SAFE: Expanded use of natural gas as US motor fuel ‘sensible strategy’

Expanding the use of natural gas to fuel US motor vehicles, even partially, is the most sensible strategy for reducing petroleum’s dominant fuel position—and the nation’s reliance on oil imports from politically unstable parts of the world. This was one of many messages shared by panelists during a day-long conference in Washington, DC, sponsored by Securing America’s Future Energy that examined lessons learned in the 40 years since the start of the Arab oil embargo.

At the conference, General Motors announced plans to respond to “range anxiety” created by compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles’ distance limits by introducing a bifueled Chevrolet Impala that has a gasoline backup to its CNG system. “Next summer, we will offer the ground-breaking Chevrolet Impala with an engine that can switch seamlessly from CNG to gasoline,” said GM’s Chief Executive Daniel F. Akerson. “There will be nothing like it on the road—literally.”

The bifueled vehicle will carry a factory warranty on its entire powertrain and fuel system, like GM’s other CNG vehicles, and will be the only such bifueled passenger car any automaker builds, Akerson continued.

“Our volumes will be small initially,” he said, adding, “Most of our customers are going to be commercial and government fleets, and selling 750-1,000 units in the first model year would be a home run.” That’s because there are only about 1,200 CNG refueling stations nationwide despite hundreds of millions of dollars in private-sector investment, and only about half are open to the public, he explained.

“To give the CNG infrastructure time to play catch-up, we got creative and engineered two energy reservoirs for the Impala, just as we did for the Volt,” Akerson said. “This approach takes range anxiety completely off the table by offering 150 miles of range using CNG and an additional 350 miles on gasoline.”

Move away from oil

Former US Defense and Energy Sec. James R. Schlesinger said the US doesn’t know yet how extensive its shale oil resources are, “but there are endless amounts of natural gas which can be converted to fuel for our automobiles.”

T. Boone Pickens, chairman of BP Capital, noted, “I have been selling this ‘natural gas in vehicles’ idea for a long time. It’s good to see it taken seriously. This country has vast reserves, and it’s priced very low. Natural gas does not require a refinery. It’s a 130 octane fuel out of the ground that’s 30% cleaner than diesel fuel. The environmentalists should love it. If the 8 million trucks in this country began to use it, we’d cut [the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries] out of the picture.”

Natural gas powertrains are one area where GM has increased investments because it believes the technology can solve the “green” needs of both the environment and the company’s investors, according to Akerson.

“Hypothetically, if the nation’s entire heavy-truck fleet switched from diesel to natural gas, we could reduce oil imports by about a third and sharply cut the fuel component of shipping costs,” he said. “It also makes business sense in smaller trucks, which is why GM has introduced a range of vans and pickups that use CNG.”

Still fuel of choice

Despite GM’s success with advanced technology vehicles, Akerson said he believes gasoline will remain the primary fuel in the near term. “That’s because we’re making so much progress in aerodynamics, thermodynamics, powertrain control strategies and weight reduction,” he explained.

“These ‘efficient fundamentals’ are being complemented by advanced transmissions, turbocharging, ‘stop-start’ technology and other features,” Akerson said. “Together, they will help consumers go farther on a gallon of fuel and save money at the pump.”

GM will continue to innovate on all fronts, but there is a growing list of matters that the federal government needs to address so the nation can realize the full benefits of its gas reserves, Akerson said.

“These include our export policy, pipeline capacity, a refueling infrastructure strategy, and clear, sensible standards for hydraulic fracturing,” he indicated. “We also need to rationalize the country’s alternative fuel laws and incentives.”

Government, industry, environmental, and labor groups will need to work together to find the best US energy policy solutions, Akerson said, adding that it’s already happening to some extent. “It is now time for the administration and Congress to seize this unique moment in history by facilitating and even expanding the dialogue already under way,” he said. “This is our first, best, and perhaps only chance to create a new consumer-driven national energy policy from a position of strength and abundance.”

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

EPA approves Magellan’s Corpus Christi splitter project

12/12/2014 The US Environmental Protection Agency has issued a final greenhouse gas prevention of significant deterioration construction permit to Magellan Pr...

