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American Fuel: Developing Natural Gas for Heavy Vehicles

American Fuel: Developing Natural Gas for Heavy Vehicles

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Converting the nation’s heavy vehicle fleet to natural gas would reduce oil use and create a bridge to our clean energy future, write Nick Wellkamp and Daniel J. Weiss.
Converting the nation’s heavy vehicle fleet to natural gas would reduce oil use and create a bridge to our clean energy future, write Nick Wellkamp and Daniel J. Weiss.

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Published by: Center for American Progress on Apr 14, 2010
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1Center for American Progress | American Fuel
American Fuel
Developing Natural Gas for Heavy Vehicles
Nick Wellkamp and Daniel J. Weiss
Creaing incenives o conver he naion’s heavy vehicle ee o naural gas would reduceoil use, inves in American energy sources, increase our energy independence and naionalsecuriy, and slash air polluion.Naural gas is he cleanes ossil uel—i produces less han hal as much carbon polluionas coal or elecriciy andup o 25 percen lesshan oil or ransporaion. Recen echno-logical advancemens in developing unconvenional shale gas resources have dramaically increased he amoun o recoverable naural gas resources in he Unied Saes. And hiscreaes an unprecedened opporuniy o use gas as a bridge uelo a 21s-cenury cleanenergy ransporaion sysem ha relies on dramaically enhanced uel economy; ligh- weigh, elecric vehicles; public ransi; advanced bio-uels; and low-carbon ossil uelssuch as naural gas.Cleaner, domesically produced naural gas has he poenial o mee more han one-hirdo he uel needs o heavy- and medium-duy rucks and buses by 2035. Our analysis, which is based on curren ee urnover raes or each class, deermines ha deploymeno 3.5 million o hese naural gas vehicles by 2035 would save a leas 1.2 million barrelso oil per day compared o business as usual, which is more oil han we impored rom Venezuelalas year.Our counrys dangerous overdependence on oreign oil poses a riple hrea o our energsecuriy by endangering our energy supply, economic securiy, and naional securiy. TeCener or Naval Analysis’s Miliary Advisory Boarddeermined ha, “Our dependenceon oreign oil reduces our inernaional leverage, places our roops in dangerous globalregions, unds naions and individuals who wish us harm, and weakens our economy; ourdependency and inecien use o oil also pus our roops a risk.Domesic naural gas can play a vial role in reducing reliance on oreign oil and enhancingnaional securiy by subsiuing i or he oil-based uels such as diesel and gasoline usedin heavy commercial ransporaion in he near erm.
 
2Center for American Progress | American Fuel
Natural gas can pave the way to our clean energy future
Naural gas is he cleanes ossil uel, producing less han hal as much carbon polluionas coal or elecriciy andup o 25 percen lesshan oil or ransporaion. Naural gas isalso domesically available in vas quaniies. Te Unied Saes consumed20.68 rillioncubic eeo naural gas in 2009, bu only 13 perceno ha amoun was impored. And new echniques or exracing domesic gas should mean ha we will no have o imporsignican quaniies o naural gas in he oreseeable uure.Recen advances in horizonal drilling will enable us o aordably develop signican shalegas reserves in he lower 48 saes. Tis could undamenally aler he U.S. energy sysemand help speed he ransiion o a low-carbon economy ha produces less global warmingpolluion. Te Energy Inormaion Adminisraion esimaes ha he Unied Saes hasapproximaely 1,770 rillion cubic eeo echnically recoverable gas. TePoenial Gas Commiteeesimaes ha “he curren recoverable resource esimae provides enoughnaural gas o supply he U.S. or he nex 90 years.”Tese shale gas plays in Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania,exas, and elsewhere haveincreased proven reserveso U.S. naural gas by 27 percen overhe las hree repored years and driven poenial reserves even higher. And because naural gas is produced in he Unied Saes, using i in lieu o impored oil will creae jobs, reduce our rade imbalance, and keep energy dollars a home insead o exporing hem overseas.O course, here are polluing wayso go abou producing shale gas and here are susain-able ways. Te“hydraulic racuring,or “racking,” ha rees he gas involves chemicalsand waer use ha could conaminae he adjacen environmen. We will need o makesure ha he shale gas producion can coninue o develop wihou hreaening publichealh, drinking waer supplies, or worsening global warming.
Natural gas is a much-needed cleaner option for big vehicles
Nearly wo-hirds o U.S. oil consumpion goes o road ransporaion , wih more hanwo-hirds o ha or gasoline and one-ourh or diesel uel. Te Unied Saes shouldconinue o pursueelecric and plug-in hybrid elecric opionsor gasoline-poweredligh-duy passenger cars and rucks, bu hese echnologies are unlikely o be ecien orcos-eecive or heavier vehicles. Te bateries required or medium-weigh and heavy rucks, especially long-disance reigh rucks, would have o be so large and heavy hahey would acually reduce vehicle eciency. Naural gas vehicles are hereore an excel-len opion o reduce oil consumpion in his segmen o our naion’s ransporaion ee.
 
