated process that some groups contend threatens nearby lakes, rivers and groundwater.

Exempt from the Safe Drinking Water Act by language included in the 2005 energy bill, fracking creates enormous quantities of hazardous waste fluids, creating the potential for major contamination in the event of an accident. The EPA says that it is studying the issue, and is expected to release a report sometime in 2014.

Supporters contend that the estimated 25 percent carbon emissions savings and possibility for safer drilling down the road more than outweigh the concerns surrounding natural gas extraction. Even if the fuel doesn’t find its way into vehicles, there is little question that it will come to make up an increasing part of the energy mix in the United States. Since it’s cleaner than coal and cheaper than renewables, gas is considered a prime option helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In the meantime, the stage appears to be set for the rise of CNG in the United States—and the $80 million T. Boone Pickens has reportedly spent promoting his CNG-powered Pickens Plan, might just be about to pay off.


  • Anonymous

    There are 16 million NGVs worldwide. Already GM & Ford are offering OEM NGVs which should cost lot lesser than the 40,000 tag.

    Mass production of CNG cylinders should bring down the cost.
    For the re-fuelling network, 1st install a CNG station every 100 miles and that will be 30 from East to West and 10 from North to South, just 3,000 to begin with.

    Later keep expanding to a CNG station every 50 miles and then every 10 miles. Thats it, the whole nation will be using natgas. No more foreign oil.

  • Anonymous

    I guess that is ‘fracturing’, see hydraulic fracturing. :)

  • John K.

    For those interested in more info re. CNG vehicles, ck out:
    http://www.cngnow.com

  • Lad

    This is a good interim solution as we move to BEVs

  • k Anderson

    Alternative methods of fracking are already hitting the mainstream. Gasfracking could very well end up being the standard as it uses propane to create the fracture and nearly 100% of it is recovered through the well. Also, it is shown to drastically increase well production over hydraulic fracturing, so it may not be a very hard sell.

  • Fred Linn

    ———-” At a price of about $40,000 per vehicle, converting the entire sector over the CNG wouldn’t be cheap—about $320 billion according to one estimate—but could save businesses and the federal government a good deal of money over the long run.”——–

    This is a completely stupid statement. That is $40,000 per vehicle. The cost of most natural gas retrofits is $1500 to $2500 for passenger cars. Trucks are more, but even at a cost of $5000-$10,000 for a retrofit, commercial trucks would easily pay back the retrofit and show a profit in less than one year.

    NG retrofits have been used for over 70 years in Russia and other very cold climates for starting diesel engines and warming them up in cold conditions. Liquid diesel has problems with starting and fuel gelling at cold temperatures. Liquid also does not vaporize properly in cold temperatures. NG does not need to vaporize—-it is already a gas. NG also does not produce huge clouds of black smoke(PM—particulate matter). it burns completely regardless of temperature. This means no leaving diesels idling for hours due to problems starting and warming up to operating temperatures.

    Some other advantages to NG. Since it is a gas, it is easy to remove impurities before it is used. NG is one of the cleanest fuel sources we have.

    NG produces only 65% of the CO2 that petroleum does to yield the same amount of BTU energy. If all vehicles on the road used natural gas—-the CO2 equivalent produced would be the same as removing one out of every three vehicles.

    The same amount of energy in BTUs contained in a barrel of oil costing a little over $100 right now, costs about $16 to $20 with natural gas.

    Natural gas is abundant, with proven reserves estimated to last over 100 years—-and clathrate deposits not even considered. There is more NG available than all coal and petroleum deposits combined. And NG does not need to be converted or refined.

    Methane(natural gas) is both a fossil fuel AND a biofuel. We can produce natural gas easily and inexpensively from any type of biomass at all, including sewage and landfills—-we’ve been doing it for over 160 years.

    Fossil methane, and biomethane are the same stuff. They are chemically identical. CH4. They can be mixed in any proportion whatever with no loss of performance in any application.

