Natural Gas Popularity Could Grow

Trucking companies obviously have a growing interest concerning the use of natural gas fuel products trucks. Peterbilt Motors Co. hosted events on the subject in Texas this week and received exuberant requests for invitations. More than twice the number of expected participants attended. During the event, executives from Peterbilt and the natural gas industry presented a variety of information that covered everything from cost savings and environmental benefits to the types of engines companies manufacture.

Currently, trucking companies have over 200,000 natural gas powered trucks traveling America’s roadways. Of that number, only about 1,000 of the trucks are 18-wheelers. The US has approximately 1,100 natural gas filling stations across the country, but the stations are not all designed to handle trucks employed for long distance transport. Many of the factions of the trucking and natural gas industry must expand before the majority of truck driving jobs entail operating natural gas vehicles.

The benefits of fueling trucks with compressed or liquid natural gas include reports that indicate the country has natural gas reserves estimated to last more than 100 years. Vehicles, burning natural gas as fuel, emit fewer pollutants and green house gases. The cost of petroleum products continues rising and current pricing puts a gallon of diesel over $4.00. Comparably, natural gas costs around $1.38 a gallon. Using natural gas for fuel requires replacing every gallon of diesel with 1.7 gallons of natural gas, which costs around $2.78. Depending on the fluctuation of fuel prices, truck owners save anywhere from $1.00 to $1.50 by replacing each gallon of diesel with natural gas alternatives.

Peterbilt industries also ensured trucking companies that converting engines for compressed or natural gas does not sacrifice engine performance. The Westport engine manufacturer recently developed 15-liter heavy-duty truck engines that run on 95 percent natural gas and 5 percent diesel. These engines start by compression rather than spark ignition. The company also promises a 12-liter spark ignited natural gas engine, which will be compatible with manual, automated manual or automatic transmissions.

The event additionally provided information concerning the differences in using compressed and liquid natural gas. Compressed natural gas (CNG) typically requires more storage space and time for truck refilling. In contrast, by cooling the gas to extreme temperatures and liquefying the product, 600 cubic feet of CNG becomes one cubic foot of liquid natural gas (LNG). For now, truck driving jobs using CNG powered vehicles only require that drivers travel short distances.

This environmentally friendly, cost effective fuel source comes with a hefty price tag. Trucks equipped with natural gas conversions cost anywhere from five percent to double the cost of a conventional diesel counterpart. In an attempt to sweeten the deal for trucking company participation, the government offers a tax rebate of up to 75 percent of the conversion cost.

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