Evolution rarely happens overnight. And in the case of natural gas as a way to power transport, for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, it’s happening one big truck at a time. As reported by Truck News, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) announced the complete conversion of its private fleet of 179 trucks to compressed natural gas. This fleet is based near Detroit, Michigan and hauls parts and supplies for Chrysler operations between company plants throughout the Midwest of the United States and Ontario.
The Ontario Natural Gas Alliance (ONGA) advocates of using clean, reliable and affordable natural gas for transportation and it is encouraging to see business around North America embrace compressed natural gas for their fleets.
FCA’s conversion represents a major investment of resources and confidence in compressed natural gas technology by Chrysler. The conversion itself took two years and US$40 million to complete, not counting the infrastructure investments needed for fuelling and a maintenance facility.
But while the capital investment was significant, the returns are similarly sized. The company expects to reduce costs on fuel by 35 per cent compared to diesel and perhaps most importantly, reduce CO2 emissions by more than 16,000 tonnes.
Truck News reports that company officials will monitor the conversion project in the United States before making such a transition in Ontario. ONGA would encourage Chrysler, and indeed all transportation businesses, to explore the myriad benefits of clean, reliable and affordable natural gas for transportation. Here in Ontario, companies like Groupe Robert have experienced both environmental and cost benefits by availing themselves of natural gas technology.
Take a moment to see first hand how clean, reliable and affordable natural gas is making a positive impact in Ontario:
Natural Gas Critical to Province’s Economic Prosperity
Toronto, Ontario, May 16, 2014 — With Ontarians heading to the polls in a provincial election on June 12, and affordable energy having already emerged as a key issue, the Ontario Natural Gas Alliance is providing a platform for voters to make their voices heard.
The upcoming provincial election signals Ontarians’ chance to let elected officials know how important energy—and energy savings—are to their collective pocketbooks, says ONGA spokesperson Stefan Baranski. “Ontarians who don’t have access to natural gas need it to lower their residential energy bills. Moreover, our government needs to consider how fuels such as natural gas can lower greenhouse gas emissions while giving operators a distinct competitive advantage,” he says. “Natural gas enabled the province’s coal phase out and it is time we realized the fuel’s full potential to help us build a better Ontario.”
To assist voters in communicating their concerns, a new online portal will offer an opportunity to connect directly to those vying for their vote. By visiting www.naturalgasnow.ca, voters can address the issue of affordable energy by sending letters directly to candidates in their local ridings.
According to ONGA, natural gas’ clean and affordable attributes can play a pivotal role in three distinct areas:
Natural Gas System Expansion
While the fuel is often taken for granted in urban centres, the majority of rural and northern Ontario families and businesses are without access to natural gas. Due to a lack of infrastructure, less than 20 per cent of rural residents have access to natural gas, and instead must rely on oil, propane or electric heat for homes and businesses—all of which come at a significantly higher cost. “Not having the option for natural gas is a significant economic disadvantage for these communities,” says Baranski. “Government support is critical if we are going to be able to expand the system to include these communities and would result in immediate and significant savings on their energy bills.”
Baranski adds that savings for businesses are even greater. Some medium sized commercial businesses would be able to save up to $15,000 per year by using natural gas.
Natural Gas for Transportation
The transition to natural gas vehicles could substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions, positively impacting Ontario’s environment. According to Ontario’s Long-Term Energy Plan, the transportation sector accounts for the largest percentage of emissions in Ontario. Natural gas, meanwhile, provides a significant carbon advantage, with a 20-25 per cent lower rate of GHG emissions compared to traditional transportation fuels.
Furthermore, with natural gas being up to 44 per cent less expensive than gasoline, and 45 per cent less expensive than diesel, the decreased costs would give operators a tremendous competitive advantage. “Integrating natural gas applications into Ontario’s transportation network will result in huge wins for Ontario, both economically and environmentally,” Baranski says.
