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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Natural gas is touted to have many benefits, including being locally produced and cheaper at the pump than traditional petroleum. However, fueling medium- and heavy-duty vehicles with natural gas is unlikely to reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in most cases, according to a paper written by Carnegie Mellon University researchers.
When compared to fueling with diesel, natural gas only reduces GHG emissions when used to generate electricity for battery-electric Class 8 vehicles, concluded the research. In this circumstance, GHG emissions are reduced by 31 percent, revealed “Comparison of Life Cycle Greenhouse Gases from Natural Gas Pathways for Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles,” the first in a series of studies sponsored by NACS’ Fuels Institute and NATSO Foundation evaluating the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel.
“Natural gas as a transportation fuel continues to gain significant attention from policymakers, fuel retailers and fleet owners, in particular,” said John Eichberger, executive director of the Fuels Institute. “We co-sponsored the study to provide objective analysis of the comprehensive effect of natural gas on the market and the environment, and to provide some insight into the most effective strategies for infrastructure and vehicle deployment.”
While the news could be a blow to the natural gas industry, the report did say the alternative fuel could have several excellent environmental benefits, including reduced air pollutants and lower operating noises.
This research paper is just one in a series that will provide a more robust understanding of the potential of a natural gas transportation market, according to Alexandria-based NACS, the Association for Convenience and Fuel Retailing. Researchers also are examining strategies to effectively install natural gas infrastructure where it makes most sense and have developed a new model to optimize development of a system to supply major transportation corridors.
“The number of truck stops and travel plazas investing in natural gas continues to grow as commercial fleets increase their adoption rate of natural gas-fueled trucks,” said NATSO Foundation President Lisa Mullings. “This study will help truck stops and travel plazas better understand this emerging market and implement a sound strategic plan for bringing the next big fuel to their customers.”
The initial report, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, can be accessed here.