With volatile and unpredictable fuel costs and increased demand for cleaner energy sources, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) is quickly becoming the best alternative to diesel throughout the Class 8 fleet sector. LNG is establishing itself as the low-cost, low-carbon fuel of choice for operators in the long-haul transportation market.
Nevertheless, LNG finds itself the center of a whirl of myths, which target the fuel with an eye on discrediting it in the popular consciousness. Like the vast majority of myths however, separating out the truth from the fiction is like removing the wheat from the chaff to discover the true value of a particular statement as it relates to this abundant fuel source.
LNG has been well known since the first half of the 20th century and been established as a fuel source for everyday commercial use. LNG is natural gas that has been purified and liquefied. This clear, colorless and odorless liquid consists of approximately 95% methane (CH4) with low concentrations of other hydrocarbons (e.g. ethane, propane and butane) and inert components such as nitrogen. As such, it is a clean and affordable fuel, offering stable pricing, high performance and cost savings in every application. LNG is also the safest fuel available in the market.
So… What are the Myths about using LNG?…
1. LNG IS TOO EXPENSIVE FOR OUR FLEET
Due to the large amount of domestic natural gas reserves, natural gas prices have disassociated from oil prices. In the last 20 years natural gas has sold at about two-thirds of the price of oil (per unit energy).
More importantly, LNG is not tied to foreign oil markets, which protects it from erratic price swings. The natural gas raw product cost is only about 30% of the overall LNG delivered cost. Thus, even if there are price swings in the natural gas market, LNG is not affected greatly. One other advantage is LNG’s long-term (up to five years) hedging opportunities which allow accurate budgeting of fuel costs.
2. NATURAL GAS ENGINES RUNNING ON LNG WILL HAVE HIGHER MAINTENANCE COSTS
Transport Topics article “The Case for Natural Gas Engines” states natural gas engines have operational and maintenance advantages over today’s diesel engine. Specifically, “…the complex maintenance of the emissions-control systems on today’s diesel engine will remain costly”. UPS, an early adopter who has now driven over one billion miles in natural gas vehicles, shared that they have seen no measurable difference in maintenance costs between natural gas and diesel engines, when the operation is viewed in its entirety. [source: The Case for Natural Gas Engines]
If you currently operate your fleet with diesel there are a few things you’ll find interesting when comparing it to LNG maintenance…
- LNG fuel systems do not require DEF nor will an SCR have to be maintained. Cummins Inc. voluntarily recalled 500,000 medium- and heavy-duty engines for a failed catalyst in the selective catalytic reduction, or SCR, emissions-control system. [source: The Case for Natural Gas Engines]
- LNG trucks operate in extreme cold temperature; diesel systems see fuel gelling in cold temperatures.
- LNG fuel systems are 0-500 lbs. lighter than diesel (LNG occupies 1/600th of its volume as a gas).
- Natural gas engines have shorter oil change intervals compared to diesels.
3. IT’S DIFFICULT AND COSTLY TO SWITCH TO LNG
The price advantage of LNG (LNG Rack Price: $1/ Diesel Gallon Equivalent) over diesel allows fleets to realize a fast return on investment. The ROI is usually two years or less for the average trucking fleet, even after investing in natural gas trucks, possible maintenance upgrades, and fueling infrastructure.
