The Golden Age of Gas is here to stay proclaims Forbes Magazine. Few will disagree that 2013 was a breakout year for the new premier fuel of the planet. This is no surprise, given the advances in extraction technologies pioneered here in the United States, and now making their way across the globe. Shale rocks formations are some of the most common on earth, meaning we are just now beginning one of the largest energy transitions in history. Here in the US, we continue to see massive reductions in our carbon output due to the transition away from coal fired power plants towards natural gas plants. Market driven carbon reductions…yes please!
The Natural Gas Vehicle (NGV) industry has finally become a major contender to displace diesel fuel in the next decade. Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) are becoming the fuel of choice for commercial fleet operators. CNG refuse trucks accounted for more than 51% of all new trucks ordered. Meaning for the first time, CNG is no longer the “alternative” but rather the primary fuel of choice for trash fleets in the country. The over the road trucking industry, supported by the new 400 HP Cummins 12 Liter natural gas engine, jumped into the pool as well. There were more natural gas powered trucks purchased this year than ever before. Infrastructure providers such as Clean Energy, Trillium, and Questar rolled out hundreds of new fueling stations around the Country, with many more on the way.
We saw the birth of the new LNG powered Marine industry, with new fueling stations being developed at ports around the globe, and numerous LNG-powered ship orders being placed. The railroad industry also began their transition to LNG, and is now planning for the future with new liquefaction plants and fueling terminals across the country.
Caterpillar, which has been eyeing the NGV industry for years, is finally making moves into the market. The engine giant will be looking to develop high horsepower engine applications for offroad mining equipment. The first LNG mining trucks will be deployed in Alberta, Canada.
So what can you expect in 2014?
Expect to see further adoption of natural gas in all fleet applications. Electric vehicles will continue their march into the consumer sector, but in the commercial fleet sector, natural gas will be the fuel of choice. This will include big moves in marine, rail, trucking, trash, transit, as well as high mileage light and medium duty fleets. The biggest transition will likely be in the construction services sector. With new engines and fuel tank configurations for ready mix concrete trucks, asphalt trucks, and sand and gravel hauling. This will be the industry to watch in 2014. In addition to on-road vehicles, the industry will have access to new off-road mining equipment that is now becoming available. Construction giants like Cemex, Vulcan, Martin Marietta, and Holcim will begin their transition to natural gas. With both return to base fleet applications, high mileage hauling trucks, and a plethora of mining equipment at their aggregate plants, these companies will be well positioned to take full advantage of lower fuel costs to drive up profits, secure new customers with green trucks, and increase shareholder value.
On the technology side, expect to see more investment flowing into Absorbed Natural Gas (ANG) fuel tank and storage technology. This has been the holy grail for of the NGV industry for some time. ANG tanks can be formed into any shape or size, and store gas in a solid carbon honeycomb matrix, as opposed to a cryogenic liquid or pressurized gas. If companies can bring flexible ANG fuel tanks that accept both CNG and LNG to market at cost competitive pricing, it will set the stage for a commercial fleet industry checkmate.