Eco-Friendly Compressed Natural Gas Rises in Popularity
Image credit: Mike Mozart on Flickr
Greenhouse gas emissions and environmental issues have become significant concerns worldwide. In response to this, there has been an increase in energy companies that supply alternative fuels to natural gas. For example, X3Energy, which provides compressed natural gas (CNG) is booming, as are several similar companies.
Natural gas accounts for around 30% of energy usage in the United States. Most people consider it a fossil fuel. But so-called renewable natural gases can have the opposite impact of burning fossil fuels. In some cases, renewable natural gas can work to reduce emissions and decarbonize the environment. For example, manure-derived methane can result in a 300% emissions reduction from the impact of using and burning diesel.
X3Energy is a supplier of alternative fuel networks and other energy efficient solutions to businesses. It is the largest operator of CNG stations in Colorado. Founded in 2010, the company is headquartered in Parma, Italy. X3Energy currently operates 7 CNG filing stations in Colorado, a number it intends to double in the next two years. The company uses renewable sources such as garbage rotting in landfills, manure, and sewage treatment waste for its compressed natural gas.
Other competitors in the natural gas fuel business also collect methane from renewable sources. This methane would otherwise escape and release new carbon into the atmosphere. Burning methane creates carbon dioxide. But the process also results in the elimination of a substance far more potent that carbon dioxide. There were nearly 1,000 public CNG fueling stations in the United States as of 2020.
What is Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)?
Compressed natural gas (CNG), is an eco-friendly alternative to gasoline. It is comprised of methane stored under high pressure and compressed down to less than 1% of its volume. It is the same natural gas as the natural gas used for everyday heating and household appliances. CNG is also environmentally sound because it does not contaminate ground water. In addition, it reduces carbon monoxide emissions by 90% to 97%.
Contrary to common opinion, CNG often does not cost more than gasoline or diesel. It is domestically produced and relatively low priced. Because it is a domestic product, CNG is more price stable. Since approximately 98% of natural gas comes from North America, the increased use of CNG is a step toward reduced dependence on international oil markets.
CNG vs. LNG
Although CNG and LNG are similar acronyms and are both gasoline alternatives, compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) are not the same. LNG consists of natural gas (methane) cooled down to liquid form at about negative 260 degrees Fahrenheit. This liquefication process reduces its volume to 1/600th of its volume in the gaseous state. The main benefit of volume reduction is to make it easier to transport and store for extended periods. Producers can ship LNG across country borders or to remote areas, then converted back into a gaseous state. It can also remain in storage in secured tanks for many months.
Commercial Uses of CNG
CNG fuel use is becoming increasingly popular. One industry where there is great potential to deploy natural gas and other alternative fuel sources is the long-haul trucking industry. Large fleets of trucks play a major role in contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.
There is a race among companies to make heavy-duty trucks operate with clean hydrogen or electric engines. For example, Rivian, an electric truck maker backed by Amazon, received an IPO valuation of over $65 billion. Tesla introduced the Tesla Semi, a line of all-electric long-haul trucks with a 500- to 600-mile range.
Despite the buzz around efforts to develop electric truck fleets, it will take more time for them to be deployed on a large scale. Given the significant interest in fuel efficient truck fleets, X3Energy and its affiliate X3CNG intend to become key CNG suppliers in Colorado. CNG can power both medium-sized and heavy-duty trucking fleets.
Will Toor is a Colorado Energy Office executive officer. He thinks renewable gas systems such as CNG fuels will help reduce carbon emissions. But there is a need for additional clean technologies. “Ultimately, decarbonizing hard-to-decarbonize sectors, such as long-haul trucking and heavy industry, is going to require more scalable solutions, such as electrification and the use of green hydrogen,” Toor stated.
If Colorado develops renewable gas sources on a commercial scale, experts estimate that supply can replace 24% of the state’s total diesel consumption attributable to transportation. To put that in perspective, the conversion of one truck from diesel to natural gas would be equivalent to taking 325 cars off the road.