Congress Hears Potential of Natural Gas


The Natural Gas Vehicles for America (NGVAmerica) told the House Energy and Power Subcommittee that CNG produced in the United States could replace 10 billion gallons of gasoline per year within the next 15 years.

Richard Kolodjiez, executive director of NGVAmerica, which represents natural gas interests, said the Nat Gas Act of 2011 could “jumpstart” the use of natural gas vehicles. Last week, the non-profit Potential Gas Committee, an organization of volunteers from the natural gas exploration, production and transportation industries, released a report that shows the the United States posessed 1,898 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas resources at the end of 2010. The figure was the highest resource evaluation in the Committee’s 46-year history, exceeding the previous record-high assessment by 61 Tcf.  Most of the increase arose from re-evaluation of shale-gas plays in the Gulf Coast, Mid-Continent and Rocky Mountain areas.

“We estimate that NGVs used about 43 billion cubic feet of natural gas in the U.S. last year,” said Kolodziej. “That’s the equivalent of 320 million gallons of gasoline we did not have to import. However, with proper government policies, that number could reasonably grow to 1.25 trillion cubic feet, or the equivalent of about 10 billion gallons of gasoline within 15 years.

The Nat Gas Act, short for the New Alternative to Give Americans Solutions Act of 2011, was introduced in April. It promises to provide federal incentives for the production, purchase and use of natural gas vehicles and for the expansion of the NGV fueling infrastructure. The bill would only provide these incentives for five years, but Kolodjiez added that it would make NGVs the economic choice for many more fleets, which could drive demand, increased production by vehicle manufacturers and, based on economies of scale and increased activity by suppliers, lower purchase and infrastructure costs.

Kolodziej testified that there were 2.8 million natural gas vehicles worldwide in 2003. Today there are more 13.2 million natural gas vehicles in operation.

“While there are many options to displace gasoline in light-duty vehicles, there are very few options to displace diesel in trucks, buses and other heavier vehicles,” Kolodjiez told the committee. “Of those options, natural gas can make the biggest impact the fastest.

Meanwhile, Brian Feehan, vice president of the Propane Education Research Council (PERC), told School Transportation News at the Alternative Clean Transportation EXPO in Long Beach, Calif., that Congress could ultimately combine the Nat Gas Act with similar legislation in the works for propane. While not a lobbying group, PERC generally agrees with NGVAmerica on the need to increase natural gas production, from which propane is derived, but the organizations differ greatly on the end-result, that being the type of alternative fuel technology.

During a breakout session on Medium and Havey Duty Vocational Applications at the Long Beach Convention Center, Feehan said there are currently more than 15 million propane-powered vehicles worldwide but only about 270,000 operating in the United States.

In the school bus market Blue Bird was the first manufacture to offer CNG options back in 1991. Blue Bird continues to offer CNG as well as propane options for its Type A joint-venture Micro Bird with Girardin Minibus and the Type C conventional Vision. Thomas Built Buses also offers CNG and announced earlier this year that it would bring to market a Type C propane school bus by 2013. Starcraft, which is expected to begin production on its new Type C school bus built on a Hino Trucks chassis, announced earlier this year its intent to enter the CNG space. Collins Bus also offers a Type A propane school bus.

In separate but related news on Thursday, America’s Natural Gas Alliance and the American Gas Association announced they were collaborating to advance the development and utilization of nature gas vehicles in fueling infrastructure.