March 5, 2013

“It’s all coming together”: The emergence of natural gas as the transportation fuel of choice in Canada

There’s a growing interest in Canada about the opportunities of using natural gas as a cleaner, cheaper new way of powering transportation.

Last week, the British Columbia government hosted its first-ever international conference on liquefied natural gas (LNG). Westport’s VP of Business Development, Steve Anderson, was a panelist in the closing session which focused on LNG as a transportation fuel.

“It’s all coming together,” Anderson said. “In the past, the choice to go green was usually accompanied by an economic penalty – not anymore. Due to large discoveries of domestic supplies, natural gas is available at an attractive price, and will be for the foreseeable future, which means there is now a competitive price advantage in using it, along with the environmental benefits of reduced greenhouse gas emissions,” he said.

Doug Stout, vice president of energy solutions and external relations with FortisBC, says that internationally, natural gas has been more-widely adopted as a cost-effective, green solution.

“Worldwide, natural gas is already a conventional fuel choice, and innovative companies in Canada will discover its benefits,” Stout said. “Natural gas for transportation represents a transformative opportunity for reduced costs for operators and lowered emissions.”

B.C. isn’t the only province taking notice of natural gas: on March 6, SaskEnergy and the Saskatchewan Trucking Association will host a one-day workshop in Saskatoon to discuss both compressed natural gas (CNG) and LNG as future transportation fuel options.

“From a North American perspective, natural gas is really taking off as a transportation fuel,” says Deidre Donaldson Meyer, SaskEnergy director of business development. “The momentum is really significant and we felt that it was important for the businesses of Saskatchewan to understand what was happening in the North American market and be informed about it. The longer term prospect for the price of gas is stable, and it is really cost competitive compared to diesel.”

Along with a recent increase in public discussion about the future of natural gas in Canada, exciting developments are taking place in station infrastructure. Shell just announced plans to make LNG fuel accessible for its marine and heavy-duty on-road customers in North America by developing two new liquefaction units. These will form the basis of LNG transport corridors in the Great Lakes and Gulf Coast regions.

Shell Canada is also set to open its first truck stop LNG station in Calgary, with two more in Alberta to follow. Alberta-based Bison Transport is a lead customer for the Shell stations and Bison recently took delivery of 15LNG-fueled Peterbilt 386 trucks with Westport Innovations’ 15L engine and fuel system.

Bison Transport truck, powered by the Westport 15L engine and fuel system.

From transit buses to refuse trucks, trains to boats, the possibilities for natural gas in Canada are substantial, and the transportation industry is taking notice.

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