Skip to comments.Firsthand look at natural gas as transportation fuel
Posted on 01/22/2013 5:35:42 AM PST by thackney
The future or the flavor of the month?
Some of the businesspeople who crowded around as driver David Cox pumped natural gas into his 18- wheeler Monday werent sure that the fuel plentiful and cheap in the United States because of shale drilling is inevitable as a substitute for diesel.
But that didnt stop them from pulling out their iPhones to document the moment as they considered the evidence.
You see the oil companies getting into it, said Marion Barnes, president of Frontier Trailer Associates in Rocky Mount, N.C. Theyre spending billions, not millions. Boone Pickens is spending billions, not millions on it, and its right here in the United States of America.
Barnes was one of several dozen people touring the Clean Energy Fuels Corp. liquefied natural gas fueling station at the Pilot Flying J truck stop in Baytown, part of a daylong kickoff for the World LNG Fuels 2013 conference.
Convention-goers also toured Clean Energys plant in Willis, which produces vehicle-grade liquefied natural gas. The conference continues through Wednesday at the George R. Brown Convention Center with discussions of expanding natural gas as a transportation fuel.
Clean Energy has more than 300 natural gas refueling stations across the country, said Mike Sullivan, the companys business development manager. About 80 percent offer compressed natural gas, for passenger cars and light-duty trucks. Long-haul trucks generally use liquefied natural gas because it is lighter and takes up less space, freeing room for cargo.
Shell Oil Co. and Travel Centers of America said last year they will offer natural gas pumps at 100 truck stops nationwide.
Tom Campbell, an analyst with Zeus Development Corp., the Houston-based consulting and research firm producing the conference, said another sign of the growing interest is the number of people signed up.
About 200 people attended last year; about 500 are registered this year 800 including attendees at a related expo.
Natural gas isnt just for trucks: Earlier this month, Houstons Apache Corp. became the first exploration and production company to power an entire hydraulic fracturing job with engines running on natural gas, cutting fuel costs by about 40 percent.
Railroads and the marine industry are also interested, Campbell said.
Cox, a Linde Group driver, paid $2.76 per diesel gallon equivalent Monday as he filled up with liquefied natural gas. (The pump displays the diesel gallon equivalent price rather than pricing it by cubic feet.)
Diesel was selling for $3.96 a gallon at the Flying J Monday, so the natural gas was more than a dollar cheaper.
Campbell said it burns more cleanly, adding to the attraction.
But members of Mondays tour group peppered Cox with questions about performance and convenience.
He said he mostly uses the truck on local runs, since there arent enough refueling stations to accommodate long-distance trips easily.
Linde plans to install a portable liquefied natural gas tank in Corpus Christi so drivers can take the trucks to the companys operations there from Houston, he said.
Cox said the truck gets slightly poorer mileage with natural gas than a similar truck using diesel, but overall performance is good.
It does a good job on the road, he said. As far as pulling, its a little less, but in town, its great.
Natural gas has drawn increasing interest as prices remain low in the midst of the shale production boom.
But not everyone is sure the technology has hit a turning point.
I dont know, said Glen Smith, mechanical discipline manager at Argos Consulting in Kansas City, Mo. It depends on who you talk to.
But like others at the conference, he and his company dont want to be left behind.
Its obviously the future, but its obviously not tomorrow, said Bill George, president of Eagle Transport. His company, based in North Carolina, moves petroleum products and he is considering whether to expand into transporting natural gas.
It may be the day after tomorrow, he said.
A lot of people still hang on to buggy whip and dirigible stocks hoping for a comeback.
I saw a show on PBS back in the mid-90’s about natural gas power. There were a lot of problems, the main two being:
1. It would take so long to fill up that it would be more practical to replace your fuel tank at the “gas” station with a full tank, kinda like a lot of places do with propane tanks now.
2. In an accident it would explode. The good news is that id does not radiate a lot of heat. (Most people who died in the Hindenburg disaster died from their fall, not from being burned.) To resolve this one, at the time of the broadcast they had developed a “rock like” substance to put in the tank that would absorb the gas and then release it fairly slowly (preventing explosion), but still more than fast enough to provide the fuel pressure needed.
