August 12, 2013

One Year Later - What's Changed Since the Pivotal NPC Study on America's Transportation Future

Last August, the National Petroleum Council (NPC) released Advancing Technology for America’s Transportation Future, the result of a two-year study compiled by more than 300 participants. The study began when then-U.S. Secretary of Energy Stephen Chu sought advice from the NPC on “accelerating U.S. alternative fuel-vehicle prospects through 2050 for passenger and freight transport.”

Westport’s CEO David Demers is a member of the NPC; Karen Hamberg, Vice President of Sustainable Energy futures and Senior Advisor Mike Gallagher all contributed to the report, particularly to Chapter 14: Natural Gas.

The report has five recommendations including advising the government to promote sustained resources to twelve Priority Technology areas, how to better evaluate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and encouraging streamlining of permitting and regulatory processes to promote faster infrastructure growth.

In the year since its release, the report has invigorated public discussion around natural gas vehicles (NGVs).

“The NPC study itself has become the Bible for people interested in the future role of natural gas in the transportation sector,” said Mike Gallagher, who has been invited to present at over 20 different conferences and forums over the past year, from Mexico City to Israel.

“It’s been fascinating to see this broader interest from people who we didn’t consider as stakeholders – people interested in energy security and energy in general,” he said. “Often times after I speak, I’m literally swarmed by dozens of people who want to know more.”

He says a large part of the broader awareness, buy-in and realization of the potential for natural gas vehicles in the heavy duty truck segment is a result of the ISX12 G engine from Cummins Westport.

“Keep in mind, it’s only been five years since we put the first heavy duty natural-gas powered truck on the road,” he said.

The refuse sector is a big supporter of natural gas vehicles, comprising up to 50 per cent of the market share in North America. Other vehicles, such as school buses and cement trucks, are also starting to use natural gas as their primary fuel.

Globally, China has outpaced any other country. A recent report by Sanford C. Bernstein & Co estimates that the number of vehicles fuelled by liquefied natural gas (LNG) in China will rise tenfold to 800,000 by 2020. Not surprisingly, China’s Policy 2012 (the 12th five year plan) outlines specific measures to encourage the development of natural gas and specifically LNG vehicles. It includes air quality considerations, incentive schemes, and priority deployment areas.

A North American “pump to wheels” study on the impacts of methane leakage from the well to end-uses along the fuel chain was initiated by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and is being conducted by the Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions (CAFEE) at West Virginia University.

The study is co-sponsored by fuel producers, providers, manufacturers and fleet operators ­– including Westport – and will measure methane leakage along the natural gas value chain for commercial and heavy duty on-road transportation (see our March post about the study).

“This is a newly emerging industry,” said Karen Hamberg. “The study should focus on and identify those areas where improvements to both technology and operating practices can be made. GHG emission reductions are needed in the transport sector but we must also look at other benefits like enhanced economic competitiveness and energy diversification.”

President Obama’s Blueprint for a Clean and Secure Energy Future, released in March, includes commitments to partner with the private sector to adopt natural gas and other alternative fuels in the trucking fleet.

The sustainability impacts of natural gas as a vehicle fuel are critical, Hamberg says, but the viability of the industry depends on other factors including: original equipment manufacturer vehicle offerings, increased refuelling infrastructure and policies to encourage adoption.

“We are witnessing a shift in each of these areas,” she said.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

I wonder when all cars and trucks will be natural gas powered. My company has fleet trucks and I over heard one of the workers saying that one of the trucks were natural gas powered. He lies a lot so I am not sure if I believe him or not. But do you think that could really be true?
Thanks for sharing.

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