Ontario’s Economic Opportunity
Natural gas-intensive companies in a range of industries including petrochemicals, mining, steel, and fertilizer production are seeking places to expand their existing production or create new operations and jobs. With natural gas prices up to three times more affordable, North America is a key area in their expansion search. An energy platform that includes natural gas gives industry all the more reason to establish and expand in Ontario. For places such as Ontario’s north, home to the Ring of Fire mining area, natural gas-fired electricity generation offers operators a scalable, rapidly deliverable way to meet their energy needs, without the requirement for new transmission capacity.
“Ontario requires bold action with respect to its energy policy,” says Baranski. “And Ontarians understand just how important this issue is to create competitive advantage. It is time for all Ontarians to fully benefit from clean and affordable natural gas so we can build a better future for our province.”
The Ontario Natural Gas Alliance (ONGA) is a partnership between two of Ontario’s leading natural gas distribution companies, Enbridge Gas Distribution and Union Gas. ONGA was created to help the public understand the vital role natural gas can play in Ontario’s future-forward clean energy mix. ONGA is dedicated to education around the many positive attributes of natural gas, including its affordability, cleanliness and potential to fuel an economic revitalization that will create jobs and expand Ontario’s economy. For more information, please visit: www.cleanandaffordable.ca.
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It’s the size of a dishwasher but does a lot more than just clean up. Redox Power Systems, a Maryland-based start-up company, has partnered with researchers at the University of Maryland to commercialize a technology that could potentially change the way we look at distributed energy generation.
The two are working together to introduce a fuel cell that is about one-tenth the size and costs 90 per cent less than current commercial fuel cells. Redox’s PowerSERG 2-80 connects to your natural gas line and electrochemically converts methane to electricity, giving homes and businesses the ability to generate their own power. The fuel cell has a capacity of 25 kilowatts—enough to power a gas station or small grocery store. Sales are set to begin in 2014.
In Ontario, this summer’s heavy rain and storms showed us what could potentially happen to our power when Mother Nature puts the pressure on. Redox’s fuel cell is something that can keep individual homes and businesses powered in emergencies that temporarily affect the larger electricity grid. This promising new technology has the potential to provide us all with safe, reliable, affordable, and clean energy via natural gas.
Natural gas has taken a giant leap forward with Ford Motor Company’s announcement that they will provide a natural gas engine for their flagship F-150 pick-up truck.
Though a natural gas vehicle is already available to the consumer market (the Honda Civic), it’s ill suited to heavy-duty work. Other makes and models of natural gas trucks have been available, though they are typically heavier models, and available in limited quantities to commercial operations. This announcement heralds a new era in consumer perception of natural gas as a viable mass-market fuel alternative to diesel or gasoline.
It is believed the biggest opportunity for the truck will manifest in fleet vehicle sales. With the decline in gas prices due to unconventional drilling and extraction, companies can realize a $0.50 saving for every litre – an enormous contribution to their bottom lines. As well, companies seeking to “green” their operations will produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions as compared with other fossil fuels.
While the upfront costs of a natural gas vehicle may seem high ($7,500 – $9,500 more than the average $24,000 Ford F-150) the typical cost savings of using natural gas could pay for the difference in as little as two years.
If it were readily available in your vehicle of choice, would you make the switch to natural gas? Let us know in the comments section provided below.
Carlo Rubbia says that of all the energy sources available to us, natural gas currently offers the most immediate results for a clean and abundant fuel.
He should know – he’s no less than a Nobel Prize-winning professor of physics at Harvard University. He also happens to be the director of scientific studies at the Institute for Sustainability Studies in Pottsdam, Germany. His current research activities involve the viability of future energy supplies.
“It seems to me that a methane-based society [natural gas] is the best choice you have in the present time,” remarked Rubbia at Northwestern University’s annual Heilborn Lectures. “In my view it will take years before the solar energy and the wind energy can meet all your needs.”
He argues that because of global warming, speed is of the essence. Natural gas can respond to this reality quicker and more efficiently than most other energy sources like solar, wind and nuclear.
Do you feel the professor’s ideas are within reach? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.