I don’t know if either of these are resolvable, though, from a marketing perspective.
I’ve ridden in Nat Gas cars in Argentina... they seem fine. But, the range is pretty short. On an open highway, we had to refuel every 2 hours.
And, re-fueling takes longer too.
Of course in Ft Worth all their city buses are Natural gas because they have the Barnett Shale revenues and are working cooperatively to keep supplies moving.
Every vehicle on our farm ran on propane back in the early 60s. Including tractors.
As the infrastructure expands I see this as more and more feasable. As noted there is a slight performance drop but work on that is already underway. As another member noted refueling is a large problem and the simplest solution is a complete tank swap. As far as the tanks themselves there are several designs that are both lighter in weight and almost bullet proof.
Not long ago there was a product on the market that would hook into your home gas supply and a refill you vehicle while it was sitting in you garage or driveway, it was the size of a small battery charger and even had a wall mount option.
Hindenburg was filled with Hydrogen. It all burned off in about 90 seconds.
I think the rock like substance is a catalyst...necessary in Hydrogen powered vehicles.
And the Hindenburg also used hydrogen.
Natural gas is different.
Hydrogen is a terrible idea, because pure hydrogen isn’t lying around anywhere. In order to get hydrogen, you have to use a chemical process that is expensive, or use electrolysis...yes you must use alot of electrical energy to harness the energy of hydrogen...at around 50% efficiency. Politicians latched on to this, and we have the railroad in my hometown working on hydrogen locomotives with government money, and a whole bunch of other nonsense is being funded.
Natural gas does just lay around. Just like oil, its just sitting in the ground waiting to be pumped out. Its been proven as a fuel in Western Europe for decades - it can be added to a gasoline car, with a $2,000 kit.
Trucking companies in this country are starting to realize that the maintenance savings alone justify a conversion - it burns so clean, the oil change interval can be tripled, for example...and all sorts of things that go wrong in an engine are ultimately attributed to dirty oil, which is improved by burning natural gas.
In my town (Topeka) a major food maker/distributor is actively looking for a site to build a natural gas refueling station. They have pitted several contractors and engineering firms in a competitive process, to find the most economical site.
This is real private sector money. Its a viable fuel source....until Obama’s EPA shuts down fracking at least.
1. Existing service station equipment is less than 5 minutes for a 20 gallon equivalent tank.
2. We have had Compressed Natural Gas vehicles on the road for decades. While not great in numbers, they have certainly been involved in accidents. The basic design requirement of needing to withstand the 3,600 psi pressure makes them rather sturdy in the first place. The rock-stuff is not very practical; it greatly increases the storage volume or greatly reduces the already lesser range.
Since Honda has been selling CNG powered Civics since 1998 along with others since then, those issues are fully resolved. The main problem now is the refueling infrastructure. Past sales were limited to places like California and Oklahoma where commercial CNG refueling was available. Now that is growing to more locations so vehicle sales are growing, slowly, but growing.
The problem of long refill times is sorta solved. There is a pump that can be installed in your home garage. Hook the car up at night and it is full the next morning.
That doesn’t help for long trips, but it is a great solution for those who only use their car for commuting to/from work.
In an accident I don’t know if I’d rather have leaking octane or natural gas.
The Honda Civix GX (CNG fueled) has a 200~250 mile range.
Two different vehicle systems.
I am embarrassed. I remembered the facts from that old PBS show very well except for one thing: It was hydrogen, not natural gas. And yes, that completely negates my whole post.
What a maroon!
Once there are a critical number of refueling stations along the major highways, then the number of NG vehicles will increase dramatically.
Also, existing LNG trucks are produced by taking a diesel truck and applying an expensive conversion kit. Once there's enough demand, the truck manufacturers will produce trucks that start as LNG trucks, greatly reducing the price.
Two different vehicle systems
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Yes. There is a push by a couple companies to build out significant LNG refueling on the interstate system. For most, I believe they are fed directly from a high pressure transmission pipeline, rather than a low pressure distribution pipeline. For those stations, the cost is relatively minor to add CNG for lighter duty vehicles.
