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  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.