Buzz About Natural Gas
Rising diesel fuel costs and the shale-gas boom in the last couple of years has caused many fleet companies to begin looking at natural gas as an alternative to diesel fuel. Large amounts of natural gas in shale rock formations has been unlocked by improved drilling techniques, making the fuel cheaper and more plentiful across the U.S. However, the major concern for fleet owners is the cost of natural gas engines. Vehicles equipped to run on natural gas typically cost quite a bit more than conventional diesel models, but because of the significant price gap between natural gas and diesel fuel many companies are beginning to justify the transition–breaking even in just a couple of years. At the pump, a gallon of diesel often costs more than twice as much as natural gas, on a diesel-gallon-equivalent basis.
Another disadvantage of natural gas is that it isn’t as dense as diesel. Compressed natural gas (CNG) is only 25% as dense and super-chilled or liquefied natural gas (LNG) is 60% as dense. That means vehicles need more tanks or bigger tanks to go as far, or they must refuel more often. Thus the shift has been mainly in local fleets such as trash trucks, city buses, or delivery trucks that go back to home base each night, where they can re-fuel. Many long-haul truckers remain concerned about a lack of natural gas fueling stations across the U.S. Other challenges include the bulky tanks for compressed gas and the hazards of handling liquefied gas. In the past, the volatility of natural-gas prices also hampered wider use.
Besides the decreased cost of fuel, another benefit to natural gas engines is its environmental impact. Tailpipe emissions would drop since natural gas burns cleaner than diesel fuel or gasoline.
We at Jackson Oil & Solvents, Inc. believe that this transition will continue, but it will be a slow process. We are keeping our finger on the pulse of this transition and will be equipped to handle the needs of our clients as demand continues to increase. Europe, Asia-Pacific, and Australia have transitioned to natural gas quicker than the U.S., but that is pretty typical. Many fleet owners are trying to determine whether natural gas really has legs as a transportation fuel. As natural gas becomes more readily available (increased infrastructure) and the cost of natural gas engines continues to decrease, we will see an increasing speed of transition. Don’t worry, though, Jackson Oil & Solvents will be ready!