Liquefied Natural Gas as an alternative fuel is all over the news right now, and several major trucking companies are testing trucks and considering the switch to LNG. Truck drivers and Trucking company owners seem to be divided on the issue. Some believe that making the switch to LNG will decrease fuel bills, while others think that the price will increase steadily as the demand increases. Market analysts believe that LNG will stay below $40 per barrel for years, and Shell representatives are convinced that LNG is the fuel of the future.
The main argument against LNG as a fuel for big rigs is the lack of infrastructure. There are at least 18,000 fueling stations around the world that dispense natural gas, but only about 1,000 of them are located in the United States. California has taken the lead in offering LNG fuel to the public, but there still isn’t enough infrastructure to even begin supporting the thousands of trucks that could make the switch to natural gas. The demand for LNG is growing, as large companies such as Wal-Mart and CR England test out trucks powered by natural gas engines.
Shell Oil is another company that is supporting the switch to LNG. Representatives believe that LNG and diesel will both be used to fuel trucks in 2050 and beyond.
Cost vs. Benefits
The strongest arguments for LNG as a fuel for semi-trucks are its low cost and the availability of domestic natural gas. It currently costs about 50 percent more for a company to buy a new truck that is powered by LNG rather than one that is powered by diesel fuel, which means that it would take about two or three years for the company to recover the additional money they spent buying the truck in fuel savings. This is assuming current prices, and the price of diesel fuel is expected to rise even further in the coming years.
The American Trucking Association issued a statement to the U.S. Senate Energy and Resource Committee, stating that they don’t believe LNG is currently a viable option for long haul operations. Higher maintenance costs, additional driver training and the weight of LNG tanks versus the weight of diesel tanks are a few of the reasons they believe it is not viable. As the industry moves forward and the infrastructure becomes more common it is likely that LNG will become nearly as common as diesel as a fuel for local hauling, but it is unlikely to become commonly used for long hauling operations.