Inputs and Assumptions
Total Trucks: 50
Annual Mileage/Truck: 100,000
Annual Diesel Gallons for Tractors: 793,650
Diesel fuel economy: 6.3 mpg
5% fuel economy degradation for LNG
No truck residual values included
Diesel: $3.006 (2/18/19 EIA national retail average diesel)
RINs Value: 2.5%, $0.04/gallon
Both fuels shown at fully delivered, fully taxed price
LNG IN taxes: $0.714/gallon
Incremental cost for LNG Truck: $43,971
Kinetrex provides the Fueling Station
Natural Gas Maintenance Center Upgrades included at $100,000
An early adopter of natural gas engines, UPS Inc. announced last year another $130 million investment in natural gas vehicles, including 400 on-highway tractors. [source: The Case for Natural Gas Engines]
Making the switch easier, the federal Alternative Fuel Tax Credit (AFTC) has historically been available for alternative fuel that is sold for use as a fuel to operate a motor vehicle. This tax credit in the amount of $0.50 per gallon has been available for alternative fuels such as liquefied natural gas. Also, the Clean Air Act (CAA) 2.0 liter partial settlement will require Volkswagen to fund a $2.7 billion mitigation trust fund. These funds have been distributed state by state to implement NOx reducing projects from the 2.0 liter vehicles. For more information on your state’s allocation, visit the EPA’s Volkswagen Clean Air Act Civil Settlement.
LNG providers work with you to create a customized, turn-key solution that makes it simple to change your fleets fuel source. Most offer permanent, temporary, and mobile LNG storage systems for your fleet. An LNG Mobile Fuel System is designed to meet high-volume fuel requirements enabling your trucks to fuel onsite without a permanent station nor be reliant upon rising retail fuel costs. Ask your LNG provider if you can try LNG with zero capital investment. This makes your transition from diesel to LNG very economical and easy.
4. LNG IS NOT A RELIABLE FUEL SOURCE
When the demand for fuel spikes, you’ll need a plentiful, affordable fuel source that can be delivered or stored on-site. U.S. Natural Gas supply is PLENTIFUL (approximately 92 years of domestic supply on hand); this ensures that LNG will always be available for your fleet.
LNG can be easily stored and transported to your fleet operations. Natural gas contracts to 1/600th of its original volume when cleaned, cooled to approximately -261 °F and converted into a liquid. When converted to liquid form it can be trucked 24/7/365 to operations all-across North America. Storage container remote and automated monitoring provides access to fuel levels and generates reordering alerts for deliveries as needed.
5. THERE ARE SAFETY ISSUES WITH LNG
LNG has the best safety record of all common fuels. LNG is colorless, odorless, non-toxic, and non-corrosive. Unlike crude oil and crude-derived liquid fuels, if LNG spills it does not cause any residual impact on the environment. This is because it evaporates immediately and dissipates quickly into the atmosphere; it does not require any remediation of soil, groundwater or surface waters.
LNG’s high ignition temperature of 649 °F (gasoline: 315 °C) and limited flammability range (5 % to 15 % in air) make its unintentional combustion highly unlikely. Unlike diesel, LNG is NOT flammable when in a liquid state.
6. LNG WILL NOT DELIVER EQUAL ENGINE PERFORMANCE TO DIESEL
The composition of pipeline natural gas varies and can contain high levels of heavy hydrocarbons, such as ethane, which leads to poor engine performance. LNG, on the other hand, is consistently around 95% methane and is purified prior to liquefaction. This results in higher performance and higher and more stable methane levels.
Accurate engine performance testing requires a stable and specific composition of natural gas. This is why Cummins, the sole manufacturer of natural gas engines in America, consistently tests the performance of its natural gas engine using Kinetrex Energy LNG. Most importantly, LNG trucks operating fully loaded at 78,000- 78,500 lbs., are getting over 6 mpg.
7. THERE ARE HIGH CARBON EMISSIONS WITH LNG
Many fleets are environmentally conscience and want to be “green” and operate in the eco-friendliest way possible. LNG is the cleanest-burning fuel available. LNG produces 20% less carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than diesel and the combustion does not emit soot, dust or fumes. The Cummins Westport ISX12N enables a 90% reduction in nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter emissions with a maintenance free Three-Way Catalyst Aftertreatment.
LNG has no environmentally-damaging sulphur dioxide (SO2) emissions and can be obtained from renewable sources such as livestock and landfill waste; Renewable Natural Gas (RNG) allows fleets and shippers to reduce emissions across the supply chain. Use of RNG versus natural gas further reduces CO2 emissions by an additional 75% resulting in a carbon negative fuel.