Study Finds Natural Gas Promising For U.S. Transport Sector

A new study of alternative fuel options for on-road transportation in the U.S. has concluded that natural gas is a promising fuel from both an economic and technology perspective.

The National Petroleum Council's ‘Advancing Technology for America's Transportation Future’ report is the result of two years of work examining the potential for a variety of fuels and technologies for both light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles.

Westport Innovations Inc., a Canada-based natural gas engine specialist, notes it played a large part in the study and is not surprised by the findings.

‘There are competing priorities in the pursuit of new fuel and vehicle technologies that are reliable, affordable and environmentally advanced, and natural gas is well positioned within the study,’ says Karen Hamberg, vice president of sustainable energy futures at Westport. ‘The potential for a long-term and low-cost domestic supply of natural gas driven by economically recoverable, unconventional resources provides the economic driver for the increased use of natural gas for transportation.’

Westport representatives – Westport Senior Advisor and former President Michael Gallagher and former Westport Vice President Graham Williams – were members of the natural gas sub-group, chaired by Gallagher and consisting of more than 60 industry representatives. Over 300 participants representing industry, government, academia and non-governmental organizations contributed their knowledge and time to the analysis, economic modeling and development of findings, according to Westport.

In addition to natural gas, the study analyzed four other fuel pathways, including hydrocarbon liquids, biofuels, electricity, and hydrogen, as well as the fuel-vehicle systems that may develop over the next several decades.

U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu requested the National Petroleum Council to examine opportunities to accelerate alternative fuel prospects for passenger and freight transport through 2050. The secretary also asked the council to consider economically competitive ways to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. transportation sector.

‘The study identified few technological barriers to the deployment of natural-gas-fueled vehicles,’ says Gallagher. ‘While infrastructure hurdles were identified as a barrier to the adoption of natural-gas-fueled vehicles, the study identifies solutions such as the enhancement of current infrastructure, the creation of natural gas corridors and vehicles that can run on more than one fuel.’

To read the National Petroleum Council's ‘Advancing Technology for America's Transportation Future’ report, click here.

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