The forecasted increase in natural gas production will have a number of positive domestic benefits over the coming decade to the environment and to the economy. For one, more transportation vehicles will begin to make the switch to natural gas which will, in turn, spur an increased demand for liquid natural gas stations throughout the country to fuel the vehicles. Refuse trucks and mass transit busses have to date, been the most receptive to these alternative fuel options, and this is likely thanks to the proximity of liquid natural gas stations within their limited routes. Currently, the limited number of liquid natural gas stations have been an inhibitor to the transformation for long haul vehicles. One solution is being met by Cummins as they manufacture engines that are able to make long runs on natural gas, and will save a great deal in fuel costs.
According to the Cummins website, “The Company is currently at work on a natural gas version of the QSK95 engine, the Company’s powerful high-speed diesel, unveiled in November 2011. And in March 2012, Cummins announced it had started development on a 15-liter Heavy Duty natural gas engine to help meet demand for on-highway applications that is expected to be in limited production by 2014. That engine will be larger than those built by Cummins Westport, which range in size from 5.9 liters to the 12-liter ISX12 G now under development.”
UPS, using the Cummins engines, will expand its natural gas fleet to 800 by the end of 2014. Chief sustainability officer, Scott Wicker has said the shift is a priority for UPS over the next few years.
This trend is nothing but good news for the U.S. for a number of reasons:
This transformation won’t happen overnight, however, because the cost of the engines and the vehicles is still higher than their conventional counterparts. As production increases, we’ll see a correction in the cost, but that will take time. In addition, there are still too few natural gas stations to be able to fuel the long-haul vehicles.
We’ll start to see this change as larger retailers and manufacturers begin to demand the equipment and major advocates such as T. Boone Pickens move forward with plans to build more stations nationwide, to meet the fueling needs.
Interviewed in The New York Times, Pickens is optimistic the switch will happen within seven years, as all the pieces, including legislation, fall into place.
In Snelson’s next article, we will discuss the benefits of converting your vehicle over to natural gas.