How natural gas could become a mainstream transportation fue

admin 2015-12-01 13:21

  We have a lot of natural gas in the world. I mean A LOT. More than we know what to do with. So much, that North Dakota alone is burning off $1.2 billion worth of it each year.

  Not only is that a staggering economic waste, it’s polluting our atmosphere and heavily contributing to climate change.

Which begs the question: Why? Why aren’t we funneling it into our oil-addicted transportation infrastructure? Natural gas is cleaner than gasoline, significantly cheaper, and it’s produced in America. To be fair, there are natural gas vehicles — denoted by blue, diamond shaped CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) stickers — in the United States, but they compose less than one-tenth of one percent of cars and trucks on the road. Or, in layman’s terms, not nearly enough to matter.

This is largely due to technological limitations. For starters, CNG compressor filled tanks are bulky and heavy, taking up a lot of space in cars, and — as I can attest to, having driven a CNG car at the L.A Auto Show — noticeably limiting performance. And because of the high pressure the gas needs to be kept under, CNG tanks are very difficult to fuel at home. As of right now, there are no longer any commercially available home CNG fueling appliances (although a new one claims to be coming to market later this year).

However, it looks like those limitations may soon be a concern of the past with the arrival of a new-ish technology known as ANG (Adsorbed Natural Gas). ANG storage tanks are made of “synthetic porous materials” that offer big improvements over CNG technology, for several reasons. First, and most importantly, they can store larger amounts of natural gas at lower pressures. This will increase the range of CNG passenger vehicles and make at-home fueling much less expensive and complicated.

It will also allow for the use of smaller natural gas storage tanks, reducing the overall weight of NG vehicles and improving their performance. Additionally, ANG tanks can be molded into shapes other than cylinders, which will give car manufacturers more flexibility when designing natural gas compressor based gas station cars.

ANG is not commercially available yet, but there are several companies working to bring it to market. Whoever gets there first will not only be poised to make a fortune, but will bring Americans one step closer to achieving freedom from our toxic relationship with oil.

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