Natural Gas a Major US Transport Fuel? Next Decade, Maybe
From Business Recorder
The goal of making natural gas a serious, clean alternative to gasoline in the United States will not be met this decade, as high costs and inadequate infrastructure limit growth, according to a Reuters poll of analysts. The survey of 12 analysts conducted this week forecasts a ten-fold increase in the use of natural gas to power US cars, trucks and trains by 2020, showing growing interest in the fuel but not enough to boost natural gas demand or make much of a dent in US reliance on imported oil.
Use of natural gas for transport will climb to about 1.2 billion cubic feet per day by 2020, up from about 100 million cubic feet daily now, the poll said. That is only 1.7 percent of total predicted 2020 US natural gas demand. Natural gas has staked its claim as a cheaper and cleaner alternative to gasoline and diesel since drilling in shale formations has pushed output to record highs this decade, attracting high profile support from the likes of billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens keen to break US dependency on oil imports.
Growing ranks of engine makers are developing natural gas prototypes not just for trucks, but for small-scale vehicles with huge market potential. But the poll anticipates the fuel will remain on the sidelines in the coming years, plagued by the same issues that have kept it there in the past, despite growing political support and investments from oil majors and large fleet owners.
The higher cost of a natural gas-powered engine and a dearth of refuelling stations continue to be the main obstacles keeping natural gas from becoming a more widely used transport fuel. There are more than 1,300 compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) stations in the United States, though more than half of those are private stations reserved for fleets, according to the US Department of Energy. There are more than 120,000 gasoline stations nationwide.
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