Denver’s Mayor Hancock filling a natural gas refuse truck at Denver’s CNG station opening.

 

Natural gas is an odorless, nontoxic gaseous hydrocarbon mixture, consisting mostly of methane, but also other gases such as propane and butane. The majority of natural gas is produced by the extraction of oil and gas, but it can also be created through more natural processes like the decomposition of organic materials to create bio-gas. Natural gas is a very clean-burning fuel, the cleanest of all hydrocarbons with an octane rating of over 120, which makes it a great fuel for transportation.

Around 90% of the natural gas used in the United States is produced domestically, so the use of natural gas in the transportation sector supports local economies and promotes US energy independence. The most common form of natural gas is compressed natural gas (CNG), which is compressed at around 3600 psi to maintain an energy density similar to gasoline. Natural gas can also be liquefied to increase its density and therefore extend the range of a vehicle by cooling the gas to -265 degrees Fahrenheit, and liquefied natural gas (LNG) is used in heavy-duty applications where a lot of fuel is consumed in a short time frame.

In addition to being domestically produced and cleaner burning than gasoline or diesel, natural gas is also abundant and cheap. A gasoline gallon equivalent of natural gas is cheaper on average than gasoline and is expected to remain consistently lower in the near future as estimated by the Energy Information Administration. Natural gas is cheaper, cleaner, and more domestic than gasoline or diesel.

FAQs

How and where is natural gas produced and distributed?
Natural gas is drawn from wells or extracted in conjunction with crude oil production. Biomethane, a renewable form of natural gas, is produced from decaying organic materials, such as waste from landfills, wastewater, and livestock. Roughly 80%-90% of the natural gas used in the United States was produced domestically and distributed through our vast natural gas distribution system; this system quickly and economically distributes natural gas to and from almost any location in the lower 48 states. If you would like to learn more about the production and distribution of natural gas, please click here.
How is natural gas used?
Natural gas accounts for roughly one-quarter of the energy used in the United States. About one-third goes to residential and commercial uses, such as heating and cooking; another third to industrial uses; and one-third to electric power production. Only about one-tenth of 1% is used for transportation fuel.
Is natural gas safe for use in vehicles?
Yes. Absolutely. Natural gas vehicles (NGVs) meet the same safety standards as gasoline and diesel vehicles and also meet the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) NFPA 52 Vehicular Fuel System Code. Natural gas has a narrow flammability range and, because it is lighter than air, dissipates quickly if released. Additionally, the NGV fuel tanks are extremely puncture resistant.
What natural gas vehicles (NGVs) are available?
A wide variety of new, heavy-duty NGVs are available for purchase and lease. There are 3 types of NGVs:

  1. Dedicated: Vehicles that are designed to run exclusively on natural gas.
  2. Bi-fuel: Vehicles that have two separate fueling systems that enable them to run on either natural gas or gasoline.
  3. Dual-fuel: Vehicles, traditionally limited to heavy-duty applications, that have fuel systems that run on natural gas, and use diesel fuel for ignition assistance.

Light-duty vehicles are typically equipped with dedicated or bi-fuel systems, while heavy-duty vehicles will have dedicated or dual-fuel systems. If you would like to search for your own NGV, please use the Alternative Fuel & Advanced Vehicle Search Engine. To learn more about what options are available, please click here.

If you are not interested in the available NGVs, consumers and fleets have the option of economically and reliably converting their existing light- or heavy-duty gasoline or diesel vehicles for natural gas operation using certified installers. To learn more about conversion options, please click here.

How do NGVs work?
A CNG fuel system transfers high-pressure natural gas from the storage tank to the engine while reducing the pressure of the gas to the operating pressure of the engine’s fuel-management system. The natural gas is injected into the engine intake air the same way gasoline is injected into a gasoline-fueled engine. The engine functions the same way as a gasoline engine: the fuel-air mixture is compressed and ignited by a spark plug and the expanding gases produce rotational forces that propel the vehicle.
How do NGVs perform?
While the driving rang of NGVs is generally less than that of gasoline and diesel vehicles, the power, acceleration, and cruising speed are similar to gasoline or diesel vehicles. Less overall energy content can be stored in the same size tank as the more energy-dense gasoline or diesel fuels, but extra natural gas storage tanks, or the use of LNG, can help increase range for larger vehicles.
Are there financial incentives to purchase NGVs?
Light-duty NGVs cost $5,000 to $7,000 more than comparable gasoline vehicles, and heavy-duty NGVs cost more than their counterparts by $30,000 or more. Fortunately, there are government incentives available to offset the NGV costs. Please check out our incentives page for more information.
Where can I learn more?
There are a great deal of resources out there to help spread information about natural gas:

  • Alternative Fuels Data Center
    • The AFDC has almost too much information about natural gas and other alternative fuels, making them a perfect source for information.
  • NGV America
    • Another great website with a wealth of information about natural gas and NGVs.
  • The Natural Gas Solution
    • A whole organization dedicated to the future of natural gas as an energy source in America and as a transportation fuel.

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