Navigant Research Blog

Liquefied Natural Gas Gains Trucker Appeal

— September 9, 2015

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) has had the advantage of being a cleaner, less expensive fuel, but its limited availability and longer payback period for equipment has hindered its use in medium and heavy duty vehicles.

Due to its increasing supply, the cost of natural gas fuel has dropped by 50% since 2008. This, in addition to recent changes in the IRS code, has further increased the value proposition for natural gas as a transportation fuel. Natural gas proponents have long complained about the inequity of how the tax code has treated LNG, which was taxed by volume rather than by its energy value. Because a gallon of LNG has 42% less energy by volume than diesel, the effective tax rate was much higher, which put the retail price of the fuels closer together.

Good News for LNG Fleets

On July 31, President Barack Obama signed into law H.R. 3236, a transportation bill that changed the tax code to tax both LNG and propane at the same rate per diesel gallon equivalent, according to NGTNews. For LNG, the tax drops by 41%, which will increase the monthly savings for fleet operators when switching from diesel.

Even before the tax change, Navigant Research anticipated that the number of LNG refueling stations in the United States is likely to nearly double by 2020 to more than 210, according to the recently published report, Natural Gas Vehicle Refueling Infrastructure. With the lower cost of the LNG fuel, more fleets will consider installing refueling stations and converting their trucks.

The supply of LNG in North America will continue to flow sufficiently. According to Victoria News, the government of Quebec approved the building of an LNG plant in Becancour. Similarly, the Goldboro LNG terminal in Halifax, Nova Scotia received government approval to start exporting LNG. According to CTV, it is expected to receive natural gas via pipeline from the United States.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Energy reversed its policy to allow LNG to be exported, which has excited interest in supplying and liquefying the fuel. Several LNG export terminals are being either reopened or opened in the United States, including in Port Arthur, Texas and in Cameron Parish, Louisiana. Feeding both domestic and foreign markets with LNG is unlikely to be a problem due to the extensive shale deposits in North America and the increased use of hydraulic fracturing.


Honda Switches from NGV Civic to Supplying CNG

— August 28, 2015

For more than 16 years, Honda Motor Co. was one of the leading proponents of natural gas as a transportation fuel in North America. From 1998 through 2015, four generations of the compact Civic sedan were available with a factory-installed compressed natural gas (CNG)-fueled powertrain. However, despite being one of the best-selling cars in North America, the CNG Civic never caught on and was discontinued earlier this year. Fortunately, Honda has not given up entirely on CNG and has refocused its efforts as a supplier of CNG to its own parts suppliers.

CNG Refueling Station

Recognizing that the natural gas vehicle (NGV) market in North America consists primarily of fleet and commercial customers rather than individual car owners, Honda recently opened a CNG refueling station at its Marysville, Ohio campus. Marysville is the site of Honda’s first and largest North American automotive assembly plant, as well as the headquarters of Honda R&D America. With a capacity of 440,000 vehicles a year, the Marysville plant is one of the largest in North America, receiving hundreds of deliveries every day. This made Marysville an ideal location for the first CNG refueling station at any of Honda’s North America facilities. The fast-fill CNG refueling station was designed, constructed, and is being operated by Chicago-based Trillium CNG, one of the leading developers of CNG refueling infrastructure.

“We designed the station to accommodate 2.5 million gallons per year,” said Honda spokesman Eric Mauk. “It is currently fueling over 1.0 million gallons per year and that translates to 75-80 fueling events per day. At 2.5 million gallons per year we would expect to see roughly 200 fueling events daily.”

According to Navigant Research’s Natural Gas Refueling Infrastructure report, the total number of CNG refueling stations in North America is projected to grow to only a little more than 1,800 over the next 10 years from 1,560 today, a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 1.7%. Globally, the number of stations is projected to grow at 4.0% over the same time period.

Benefits for Fleets

The drop in world prices and corresponding reduction in gasoline and diesel retail prices is expected to suppress interest in natural gas for personal use vehicles for the foreseeable future. However, fleet trucks that frequently accumulate 100,000-plus miles annually can still benefit from a switch to natural gas, something that Honda is hoping to stimulate by offering convenient and fast CNG refueling to its suppliers when they are making deliveries. Honda estimates that more than 100 suppliers in the area could make use of the facility, driving 20 million miles annually on CNG. That would save nearly 20 million pounds of carbon monoxide annually compared to running on diesel. This is particularly beneficial for smaller suppliers that may not have fleets large enough to support the investment in their CNG refueling equipment. The refueling station is also open to the public so that anyone in the Marysville area is welcome to use the facility.

Other companies that receive many deliveries daily could also help stimulate demand for CNG by installing refueling infrastructure for their vendor community. Depending on where they are located, they could even take advantage of landfill gas for further environmental benefits. BMW already uses landfill gas to provide half of the power needs for its Spartanburg, South Carolina factory. If sufficient gas was available, it could be used as transportation fuel as well. Innovative approaches like Honda’s CNG station will be needed to keep advancing natural gas as a transportation fuel.


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