The future of compressed natural gas vehicles

17 Nov 2011

Pictured today at the 'Natural Gas Vehicles - Fuelling Ireland's Transport Future' conference were John Barry, CEO, Bord Gais Networks, and Ronald Jibson, CEO and president, Questar and Incoming chairman of the American Gas Association

Global experts on natural gas converged at Ireland’s Gaelic games stadium Croke Park today during a conference to show how business fleets here can become leaner and greener using natural gas vehicles.

The global market for compressed natural gas (CNG) and natural gas vehicles (NGV) is morphing rapidly, especially with issues such as energy security, rising energy prices and CO2 emission targets are making both individuals and business rethink their modes of transport.

Right now there are about 13 million NGVs across the world, of which 1.4 million are in Europe. Over 150 transport and energy industry professionals converged at Croke Park to hear how such vehicles have achieved year-on-year growth of 30pc since 2000.

With the transport sector contributing 20.8pc to Ireland’s overall emissions, Bord Gáis said today that CNG, and later renewable biogas, will offer a viable alternative to help achieve Ireland achieve its 2020 emissions targets.

The Irish Government has set a target of having a 10pc renewable energy mix in transportation by 2020.

According to Bord Gais, such cars can be part of the new energy mix, revolutionising Ireland’s transport industry, particularly in business fleets.

The utility company, which is rapidly diversifying its renewable energy portfolio, especially around wind farms, is asserting that such CNG vehicles can reduce fuel costs by up to 60pc for businesses in the long run, whilst also significantly reducing vehicle emissions.

Ronald W. Jibson, CEO and president of US gas company Questar Corporation and incoming president of the American Gas Association, spoke at the event in Dublin today.

Jibson claimed that natural gas is poised to be at the forefront of national energy solutions in the United States and throughout the world.

He pointed to the recent substantial supplies of natural gas that have been discovered as a result of the shale explorations as instigating this rush.

“I commend those in Ireland who have recognised that the abundance, cleanliness, affordability and versatility of natural gas makes it a very compelling alternative for petroleum in the world of transportation. By working together, government and industry, we truly have the opportunity to create energy security in our countries. Natural gas for transportation technology provides a solution today and in to the future,” said Jibson.

Experts claim that CNG has the potential to significantly reduce local emissions such as nitrogen oxide and virtually eliminate particulate matter.

John Barry, managing director, Bord Gáis Networks, spoke about the utility company believes there is a viable opportunity for NGVs in Ireland.

He also said biogas offers huge scope for the transport sector here.

“We believe our role is that of a facilitator in the development of an NGV industry. Bord Gáis Networks has a core objective to increase utilisation of the natural gas network and reduce network charges for all gas customers. We have a very modern and resilient network and plentiful supplies of gas are available, which together means there is every opportunity to grow the use of natural gas in Ireland,” said Barry.

He talked about how the pharmaceutical, manufacturing and hospitality industries have benefited from the availability of natural gas.
“We will now seek to bring the advantages of this clean, cost-effective fuel to the transport sector. Today’s conference is the start of a process to share information and suggestions on the way forward,” Barry added.

From a European perspective, Manuel Lage, general manager of the Natural Gas Vehicles Association Europe, spoke of the significant growth in NGVs in Europe, which has been around 11pc year-on-year over the past decade. 

Speaking on the development of an NGV market in Ireland Lage said the development of CNG as a fuel for transport in a country like Ireland, is not dependent on building a public CNG distribution infrastructure.

“The quickest and most effective way to introduce CNG transport in Ireland is through urban fleets first; such as buses and refuse collection trucks, then through other delivery vans and trucks. These types of vehicles are typically part of large fleets and as a consequence the need for CNG refueling points is limited to their own depots.”   

The year-on-year growth of 30pc of CNG vehicles since 2000 all boils down to a couple of factors, such as huge advances in technology, the vehicle manufacturers producing more and more options off the production line and the rise in traditional fuel prices.

NGV technologies should get financial incentives from Government, claims Bord Gáis

“NGVs are an already market-proven and readily available technology but Government support is vital to their successful development in Ireland. We believe that CNG, and then renewable bio-CNG, should become an integral part of Government energy and transport policy and that the assistance and the financial incentives given to other technologies, such as electric vehicles, should also be given to NGVs,” added Barry.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic