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Archive: Sep 2013

  1. Categories: Business

    A Weighty Matter

    As transportation and logistics companies turn towards a clean, affordable and reliable fuel option – natural gas – legislation will need to keep in lockstep. That’s why MPP Bob Bailey of Sarnia-Lambton has introduced Bill 97: the Natural Gas Superhighway Act.

    The legislation would not only create higher weight limits for medium and heavy-duty vehicles using liquefied natural gas (LNG) because of their heavier specialized engines, it would also include a tax credit for those purchasing such vehicles.

    Natural gas’ benefits to the trucking industry in Ontario would be manifold – a 20 to 30 per cent savings in fuel costs, directly benefitting shipping and filtering down to lower costs for manufacturers and consumers. It would ease our reliance on imported foreign oil. And it would produce a 20 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to diesel.

    The long-term trend of lower natural gas prices suggests that natural gas is making a lot of sense to transportation companies, including shipping and the rails. That’s why Shell’s Corunna refinery in Sarnia is going forward with a small LNG unit, to provide fuel for marine, rail and truck customers. In fact, the Interlake Steamship Company has already signed on.

    Often a simple, legislated weight-requirement can have a big impact. If Bill 97 were to pass (similar legislation has already passed in Quebec and British Columbia) it would create an environment more conducive to natural gas use.

    Says Bailey: “Right now (truckers using natural gas) have to fill up in Quebec and try to get across Ontario and get into Michigan before you can fill up again… you need to build filling stations (here in Ontario).”

    If you were an MPP at Queen’s Park, how would you vote on the issue? Let us know in the comments section provided below.


  2. Categories: Business

    Boom Becomes Boon for Canadian Farmers

    Many industries are benefitting from clean, affordable and reliable natural gas. Some are obvious, like transportation and utilities. Some, like agriculture, are not as plain to see.

    To explain natural gas’ role in boosting the bottom line for farmers, it comes down to a simple matter of chemistry. Natural gas is used to produce ammonia, a key ingredient in nitrogen fertilizer. Because 80 per cent of the cost of making fertilizer is natural gas, it’s closely tethered to its price and supply.

    That’s why new opportunities now abound for fertilizer production as a direct result of lower natural gas prices and increased supply. And again, the consumer may also see some benefit due to lower food production costs.

    Natural gas’ affordability (and future low-price trend) is accounting for a string of new fertilizer plants planned across North America. CF Industries, the world’s second largest producer, announced its plans for a $3.8-billion expansion of its U.S. facilities. The world’s largest fertilizer company, Norway’s Yara, is planning a $2-billion expansion of its plant in Belle Plaine, Saskatchewan.

    Natural gas prices have also spurred fertilizer production for Canadian companies. Fertilizer giant, Agrium, has announced a $500 million expansion of its Borger, Texas operation – adding 650,000 tons to their existing production. In fact, encouraged by cheaper, future input costs, a few enterprising Canadian farmers are getting into the fertilizer game themselves. The Farmers of North America (FNA) announced a plan to build a farmer-owned fertilizer collective in Western Canada. This will allow them to invest in their own supply chain and effectively eliminate their reliance on foreign fertilizer from the Middle East, Eastern Europe and South Africa (the majority of nitrogen fertilizer is imported).

    The farmers’ new plant will require at least three years to build, and is expected to be the biggest Canadian farmer venture ever undertaken. It’s further proof of natural gas’ ability to create markets and opportunity where none existed before.

    Where else do you think natural gas can make a positive impact on the economy? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section provided below.


  3. Categories: Business, Environment

    Audi made a breakthrough vehicle. Then they made a breakthrough fuel.

    Not only is Audi breaking the consumer barrier to natural gas with their Audi A3 Sportback g-tron, the bi-fuel vehicle has spurred the company to engineer their own natural gas.

    And it’s pushing the envelope for green technology. Audi’s e-gas is synthetic methane harnessed from renewable resources – electricity generated by two giant windmills in the North Sea. An electrolytic process will separate water into hydrogen and oxygen. CO2 will then be combined with the hydrogen to create methane (i.e. natural gas). The carbon dioxide itself comes from a biogas plant, and when bonded to hydrogen, the CO2 (a projected 2,800 metric tons of it) becomes carbon neutral. That’s roughly equivalent to the carbon dioxide that could be absorbed by 224,000 beech trees per year.

    The vehicle can switch between natural gas and gasoline for an impressive combined range of up to 1,300 km. The engine itself is a turbocharged 1.4-litre, direct fuel injected four-cylinder, with the ability to run on gasoline, Audi’s e-gas and natural gas.

    In many ways, Audi has created the conditions in both automobile technology and power generation for self-sustaining cars. This e-gas technology can be used to harness surplus electrical energy (which would otherwise be wasted or sold by generators for a discount) and made into natural gas. More importantly, the vehicle’s bi-fuel engine can operate just as well on all the clean, affordable and reliable natural gas we in North America can simply take from the ground.

    Audi will be joining the ranks of Ford and Honda, in offering commercially available natural gas options. And though there are no plans to bring it to Canada today, our natural gas abundance could bring it here soon enough.

    Is the growing number of natural gas vehicles winning you over? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section provided below.



  4. Categories: Business, Environment

    Canada’s Closing Window

    At a recent meeting in Yellowknife of leaders of energy rich provinces, our Minister of Natural Resources, Joe Oliver, said the economic opportunities that exist in this country would not last forever. Though our resources may be abundant, our technology, business and trade relationships, and achieving a world-class reputation for environmentally sound development are time sensitive. He stated that we must take immediate action to get Canada’s oil and natural gas to market, instead of the dithering and second-guessing that has dominated our political and business environments.

    “The challenge for Canada is to open up to foreign markets and supply what the world needs,” he said. “We have a choice: to proceed or procrastinate.”

    All this indecision is in the face of a natural gas development bonanza south of the border. According to a recent study, the American natural gas boom in 2012 supported 2.1 million jobs, added $283 billion to GDP and $75 billion to state and government coffers. The economic stimulus increased the income of the average U.S. household by $1,200. They’ve realized that natural gas creates opportunity. These figures indicate a noticeable lift in U.S. economic circumstances – and not a moment too soon.

    Increasing affluence and industrialization of emerging markets like China, India and Brazil requires enormous amounts of energy. Simply put, they will want what we take for granted – the ability to drive cars, turn on lights and maintain a comfortable temperature in their homes. World demand will increase for energy and so will its price.

    How we marshal such a clean, affordable and reliable energy source like natural gas is the key to our future. It’s an opportunity we can’t afford to pass up.

    Let us know your thoughts in the comments section supplied below.



  5. Categories: Uncategorized

    Undeniable: Natural Gas Is Here To Stay

    The early 80s flirted with natural gas as a common vehicular fuel source. That’s when over 20,000 taxis, limos and even some private cars were converted to compressed natural gas (CNG). Market conditions also helped create 220 CNG service stations throughout Canada, so consumers assumed they could feel secure of supply.

    Then things changed.

    Supply and demand forced the price of natural gas upwards. The justification for the switch to natural gas had to be re-considered, and so did the service stations. In fact, today only seven natural gas stations remain in Ontario.

    Needless to say, the industry has its reservations about plunging headlong into a replay of the early 1980s. But this time, things are quite different. New technologies such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have created access to massive deposits of natural gas reserves. With an abundant supply in-hand, the uncertainty of the 80s is undeniably in the past— plentiful supplies of affordable natural gas are here to stay.

    It’s here to stay for power generation and transportation. With costs being a third of gasoline, the conversion becomes a no brainer for companies seeking more profitable bottom lines.

    And as mentioned previously in this blog, you know there’s a bolder, renewed faith when Ford Motor Company begins producing their coveted F-Series pickup trucks with bi-fuel natural gas/gasoline engines. When $12,000 added to that vehicle’s sticker price doesn’t seem to be a barrier, you know natural gas has finally arrived.

    At a mere 25 per cent of the carbon emissions of gasoline or diesel, natural gas presents an environmental bonus for companies and municipalities. For example, municipalities are eagerly embracing clean, affordable and reliable natural gas for their fleets and waste disposal trucks (an area in which natural gas enjoys a higher penetration than almost any other sector).

    Need more convincing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section provided below.