Keyera to take majority interest in Alberta gas plant

12/12/2014 Keyera Corp., Calgary, will pay $65 million (Can.) to buy a 70.79% ownership interest in the Ricinus deep-cut gas plant in west-central Alberta.

PBF Energy, PBF Logistics make management changes

12/12/2014 Matthew Lucey, currently executive vice-president of PBF Energy Inc., will succeed Michael Gayda as the company’s president. Todd O’Malley, current...

TAEP: TPI still peaking, but ‘contraction unavoidable’ as oil prices fall

12/12/2014 The Texas Petro Index (TPI), a composite index based on a comprehensive group of upstream economic indicators released by the Texas Alliance of Ene...

MARKET WATCH: NYMEX crude oil price extends slump

12/12/2014 Crude oil prices extended their slump on the New York market with a Dec. 11 settlement of less than $60/bbl for January, and prices continued downw...

US needs more data before ending crude export ban, House panel told

12/11/2014 Much more environmental impact information is needed before the US can reasonably remove crude oil export limits, a witness told a House Energy and...

BOEM raises offshore oil spill liability limit to $134 million

12/11/2014 The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management increased the liability limit for oil-spill related damages from offshore operations to $134 million from ...

Rosneft, Essar sign terms of oil supply agreement

12/11/2014 OAO Rosneft and Essar Energy PLC have signed key terms of an oil supply agreement in New Delhi. Rosneft said shipments to India may begin in 2015.

Barton introduces bill to remove US crude export limits

12/11/2014

US Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) introduced legislation that would remove US crude oil export limits that have been in place for nearly 40 years.

White Papers

AVEVA NET Accesses and Manages the Digital Asset

Global demand for new process plants, power plants and infrastructure is increasing steadily with the ...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Approach for the Digital Asset

To meet the requirements for leaner project execution and more efficient operations while transferring...
Sponsored by

Diversification - the technology aspects

In tough times, businesses seek to diversify into adjacent markets or to apply their skills and resour...
Sponsored by

Engineering & Design for Lean Construction

Modern marketing rhetoric claims that, in order to cut out expensive costs and reduce risks during the...
Sponsored by

Object Lessons - Why control of engineering design at the object level is essential for efficient project execution

Whatever the task, there is usually only one way to do it right and many more to do it wrong. In the c...
Sponsored by

Plant Design for Lean Construction - at your fingertips

One area which can provide improvements to the adoption of Lean principles is the application of mobil...
Sponsored by

How to Keep Your Mud System Vibrator Hose from Getting Hammered to Death

To prevent the vibrating hoses on your oilfield mud circulation systems from failing, you must examine...
Sponsored by

Duty of Care

Good corporate social responsibility means implementing effective workplace health and safety measures...
Sponsored by

Available Webcasts


On Demand

Optimizing your asset management practices to mitigate the effects of a down market

Thu, Dec 11, 2014

The oil and gas market is in constant flux, and as the price of BOE (Barrel of Oil Equivalent) goes down it is increasingly important to optimize your asset management strategy to stay afloat.  Attend this webinar to learn how developing a solid asset management plan can help your company mitigate costs in any market.

register:WEBCAST


Parylene Conformal Coatings for the Oil & Gas Industry

Thu, Nov 20, 2014

In this concise 30-minute webinar, participants have an opportunity to learn more about how Parylene coatings are applied, their features, and the value they add to devices and components.

register:WEBCAST


Utilizing Predictive Analytics to Optimize Productivity in Oil & Gas Operations

Tue, Nov 18, 2014

Join IBM on Tuesday, November 18 @ 1pm CST to explore how Predictive Analytics can help your organization maximize productivity, operational performance & associated processes to drive enterprise wide productivity and profitability.

register:WEBCAST


US HYDROCARBON EXPORTS Part 3 — LNG

Fri, Nov 14, 2014

US LNG Exports, the third in a trilogy of webcasts focusing on the broad topic of US Hydrocarbon Exports.

A discussion of the problems and potential for the export of US-produced liquefied natural gas.

These and other topics will be discussed, with the latest thoughts on U.S. LNG export policy.

register:WEBCAST


Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected