Compressed Natural Gas 101

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Natural Gas is responsible for one quarter of our nation’s energy supply. Abundant, clean, and produced in the United States, natural gas is becoming widely accepted as the smartest alternative to gasoline and diesel fuels. The same natural gas that is used to heat homes and offices has been utilized for many years as a transportation fuel by compressing the gas for storage on vehicles.

The Atlantic County Utilities Authority is transitioning its fleet of collection vehicles to compressed natural gas (CNG) in order to reduce emissions and save money. The ACUA, along with four New Jersey partners, was awarded $14.9 million in funding from the US Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Recovery Act awards for alternative and advanced vehicles.

ACUA received $1.9 million in funding, which was used to build a CNG fueling station, offset the cost of purchasing CNG vehicles, and make necessary changes to the ACUA Maintenance Center where the CNG vehicles are serviced.

Transitioning to CNG makes sense financially and environmentally. Here are some compelling reasons to make the switch:

It’s Cheaper: CNG has an approximately $1 average per gallon price advantage over diesel, and energy price trends are projecting a widening margin in the price savings for CNG.

It’s Reliable: Performance is not compromised among CNG trucks compared to standard diesel trucks. CNG operators have consistently confirmed that CNG trucks actually run smoother than their diesel counterparts with minimal maintenance problems.  

Diesel Trucks Must Meet Standards: Having to meet aggressive environmental standards is forcing diesel operators to use complex, after-treatment pollution control devices that face a reduction in performance over time. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has enacted a Diesel Risk Reduction Program including a Diesel Retrofit Mandate that will eventually affect all fleets in the state. The regulations required installation of emissions reduction devices on all school buses by July 2010. All public or private transit buses and on or off road heavy duty vehicles fleets must submit a vehicle inventory and reduction plan. Additionally all publicly owned or contracted solid waste collection fleets are required to submit an inventory and reduction plan. 

 It’s Cost is Stable: The price for large amounts of natural gas can be locked in months ahead of time, allowing CNG fuel providers better control over the pump prices.  

It’s Clean: New Jersey’s Global Warming Response Act recognizes the importance of change in the transportation sector, which is the largest contributor of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the State. Using CNG in place of diesel fuel reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 49%, particulate matter emissions by 90%, carbon monoxide emissions by 75%, and carbon dioxide emissions by 25%.

It’s Being Widely Utilized All Over the Country: Fleets all over the country are making the switch, including Waste Management and the largest fleet operator UPS, who has converted over1,800 of its trucks to CNG. AT&T as well as the US Postal Service are moving toward conversion to CNG trucks.  

It’s Safe: CNG is lighter than air, so should an accident occur where a tank is ruptured, the gas rises and dissipates instead of pooling on the ground like gasoline.  

It’s Quiet: CNG trucks run 50% quieter than diesel trucks. 

It Protects the Health of the Drivers and Passengers: CNG trucks reduce the amount of toxic fumes inhaled by drivers and passengers. Children riding in diesel powered school buses are exposed to diesel exhaust fumes and related health issues including bronchitis and asthma. Natural gas buses studied emitted 60 to 98% less carbon than diesel powered buses.

Diesel exhaust contains 40 chemicals that the Clean Air Act has identified as hazardous air pollutants, and reports show that over 70% of all airborne cancer risk can be attributed to diesel exhaust.

It Paves the Way for Hydrogen: As technology advances the possibilities for hydrogen as a transportation fuel are becoming more apparent, and CNG vehicles are hydrogen compatible, keeping them on pace with the fuel technology trends.

It’s Affordable: CNG trucks typically cost $42,000 more than standard diesel trucks, but with financial incentives and funding such as the Clean Cities award, and considering the cost of installing and retrofitting pollution control equipment to meet the new emissions standards; the price differences between CNG vehicles and diesel vehicles are mitigated.

 It Reduces Our Dependence on Foreign Oil: 95% of all natural gas used in the United States is produced in North America. The US currently imports over 60% of its oil supply, which puts strain on our economy. With an effective push to green our American fleets we can shift our demand from Middle Eastern oil to US produced, clean burning, natural gas.


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