There will be a basic LNG supply chain on the Interstate system by the end of this year. It should be more than 200 stations by two different companies at strategic locations. Just a start, but enough to start
I would say most of the initial are not change outs but rather new trucks in fleets like UPS and others.
Article doesn’t appear to mention what type engine is involved. Is it spark ignition, or diesel/natgas dual injection??
I see this article topic just dealing with building out the fueling stations to a sufficient level with the market starting.
Most of the new truck LNG news I have read recently uses Cummins Westport. The EPA has reduced some of the models available for use in the US, but they still make some other international engines as well.
The Cummins Westport ISL G and ISX12 G spark ignited natural gas engines use Stoichiometric combustion with cooled gas exhaust recirculation (EGR) and a Three-Way Catalyst (TWC). This technology was developed to meet the stringent 2010 EPA emission requirements and was introduced with the ISL G in June 2007.
The cooled-EGR system takes a measured quantity of exhaust gas and passes it through a cooler to reduce temperatures before mixing it with fuel and the incoming air charge to the cylinder. Stoichiometric combustion in combination with cooled-EGR creates the ideal combustion process with the chemically correct mixing of fuel and air, offering increased power density and thermal efficiency. It also reduces in-cylinder combustion temperatures and creates an oxygen-free exhaust, which then enables the use of a TWC for nitrogen oxide (NOx) control.
LNG weighs less than CNG? I did not know this.
LNG is more compact than CNG. It requires less volume to store the same BTU’s.
It also requires refrigeration down to -260°F. That liquid is going to start warming after it is loaded into the vehicle. In a long haul truck or a local fleet service that returns to a service center every night, that is a manageable issue. It would be more difficult for the typical individual commuter.
But the same BTU’s in LNG or CNG will weigh the same. It is the same molecules.
We switched to NATGAS...on the Freeways...when we could. Sometimes...it was dicey. And we would end up on the shoulder for a period of time. Ha!!
Point being....NATGAS powered vehicle's have been around for a long time.
I trade stocks...and have some ideas. But what do you think?
Appreciate your expertise...
Was that truck propane, rather than the methane of natural gas by chance?
The buses in Arlington Virginia also run on natural gas
It is interesting that Flying J is involved. They have truck stops at roughly 200 mile intervals on the interstates all over the country. Trucks that run the interstates seem a good prospect and are sort of a captive market. Flying J is the largest seller of Diesel in the country
Flying J bankrupt and was purchased by Pilot.
Pilot is owned and operated by the family of Bill Haslam, Republican Governor of Tennessee. His college roommate was Senator Bob Corker
I learned quite a while back that understanding the oil/gas industry is not the same as understanding the oil/gas market. It wasn't too painful a lesson but it was a lesson.
Besides, I'm still trying to unload these tulips from that big run up...
It is interesting that Flying J is involved.
Pilot / Flying J partnered with Clean Energy Fuels (T. Boone Pickens) a while back. Chesapeake and GE are also involved.
I suspect Pilot/FJ are mostly involved by providing existing stations with space for the expansion on key routes. The initial plans started with announcements from Clean Energy then added partners along the way.
There have been a lot of folks crunching numbers while figuring out how to put it all together and make it happen.
There is strength in synergy and lots of mind power has been used to create that synergy.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of job they did and how it all pans out
I like the idea of short run trucks and especially “city” sevice vechiles using natural gas to help keep the engines clean and low maintanence.
Lots of garbage trucks are going with CNG these days.
Do you remember if they used 3,600 psi tank like they do today? I was curious if that had always been the case.
I think waste mgt. company has started to use them...BTW still a fan of your work on oil.
Waste Management has the nations largest fleet of heavy-duty trucks that run on clean-burning natural gas. We have 2,000-plus such trucks working across North American cities today, and were on a path to convert our 18,000 collection vehicle fleet to natural gas.
BTW, thanks for your reply.. re: Stocks
No advice is better than bad advice you might trust.