April 1, 2014

Bridging Visions for the Future of Gas

Westport at GLOBE 2014 [Recap]

The role of gas in the future of 21st century energy systems around the world was highlighted at the GLOBE 2014 sustainability conference in Vancouver last week. 

Westport’s Vice President of Strategy Karen Hamberg joined leaders from other centers of innovation to present Westport’s vision for natural gas in transportation on a five member panel titled Natural Gas: The Transition Fuel. She was joined by panelists from the Canadian Gas Association (CGA), FortisBC, and Deloitte. Each presenter brought a different perspective and area of focus to the table, but there was much consensus on the unique advantages of gas to support and enable clean energy transitions.

John Walker, the President and CEO of FortisBC, a gas distribution company operating in British Columbia, started the panel remarking on the history of gas in BC and how the company’s investments in LNG facilities are today finding new uses and delivering value well beyond their original anticipated scope.

Gas is a disruptive force in the energy landscape, according to Gregory Aliff of Deloitte’s Energy & Resources division. His high level view of economic and energy trends indicates that gas is transforming conventional business practice and reinforcing the environmental responsibility that customers increasingly demand, allowing new market entrants to prosper.

Timothy Egan, President and CEO of the CGA pointed to the organization's partnership with the not-for-profit foundation Sustainable Development Technology Canada, which is spurring innovation across natural gas applications – through $30 million in funding.

Karen drew together the discussion with concrete examples of the natural gas transition in transportation that we’re witnessing today. She gave an overview of the general challenges facing energy transitions, and the uniquely large hurdle required for transitioning transport energy from the dominance of petroleum fuels.

Karen identified a trend towards a “polyfuel” or “multi-fuel” future in transportation. She drew parallels to previous transitions witnessed in transportation fuels, such as the rise of diesel between 1950 and 1985 in heavy trucks, or the transition from steam power to diesel in locomotives between 1940 and 1965. Pointing to large fleets, like UPS and AT&T, that are adopting natural gas vehicles in a big way today, she looked forward to the vast potential of natural gas to disrupt the status quo of inflexible and unsustainable transport energy systems.

Highlighting the policy support natural gas vehicles are receiving around the world, from the United States to the European Union to China, Karen ended the conversation about the potential of gas with concrete evidence of these trends at play in the world today.

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