Despite the limited effectiveness of natural gas on reducing lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions when used to fuel larger vehicles, there are still a number of benefits to using natural gas in other areas. Carnegie Mellon University researchers have done extensive research in this area, and they have released reports on some of the advantages to using natural gas.
Although fueling medium- and heavy-duty vehicles with natural gas does not reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions, it can reduce GHG emissions by more than 31% when used to generate electricity for battery electric Class 8 vehicles, according to a paper written by Carnegie Mellon University researchers. The research also found that using natural gas in these vehicles could produce other significant environmental benefits, such as reduced air pollutants and lower operating noises.
The low-cost and abundant supply of shale gas in the U.S. has increased the interest in using natural gas for transportation. The paper, “Comparison of Life Cycle Greenhouse Gases from Natural Gas Pathways for Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles,” is the first in a series of studies sponsored by the Fuels Institute and NATSO Foundation evaluating the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel.
In addition to studying the effects of natural gas on greenhouse gas emissions, the researchers are also looking at the effect of natural gas on local air quality issues by evaluating emissions of criteria air pollutants to determine where it might make most sense to deploy natural gas vehicles. They also are evaluating the feasibility of developing an infrastructure system to support a natural gas transportation economy.
“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.”
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. 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.”
Each publication within the series, prepared by Carnegie Mellon University, will be published in a peer reviewed scientific journal and will contribute directly to the overall understanding of the developing natural gas market.