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GHG Benefits Limited When Using NatGas

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Fueling medium- and heavy-duty vehicles with natural gas does not reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but it can reduce GHG emissions by more than 31% when used to generate electricity for battery electric Class 8 vehicles, according to a paper written by Carnegie Mellon University researchers.

The paper, “Comparison of Life Cycle Greenhouse Gases from Natural Gas Pathways for Medium & Heavy-Duty Vehicles,” is the first in a series of studies sponsored by the Fuels Institute and the NATSO Foundation evaluating the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel. The initial report was recently published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

The research also found that using natural gas in these vehicles could produce other significant environmental benefits, such as reduced air pollutants and lower operating noises.

The low-cost and abundant supply of shale gas in the United States has increased the interest in using natural gas for transportation.

In addition to studying the effects of natural gas on GHG emissions, the researchers are also looking at the effect of natural gas on local air-quality issues by evaluating emissions of criteria air pollutants to determine where it might make most sense to deploy natural gas vehicles. They also are evaluating the feasibility of developing an infrastructure system to support a natural-gas transportation economy.

“Natural gas as a transportation fuel continues to gain significant attention from policymakers, fuel retailers and fleet owners, in particular,” said John Eichberger, executive director of the Fuels Institute. “We co-sponsored the study to provide objective analysis of the comprehensive effect of natural gas on the market and the environment, and to provide some insight into the most effective strategies for infrastructure and vehicle deployment.”

This research paper is just one in a series that will provide a more robust understanding of the potential of a natural-gas transportation market. Researchers also are examining strategies to effectively install natural-gas infrastructure where it makes most sense and have developed a new model to optimize development of a system to supply major transportation corridors.

“The number of truckstops and travel plazas investing in natural gas continues to grow as commercial fleets increase their adoption rate of natural-gas-fueled trucks,” said NATSO Foundation president Lisa Mullings. “This study will help truckstops and travel plazas better understand this emerging market and implement a sound strategic plan for bringing the next big fuel to their customers.” 

Each publication within the series, prepared by Carnegie Mellon University, will be published in a peer reviewed scientific journal and will contribute directly to the overall understanding of the developing natural-gas market.

The Fuels Institute, founded by The National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) in 2013, is a nonprofit research-oriented think tank dedicated to evaluating market issues related to vehicles and the fuels that power them. Led by a board of directors and driven by a board of advisors, the Fuels Institute incorporates the perspective of interested stakeholders affected by this market, including fuel retailers, fuel producers and refiners, alternative and renewable fuel producers, automobile manufacturers, environmental advocates, consumer organizations, academics, government entities and others with expertise in the fuels and automotive industries.

The NATSO Foundation is the research, education and public outreach subsidiary of the National Association of Truckstop Operators, NATSO Inc.


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