3Center for American Progress | American Fuel
Te vehicles mos suied or naural gas conversion are medium- and heavy-duy rucks,and ransi and school buses. Te EIA esimaes ha here were a oal o 41,000 vehicles ueled by compressed naural gas on he road in 2007, and 2,600 vehicles ueled by lique-ed naural gas. Te EPA noes ha hese naural gas vehicles emiup o 25 percen less carbon dioxide polluion han heir diesel or gasoline counerpars.
Vehicle classes most appropriate for significant conversion to natural gas
Vehicle class2009Projected 2035
Number(all fueltypes)Oil consump-tion (barrels of oil per day)Number(all fueltypes)Oil consumptionunder business asusual scenario (barrelsof oil per day)Oil consumption withincreased natural gasvehicles (barrels of oil per day)Net oil savings underincreased naturalgas vehicles (barrelsof oil per day)*Heavy-duty trucks4,806,6211,625,0006,448,4892,230,0001,235,0001,010,000Medium-duty trucks3,904,902364,0008,544,441779,000665,000139,000Transit buses**67,50240,00075,42423,000***22,00045,000School buses**693,75257,000808,67876,00042,00036,000Total1,230,000
Sources: Energy Inormation Agency, Annual Energy Outlook 2010, Supplemental Tables 46 and67;Federal Highway Administration,Highway Statistics 2008; American Public Transport Association,2009 Public Transportation Fact Book, Appendix A, Table 17*Business as usual scenario already includes some natural gas vehicle penetration, but total oil savings are calculated with reerence to total energy used by eachvehicle class.**See methodology note six or details on how we estimated the number o transit and school buses.***The EIA already orecasts a signifcant decrease in oil consumption or transit buses due to a conversion to natural gas.
Replacing 3.5 million o hese heavy vehicles wih naural gas vehicles by 2035 wouldsave more han 1.2 million barrels o oil per day compared o business as usual, whichis more han we impored rom eiher VenezuelaorSaudi Arabiain 2009. Tis would  be accomplished primarily by replacing aging radiional vehicles wih new naural gas vehicles over ime, bu we also assume a small number o reros o con- ver exising vehicles o naural gas. We projec, based on exising ee urnover raes, ha nearly hal o allheavy rucks would be powered by naural gas. Naural gas would also uelone-fh o medium rucks, nearly hal o all school buses, and wo-hirdso ransi buses.Naural gas may be used as a ransporaion uel in eiher o wo orms:compressed naural gas or liqueed naural gas. CNG is currenly he more widely available orm o naural gas and is already being successully used inshor-range, cenrally ueled vehicles such asreuse rucks, concree mixers,sraigh rucks, and school buses. Bu he American rucking Associaionhas concluded ha CNG is an impracical uel or long-disance reighrucks because is lower energy densiy limis vehicle range and necessiaesmore requen ll-ups.
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Displaced OilOil
Figure 1
Potential oil displacement from naturalgas trucks and buses
Sources: Energy Inormation Administration, Annual Energy Outlook 2010,Supplementary Tables 46 and 67, available at: http://www.eia.doe.gov/oia/aeo/ supplement/sup_tran.xls#set3.1118a!C170 and http://www.eia.doe.gov/oia/ aeo/supplement/sup_tran.xls#set3.1118a!C2275

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