In the trucking industry, diesel fuel’s position goes beyond the status of a merely functional utility mobilized to aid the trade, and ultimately serves as the very life force which that the industry survives off of. Given modern society’s reliance on mass transported goods, the very fabric of day to day living in first world countries depends on the usage of diesel energy.
With this in mind, it is perhaps worthy to note that when German scientist Rudolf Diesel first patented his compression-ignition engine in 1892, the particular fuel that would soon take his name was just an afterthought, arrived at after initially experimenting with the likes of coal dust and vegetable oil to run his new creation. By the end of the 20th century, Diesel’s vision of running his engine off of non petroleum based resources was all but forgotten, and the United States alone was using over 3 million barrels of petroleum based diesel fuel a day, maintaining a relationship of dependence with it that continues into the new millennium. With society’s increasing awareness of the harmful effects of global warming, as well as a more pertinent understanding of the finitude of petrol sources, has come a greater push towards finding alternative means of fuel. In this capacity, some forward thinking members of the fuel industry are becoming proponents of a particular alternative to diesel fuel for the 21st century, namely natural gas.
Ferus Natural Gas Fuels is one of the companies at the forefront of the new trend. After agreeing to build an LNG (liquified natural gas) facility along with Encana in 2012, FNG ended up buying out its partner’s 50% stake in the operation and now functions as the sole proprietor of the facility. The plant which opened last October will be producing LNG fuel for use by drilling rigs, pressure-pumping trucks and beyond. So why all the interest in the natural gas alternative?
Well, there is a pretty solid case for using natural gas instead of diesel fuel. Firstly, it simply costs less – When oil prices were at their peak, the LNG alternative traded for as much as 50% less expensive than diesel fuel, and though the price spread between diesel and LNG has recently decreased, LNG is still providing a substantially larger return on investment. Secondly, it burns cleaner and is better for the environment – Per Emission Testing of Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, heavy-duty natural gas vehicles produced 49% lower nitrogen oxide emissions and 84% lower particulate matter emissions vs. comparable equipment fitted with diesel engines.
Ultimately, while LNG is proven to be a more than effective fuel alternative, An important factor in its future proliferation will be the willingness of trucking fleets to see its potential and invest time, energy and money into making what would likely prove to be a rather lucrative switch.
“The technology is there. The fuel is ready for a lot of these applications. But the individual fleet owners are going to have to make decisions, and they’re not easy decisions” says Bruce Winchester, the executive director of the Canadian Natural Gas Vehicle Alliance.
A recent partnership announcement between Shell and GE Capital is liable to sway some companies in favour of the new option. Fleet owners who secure leases for LNG based vehicles through GE Capital and sign natural gas fueling contracts with Shell will be granted a reduction in monthly payments, an arrangement that will decrease the financial burden of investing in the essential hardware needed to make the switch.Posted by