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Natural gas could become the new ethanol -- the alternative fuel of choice -- if a new bill passes. Like ethanol engines, gas-natural gas dual mode engines suffer a performance loss of as much as 15 percent.  (Source: Treehugger.com)

The U.S. has among the world's most abundant natural gas deposits (regions with highest levels shown in brown).  (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
A variety of vehicle weight classes are covered by new natural gas bill

A new bill, NAT GAS (New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions), has been proposed by U.S. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV),and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) which looks to push natural gas vehicles into the consumer mainstream.  The proposal looks to offer a bevy of natural gas vehicle purchasing, refueling and manufacturing tax credits which would eclipse even current credits for electric vehicles.

People purchasing a light vehicle capable of running on natural gas would get a $12,500 tax credit, significantly more than the $7,500 credit offered for plug-in vehicles.  Current tax credits for three other weight classes would double, up to a maximum of $80,000 for the largest vehicle class.

Bi-fuel (gas and natural gas) vehicles would also be eligible for a 50 percent incremental cost tax credit -- this means that 50 percent of the costs that companies assume from increasing production would be offset by tax credits.  The bill would also make it 100 percent tax deductible (with some limitations) to build a facility which builds natural gas vehicles.  The bill would also offer refueling stations up to $100,000 to provide natural gas vehicle refilling pumps.

The new bill was masterminded and heavily praised by oil and natural gas baron T. Boone Pickens.  Mr. Pickens had made headlines last year, announcing a massive wind power project.  Just last week, he essentially pulled the plug on the project, and called natural gas the "only option" for the U.S.

With his heavy natural gas holdings Mr. Pickens stands to make a small fortune if the bill should pass.  Indeed, the natural gas industry as a whole would see a huge boost from the bill.

Natural gas vehicles run on methane, the primary component of natural gas.  Methane engines run approximately as efficiently as gasoline/petrol engines, but are less efficient than diesel engines.  Dual-mode engines suffer a 10 to 15 percent efficiency loss over gas-only engines, due to the higher octane number of 120-130.



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ridiculous
By omnicronx on 7/13/2009 5:10:57 PM , Rating: 1
Heres a thought, PICK ONE ENERGY SOURCE and stick to it, spending time and money on different energy sources is a waste of time and should be left up to the private sector should they wish to pursue it.

I understand why using natural gas could be a good idea, but I think the cons far outweigh the pros. The thought of being able to fillup at your house (if you have natural gas) is a great idea, but the cost of the infrastructure needed and the problems surrounding the use of natural gas in the first place does not make this feasible. Furthermore this will do nothing but increase the cost of natural gas prices, so you will pay more for your heating not to mention there is still a foreign dependence involved here.

Personally I think this money should be put into electric vehicles, it is the only way to get away from foreign dependence which should be the point of using an alternative fuel in the first place.

I would also like to point out that current storage methods would not allow an oddly shaped gas tank like in current vehicles, my guess is that it would need to be a cylinder, which is not exactly space saving. I've seen a few of these cars and every single one had their tank in the trunk.




RE: ridiculous
By bobsmith1492 on 7/13/2009 5:53:17 PM , Rating: 5
No, picking one [fuel] source and sticking with it is NOT a good idea. The politicians would make a poor choice like ethanol and everyone would be stuck with it.


RE: ridiculous
By monstrosity on 7/14/2009 11:31:56 AM , Rating: 2
Agreed, I don't see much of a problem if the government mandates gas stations to provide additional fuel sources, such as natural gas, and or ethanol, etc. However I do see a problem when they mandate that we don't get a choice and have to use one over another. Having a choice or options is a good thing.


RE: ridiculous
By Spuke on 7/14/2009 1:06:01 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Agreed, I don't see much of a problem if the government mandates gas stations
They're not mandating gas stations have NG pumps, they're offering $100k tax credit to those that want to installed NG fuel pumps.


RE: ridiculous
By rrburton on 7/14/2009 12:33:40 PM , Rating: 2
Or Petroleum?


RE: ridiculous
By Ananke on 7/13/2009 6:06:49 PM , Rating: 2
I am coming from a small European country, where around 2/3 of all the cars are running on propain/methane. Convertors cost several hundred dollars and bottle of the size of spare tire is used. This solution is essentially twise more economical than gas.

