Using natural gas as a vehicle fuel certainly has its benefits. As the cleanest burning of all fossil fuels, it has fewer emissions, which helps reduce pollution. These factors give natural gas a higher octane rating, which can extend the time between vehicle maintenance. Additionally, natural gas costs about one-third compared to gasoline, assuming that filling station infrastructure is in place. The use of domestic natural gas also lowers dependency on foreign oil.
The good news is that the potential for natural gas refueling for the cars and trucks we drive each day looks promising. Big oil and gas companies, however, must prepare for the effects of such change.
The Growing Presence of Natural Gas
Natural gas production from shale gas, in particular, continues to grow. In fact, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates the U.S. is positioned to become a natural gas net exporter in 2017. The revolutionary use of shale gas in the U.S. has helped stabilize natural gas prices, which are historically volatile. Big oil companies are now examining new markets for this abundant resource.
Benefits for Consumers and Businesses
For consumer cars and trucks, using natural gas as a fuel opens up benefits — for business, it creates opportunities by increasing demand for natural gas, new filling stations and locations, and by diversifying investment and new revenue streams for local business and, in turn, large oil and gas producers.
For larger, heavy-duty vehicles including trains, trucks, planes and ships, using natural gas offers increased efficiency and savings. Many national and international transportation companies that rely on moving goods or providing public sector transportation are transitioning to natural gas-powered vehicles. This is just another incentive for oil and gas companies to consider shifting their production targets to boost natural gas investment and availability.
An Investment in the Future
In reality, investment in using natural gas as a vehicle fuel will take time. Whether for light-duty or heavy-duty use, the required infrastructure to tap into this resource and the needed policy changes to accelerate adoption are considerable. Even so, large oil and gas producers around the world are examining the potential for clean, abundant natural gas as the fuel of the future.