Natural Gas as an Alternative Fuel

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The use of alternative fuels in the transportation sector is the best short- and medium-term options to lower urban pollution and our current dependence on oil. From the currently available alternatives, natural gas (NG) is clearly the more advantageous one due to its environmental friendly behavior, and because it is a truly and effective alternative to oil-derived fuels [1].

• A clean fuel. NG provides a clean and efficient combustion, practically free of sulphur and lead oxides, benzene, and solid particles. The CO2 emission level is 23% less than that of conventional vehicles and the CO emission level can be reduced by 85%.

• Cheaper than gasoline and diesel fuels. Although there is no uniform price list for natural gas in the transportation sector across Europe, the experience in countries where natural gas vehicles (NGV) are well spread has shown that the price of NG is, at least, half of the equivalent price of gasoline.

TABLE 1. Estimated number of natural gas vehicles and NG refueling stations in several countries. These numbers are continuously increasing, propelled by policies of energy savings and environmental protection.

Country

NGVs

Refueling stations

Country

NGVs

Refueling stations

Argentina

385,500

504

Brazil

14,000

39

Italy

290,000

280

Colombia

4,600

22

USSR

205,000

187

Indonesia

3,000

12

USA.

40,000

1102

India

2,500

6

New Zealand

25,000

245

Pakistan

2,500

12

Canada

17,220

120

Germany

2,415

55

Total in 48 countries: ±1,002,625 NGVs, ±2,789 refueling stations.

Total in 48 countries: ±1,002,625 NGVs, ±2,789 refueling stations.

• Efficient. Because the octane index of NG is much higher than that of gasoline, the performance of motors running 100% on NG can be increased by at least 15% through higher compression rates.

• Safer and nontoxic. As opposed to the other currently available fuels, natural gas is less dense than air, which makes it spread in the case of a leak. As a consequence, natural gas vehicles are not subject to any restrictions in underground parking. In countries where NG is used as a vehicle fuel, there has never been reported any disaster due to its use.

It is estimated that there exists currently over one million NG vehicles (Table 1). This amount still represents a small proportion of the total number of existing vehicles, but it is steadily increasing propelled by policies of energy savings and environmental protection. This fuel is widely spread in several countries, some of them having large fleets and governmental programs to stimulate the reconversion of traditional fleets.

Most NG vehicles have been converted to dual-consumption, in which they are able to run on both gas and gasoline [2]. This operating mode has the advantage of not reducing the driving range of the vehicle when the number of NG refueling stations is limited. The conversion has, nevertheless, the inconvenience of not taking full profit from the specific combustion characteristics and lower pollutant emissions of NG. Currently, technological developments are targeted towards building vehicles running exclusively on NG.

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Guide to Alternative Fuels

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