Natural gas, on the other hand, is not kept under extreme pressure, i.e infrastructure builds would be inexpensive. It doesn't require refining, like the oil does. 1000 q.feet, i.e. 230 gallons of nat gas cost around 8 dollars ....:)...It seems I will be very happy to have a car on natural gas.


RE: ridiculous
By Keeir on 7/13/2009 7:27:27 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
1000 q.feet, i.e. 230 gallons of nat gas cost around 8 dollars ....:)...It seems I will be very happy to have a car on natural gas.


Thats a good question.

Current US Natural Gas Prices
http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/dnav/ng/ng_pri_sum_dcu_nu...

At best, we can hope for "Commerical" pricing around 10 dollars per 1000 cubic feet.

1 cubic feet have roughly 1,028 BTUs. However, when used in an ICE engine application, its more like ~950 BTUs.

A gallon of gasoline containes around 125,000 BTU.

In the US there is roughly a 47 cents per gallon tax on gasoline... which works out to roughly 2.05 dollars per gallon.

http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/oog/info/gdu/gasdiesel.as...

Natural Gas would then get around 95,000 BTUs per Dollar and Gasoline would be 61,000 BTUs per Dollar. Which is another way of saying that currently Natural Gas is equivalent to ~1.80 gasoline (remember, the government will still need to collect taxes on the Natural Gas, so although the untaxed natural gas is equivalent to ~1.30 a gallon gas)

However, my problem with doing this is #1. Natural gas is very expensive to design engines for... #2. Natural gas when used in a CC, the same 1 cubic feet could produce more than .15 kWh of electricity. So... 1 cubic feet used in a Prius (50 miles per 125,000 BTU) results in .38 miles versus 1 cubic feet used in a Volt (40 miles per 8 kWh) is... .75 miles (more like ~.60 after losses due to transmission, charging, etc).

Either way, its much more effective pollution, usage, and eventually price wise to generate electrical power for the gas and use the electrical power to drive the cars... even if NG is more effective than gasoline.


RE: ridiculous
By knutjb on 7/13/2009 10:34:49 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
However, my problem with doing this is #1. Natural gas is very expensive to design engines for...

That is total BS. To take the most of natural gas the engine should have a higher compression ratio than a gasoline engine to take advantage of the 120 plus octane rating, to offset the fuels lower BTU rating. Diesels take a little more work but are built to run effectively on it too.

There is one unusual thing, oil is mixed with an abrasive and is squirted into the cylinder to help seat the piston rings because it burns at a lower temp and does not wash oil off the cylinder walls like gas. Fact engines running on natural gas will out last the vehicles they are in.

Any place that has natural gas can set up a gas station, usually off the existing pressure in the line 3500 psi plus requires little infrastructure, plumbing, dispensing units, etc. If the pressure is below there are compressors based on a V8 engine one bank a conventional 4 banger and the other 4 cyls are the compressor. The electrical grid theoretically has the capacity but in many areas, mostly rural or brown out prone cities (CA), don't have sufficient power grid capacity for a radical transition to electric cars. Why do you think plug in hybrids are taking so long to implement? It's not the cars.

The biggest reason to convert should be that the US has the worlds largest natural gas reserves so no money sent off shore. That combined with the simplest fuel conversion from gasoline compared to any other fuel option buying time to come up with practical alternatives that, today, are only available in vaporware.

Do some home work, natural gas vehicles have been around in the industrial market for for over 50 years.


RE: ridiculous
By Spuke on 7/14/2009 1:10:03 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Do some home work, natural gas vehicles have been around in the industrial market for for over 50 years.
I guess you didn't see the links. And you never stated why his info was BS.


RE: ridiculous
By Keeir on 7/14/2009 4:12:42 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
That is total BS.


Sure... thats why Natural Gas engines in cars need a tax credit of 12+ dollars.

That's why the Civic NGV is about 8,000 more expensive than the gasoline one.

I guess I should have been more clear. NGV are very expensive.

quote:
The electrical grid theoretically has the capacity but in many areas, mostly rural or brown out prone cities (CA), don't have sufficient power grid capacity for a radical transition to electric cars. Why do you think plug in hybrids are taking so long to implement? It's not the cars.


