Impacts of Natural Gas vs. Diesel

Friday, May 22, 2015 @ 04:05 PM gHale

There are major trucking companies turning to natural gas to fuel their fleets, which could earn them “green” credit among customers.

Not so fast, my friend, celebrating lower emissions could be premature, according to an analysis in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.

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Researchers found converting heavy-duty trucks to run on natural gas could lead to negative climate impacts if steps end up missed to improve engine efficiency and reduce methane emissions from the fuel’s supply chain.

Burning natural gas emits less carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere than other fossil fuels, but the process of getting natural gas out of the ground and delivering it through pipelines releases methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2.

With that knowledge, Jonathan Camuzeaux and colleagues wanted to investigate the climate impacts of switching to natural gas in different types of heavy-duty trucks.

The researchers examined a range of assumptions for methane leakage and several different kinds of commercial, natural-gas truck engines.

They calculated switching heavy-duty truck fleets from diesel to natural gas could lead to worse climate impacts over the next 50 to 90 years than remaining with diesel due to methane’s high potency as a greenhouse gas in the near term.

But, they added, reducing methane losses from the supply chain and improving natural gas engine efficiency could make switching fuels climate-friendly.

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