Natural gas as a transportation fuel can offer “significant emission reduction benefits,” with up to 25% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction depending on the vehicle and fueling system being used, according to a new report released by a consortium of more than 20 Canadian natural gas vehicle (NGV) industry and government participants.

The report, titled Natural Gas Use in the Medium and Heavy-Duty Transportation Sector - Roadmap 2.0 -- an update to the organization’s 2010 report titled Natural Gas Use in the Transportation Sector - Roadmap 1.0 -- details developments made with renewable natural gas (RNG) and reports on successful fleets as well as technical developments in codes and regulations.

Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, Honorable Amarjeet Sohi, called Roadmap 2.0 “an important tool for Canadians and industry to have more choices when it comes to transportation.”

The report noted that Canada has been implementing significant use of NGV by transit and trucking firms, as well as providing natural gas as a fuel option for marine carriers. NGVs currently have new refuelling stations across the country, including 41 compressed natural gas (CNG) stations and five liquid natural gas (LNG) stations.

On top of the standard emission reductions attributed to NGVs, the report said innovations in RNG technology add further benefits for transportation emissions.

The Canadian Natural Gas Vehicle Alliance (CNGVA), which is comprised of industry and government stakeholders with interests across the entire NGV supply chain, said natural gas costs remain stable, and high fuel usage fleets can benefit from cost savings through the additional regulatory measures which favor the emissions' reductions associated with NGVs. Additionally, due to the growing supply and development of RNG, as well as geological natural gas, prices are expected to remain stable.

Fortis, the largest investor-owned distribution utility in Canada, began a $400 million expansion in 2015 to increase its natural gas liquefaction capacity at the Tilbury LNG facility to meet future domestic transportation and export demand, including LNG supply to British Columbia ferries. The utility had signed a 10-year contract with the province ferry operator to supply LNG for three new dual-fuel ferries capable of running on LNG or diesel. Today, the utility is again involved with CNGVA in assisting with developments.

"To achieve the goals laid out in the Roadmap, industry and government support is vital,” said FortisBC CEO Roger Dall’Antonia. “By converting vehicles and marine vessels to natural gas, we can cut GHG emissions while helping operators save on fuel costs."

Cummins Westport Inc. President Bart Van Aerle said, “fleets across Canada are increasingly turning to natural gas to green their operations. The Roadmap highlights this abundant, domestic fuel and its renewable options as a key resource for the betterment of Canada's economy and environment."

The updated report lists areas where government and industry support is needed for lessening risks for fleets, including:

  • Up-front vehicle cost premiums;
  • Greater access to re-fueling facilities to improve reach in the transportation sector;
  • Maintenance facility upgrades for both fleets and vendors;
  • Capital investment to enable production, processing, blending and connecting RNG supply to existing pipelines; and
  • Investments in research and development (R&D) efforts, including collaborative partnerships with all levels of government, other countries, and research institutions.

The R&D goals include clean transportation, cost-effective ownership, and vehicle performance that meets operational needs.

R&D operations would take place in six major areas to achieve CNGVA’s goals, including refuelling, fuel storage, engines, exhaust aftertreatment, system-level analysis and data, and codes and guidelines.

The revised Deployment Roadmap provides a point of departure for the industry and prospective fleet adopters to understand the opportunities that NGVs offer, said CNGVA. Similar to the 2010 Roadmap, the 2019 update is expected to be a starting point for industry-government efforts.