Over the past decade, there has been a growing interest in natural gas as an alternative to gasoline and diesel for automotives. While the environmentalists, global agencies, and legal watchdogs are pushing CNG due to environmental reasons, the Governments have economic interests also in sight. The same advantages are driving more and more vehicle owners to migrate to this green fuel of the future.
What is Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)?
As the name suggests, CNG is gas in compressed form. Most natural gas vehicles run on this fuel. This fuel in the form of LNG is used only in selected heavy-duty trucks. A vehicle should have an installed CNG kit (on-the-board kit) to be able to run on natural gas. The gas is stored in a high-pressured cylinder, which forms a major part of the kit.
What are the environmental benefits?
An automobile runs by burning its fuel. In case of petrol and diesel, this process releases byproducts that are very harmful for the environment. CNG combustion primarily releases water vapor, offering huge reduction in the emission of green house gasses. As compared to a gasoline based automobile, CNG offers reduction in CO emissions by 60-80%; Non-methane Organic Gas by 87%; NOx by 50-80%; CO2 by 20%; and Ozone-producing Reactivity by 90-95%. Similarly, in case of a diesel vehicle the reductions are: CO by 70-90%; Non-methane Organic Gas by 40-60%; NOx by 80-90%; and particulate matter by 90-95%. The data clearly indicates how conversion to CNG can contribute towards preventing ecological damage.
How expensive is CNG?
The cost factor makes Compressed Natural Gas an even more attractive option for automobiles. In terms of yield, 1 kilogram (35.274 oz) of CNG is equivalent to 1.46 liters of gasoline and 1.18 liters of diesel. In addition, gas comes at cheaper rates than other fossil fuels. In Germany, the price of CNG is 33.33% of petrol and 50% of diesel. In U.S., it ranges between 30-60% in different states. In India and China, it costs around 48-50% of hydrocarbon prices. The two factors combined – fuel efficiency and per unit price – bring about significant savings over the running life of a vehicle.
The users have to bear a one-time expense of installing a CNG kit or similar cost differential on an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) model. However, the Governments in different countries are offering tax credits and other benefits to consumers to promote the adoption of CNG. The natural gas vehicles offer another key advantage of lower maintenance costs. Considering these factors, the initial costs of converting to natural gas can be set off between 1-2.5 years.
The above factors are driving the demand for green automobiles both from private and commercial segments worldwide. This consequently pushes the demand for CNG cylinders. Some of the key markets remain Asian and other emerging economies. Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, China, Brazil, and Argentina are among the biggest markets for natural gas vehicles and high pressure cylinders.