Many Trucking Companies Testing Natural Gas Conversion
Reasons Companies are Considering Natural Gas
Cost savings is the number one reason that companies are considering the move to liquefied natural gas or CNG. The current price of CNG is around one dollar per gallon, while diesel costs around $3.39 per gallon. The price of LNG is about one dollar per gallon less than diesel, but the price fluctuates just like all fuel products. Experts estimate that the price of natural gas is especially low right now because the mild winter has lessened demand. The price will likely increase with increased consumption.
Another reason that companies are considering the conversion is that trucks that are fueled by natural gas are significantly quieter than those fueled by diesel. The noise of diesel trucks has prompted many cities across the United States to enact laws to reduce the amount of time truckers are allowed to idle their vehicles.
Obstacles to Converting Semi Truck Fleets to Natural Gas Fuel
Trucking companies are also unsure about the costs to maintain a natural gas powered engine versus a diesel powered engine. Cummins is expected to release an LNG powered engine this year that will be priced similarly to a diesel engine, making the choice to convert an easier decision for companies.
The other main reason that trucking companies are apprehensive about converting their fleets is the lack of LNG and CNG fueling stations in most areas of the country. Clean Energy Fuels Corporation, an alternative fuels company, is building 70 LNG stations in 2012 and is planning to open another 80 stations in 2013. They are building these stations along some of the busiest truck routes in the United States, about 250 to 300 miles apart so that trucks running on LNG can be fueled easily. Clean Energy is working with Flying J and Pilot to add LNG pumps at existing truck stops throughout the country.
It is likely to be years before there is a significant increase in the number of trucks on the road powered by LNG or CNG rather than diesel, but more companies are expected to experiment with alternative fuels in the coming years. The availability of LNG powered engines is likely to increase over the next five to ten years, and tax credits have been proposed for companies who switch their fleets to LNG.
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