    Natural gas can be used in any application that we need done. It can even be used in catalytic fuel cells top produce electricity. The city of Portland OR has been using catalytic fuel cells to provide the power to run a sewage treatment plant using methane captured from the sewage treatment process. This has been done since 1999—-and saves over $1000 per day in electricity costs.

    Germany has installed over 5,000 natural gas fueling stations, and one city of 90,000 population(Lunen) supplies all of their energy needs and a significant portion of transportation needs with biomethane made from sewage from livestock farms in the vicinity.

    We have 100 years reserve of natural gas—-if we build the capacity to produce just 1% of our natural gas usage per year—-at the end of 100 years, we will be producing 100% of our energy needs from biomass—–and 50% of the reserves will still be in the ground.

  • Anonymous

    Good writing Fred Linn.

    In India, it costs only $800 to convert a small car that runs on Gasoline to run on Bi-Fuel (Gasoline & CNG), here because of higher labor cost, it may cost around $2,000 and around $5,000 – $10,000 for a truck, but $40,000 is a big blough. Some in the media wants to send false info.

    Even if it costs $320 billion to convert all trucks to CNG, we can get the ROI. Every day we spend $1 billion to import Foreign Oil which means $365 billion / year.

  • Anonymous

    I think they are referring to $40,000 for 18 wheeler, so for a typical pickup, it should be around $5,000

  • Anonymous

    Methanation : Its a process by which any substance with Carbon like Coal, Food or Animal waste, Plants can be converted into Methane (CH4) or Natgas.

    We have a lot of coal and the waste matter from plants, the food and animal waste and we can use all these to convert to natgas and Germany & Sweden has been extracting lot of Bio-Methane this way and using it in natgas grid and also to power the vehicles. This is a renewable energy which does not face the threat of depletion.

    Also now we have the Shale gas, in the future, companies might find way to extract natgas from Gas Hydrates from the Sea. So we can move all our Trucks, Trains & Ships to Natgas and expect a cleaner, greener future.

    As we speak, Diesel prices are 3.985 / gallon and this is already causing Inflation.

  • Anonymous

    http://www.eia.gov/cneaf/electricity/epm/table1_1.html

    Utilities have reduced the Power generation from Oil from 3% in 2000 to .9% in 2010. In the next few years, they may totally eliminate Oil as the cheap gas and wind and solar increases.

    Infact, many countries like Russia, Japan, Korea, Iran, Kuwait are doing the same without any noise. Only when the vehicles move to other fuel, it becomes a good news.

    Infact the households that use Oil for heating should be prompted to switch over to other fuels.

  • Johan F

    In Sweden where I live the authorities and the market are also pushing for CNG. From an CO2-emission perspective it´s great for the environment.

    The idea is to use natural (fossil) gas when the pumps are introduced and then, as production increase, insert CNG produced from waste as CNG is basically methane gas.

    Studies from the Swedish DOE have shown that gas produced from waste actually reduces the CO2-emissions with an amount larger than if the waste would go to waste so to speak. In a well to wheel calculation I kid you not.

    I live in the Stockholm area and drive a Volvo V70 that is CNG-powered, I like it a lot. My conscience is convinced that I do the environment twice the good by driving an, in essence, emission free car.

    BR
    Johan

  • Johan Fondin

    In Sweden where I live the authorities and the market are also pushing for CNG. From an CO2-emission perspective it´s great for the environment.

    The idea is to use natural (fossil) gas when the pumps are introduced and then, as production increase, insert CNG produced from waste as CNG is basically methane gas.

    Studies from the Swedish DOE have shown that gas produced from waste actually reduces the CO2-emissions with an amount larger than if the waste would go to waste so to speak. In a well to wheel calculation I kid you not.

    I live in the Stockholm area and drive a Volvo V70 that is CNG-powered, I like it a lot. My conscience is convinced that I do the environment twice the good by driving an, in essence, emission free car.

  • chitin

    The good news is you don’t have to water the veggies with all the rain and for a few days afterwards too. I do hope you are able to store some of it at least for when drier times arrive. oil presses