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LNG Marine Market Eyed in Canada; U.S. CNG, Propane Vie for Fleets

A new study in Canada finds great potential for liquefied natural gas (LNG) use in marine transportation along that nation's West Coast, and compressed natural gas (CNG) in fleet vehicle transportation is getting increased competition from propane.

In Canada, the Canadian Natural Gas Vehicle Alliance (CNGVA) released a report earlier this month addressing barriers for wider use of LNG as a marine fuel on the West Coast. Various sources in recent years have touted the marine transport market for LNG (see Daily GPI, Aug. 27, 2013).

"The project contributed to the development of a thorough understanding of key issues and how to design approaches that will encourage the use of LNG as a marine fuel in Canada," said the report authors, who published seven recommendations, including greater government-industry collaboration.

The report, "LNG: A Marine Fuel for Canada's West Coast," said LNG is particularly advantageous for ships transiting to and from the West Coast, along with the heavy ship traffic along the coastal waters. The report is available on the CNGVA at www.cngva.org.

"LNG holds great promise as a marine fuel in Canada," said Alicia Milner, CNGVA CEO and chair of the West Coast Marine LNG Joint Industry Project Steering Committee. "Its affordability, abundance and significantly lower emissions profile in marine applications mean that LNG is well positioned to enter the marine sector.

"The challenge for natural gas lies in gaining market access," said Milner, adding that Canadian regulations need to be "adapted" to allow for natural gas as a marine fuel. With regulatory changes, it is expected that there will be specific deployments of LNG dual-fuel ferries that Victoria and Vancouver, BC-based operators want to put in service by 2017.

The report authors see the marine sector being a large new market for BC's growing supplies of natural gas.

Meanwhile, in the U.S. fleet vehicle market, the Blossman Gas national 91-member consortium, Alliance AutoGas, claims thousands of vehicles in 280 fleets have saved more than $32 million by switching their vehicles to run on propane.

With suppliers, vehicle conversion firms and technology companies spread over 43 states, Alliance AutoGas has developed a network of more than 150 certified vehicle conversion platforms and have been helping thousands of fleet vehicles switch to propane. The marketing effort takes on CNG fleet conversions head on.

In recent years, various states have provided incentives for both alternative fuels as part of a push to move away from diesel and gasoline (see Daily GPI, Sept. 17, 2012; Oct. 4, 2012).

The propane sector touts fueling equipment being "15 times" less expensive than CNG fueling equipment and incremental vehicle costs for propane only half of what it costs extra for a comparable CNG vehicle. "AutoGas vehicles also achieve superior range to CNG," the Blossman Gas company's website said in a section comparing the two alternative fuels.

"Businesses and government organizations that rely on vehicle fleets continue to face a very real crisis in convergence of high fuel prices, demands for cleaner air, and strong pressure to reduce our dependence on foreign oil," Blossman Gas CEO Stuart Weidie told the transportation sector newsletter, Fleets & Fuels. "There is now a national conversation about propane."

Blossman supplies propane autogas-gasoline vehicle conversion systems and is expanding into a propane-diesel dual fuel system for heavier vehicles.

Separately, in April Florida's Broward County Public Schools purchased 98 Blue Bird dedicated-propane buses. They include the propane autogas fuel system by Roush CleanTech. Blue Bird and the school system called the purchase the "largest single order of autogas fueled buses by a school district."

Pat Snell, the school district director of transportation and fleets, said he was expecting "substantial cost and maintenance savings," some of which would be funneled back to classroom programs in Broward school district.

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