Ahhh... well it sounds like California needs to upgrade its power just to make current load. Since they are updating anyway, why not go really high and use very efficient CC plants to burn Natural gas for cars when they need it? Overall, it will be much more efficient that pumping the Natural Gas to a station and dispensing it to the car.


RE: ridiculous
By StevoLincolnite on 7/14/2009 1:03:08 AM , Rating: 2
LPG/Natural Gas works fine in a normal Petrol engine, heck you can even get Injected LPG Gas these days.

The way my Car works with LPG Gas is you have a "Mixer" which is connected to the Air intake pipe, which mixes the LPG and air together which is then sent to the cylinder for ignition, where-as if I switched over to Petrol, it's injected.

The Problem with LPG that I found is that it's a very "Laggy" fuel, and because I have lead weights strapped to my shoes, I end up with a tendency to bend push rods often. (Thankfully I do my own mechanical repair work!).

Plus, it's also a cleaner burning fuel.

And... in real-world driving the economy isn't that much inferior to Petrol.


RE: ridiculous
By LordanSS on 7/14/2009 1:30:12 AM , Rating: 2
Natural Gas is very popular here in Brazil, as far as car fuel options go.

Some brands, like Fiat, sell "Tetra Fuel" cars that can use natural gas, pure gasoline, ethanol or the gasoline we have here in Brazil which contains 20% ethanol in it's formula.

At least for us, it's very economic... as it's well know, due to taxes, our gasoline prices are astronomical, but when it comes to natural gas, the price is pretty good. You can easily drive over 100Km while spending less that $5 on fuel.

I believe it's a wise decision, to diversify on fuel alternatives. That way, if something goes bad with one of the sources, you have other choices available.


RE: ridiculous
By Sdaas on 7/14/2009 10:19:22 AM , Rating: 2
I thought Brazil used Sugar Cane Biodiesel.


RE: ridiculous
By Solandri on 7/13/2009 10:17:19 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
I am coming from a small European country, where around 2/3 of all the cars are running on propain/methane. Convertors cost several hundred dollars and bottle of the size of spare tire is used. This solution is essentially twise more economical than gas.

Natural gas, on the other hand, is not kept under extreme pressure, i.e infrastructure builds would be inexpensive. It doesn't require refining, like the oil does. 1000 q.feet, i.e. 230 gallons of nat gas cost around 8 dollars ....:)...It seems I will be very happy to have a car on natural gas.

Propane and natural gas are very different for transportation applications.

Propane liquefies at room temperature at about 12 atmospheres. You don't need a very strong tank to contain it. The pressure is low enough that you can just use a simple pump to fill it, and a simple valve to release it. In its liquid state, it has an energy density about equivalent to gasoline.

Methane (natural gas) is very different. In household applications where a supplier is constantly pumping you more, it doesn't need to be pressurized. But at atmospheric pressure, it only has about 1/800th the energy content of gasoline by volune.. That is, 1 gallon of natural gas at normal atmospheric pressure has as much energy as 1 teaspoon of gasoline.. Methane is completely impractical as a transportation fuel unless you compress it.

Compressed natural gas does not liquefy, and is typically stored at around 200 atmospheres of pressure (meaning it still takes about 4x the volume of an equivalent amount of gasoline by energy content). You need a much stronger and more massive tank to hold it, as well as a stronger pump and more robust valve to fill and empty the tank in a controlled manner.

Because of this, methane works well for large vehicles, vehicles which don't need to haul luggage, and vehicles which share the same pump and maintenance personnel. City buses and taxicabs (which mostly move people with little or no luggage) are good applications. But it's highly impractical for a personal vehicle. The tank typically fills almost the entire trunk. The CNG Civic only has enough trunk space to fit a few bags of groceries. The rest of the trunk is taken up by the CNG tank.


RE: ridiculous
By tjr508 on 7/13/2009 10:47:36 PM , Rating: 2
WE have zero foreign dependence on natural gas and nearly 100% foreign dependence on materials needed to run nuclear plants and make effective batteries.
The only time we import NG is when small gas-rich countries like Qatar dump LNG on our market for pennies on the dollar to what we can produce it for (I don't see how the consumer can complain here). There may be some other misc. imports, but they are for logistic purposes only (kind of like the US exporting oil).
Finally, NG is at what? $3.50 and we are still meeting current demand. At $8 (still very cheap) energy companies start to go after the less permeable formations boosting our reserves by another 60 years or better.


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