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11/5/2012 9:30:00 AM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Manufacturers See Promise in Natural Gas, Tell Fleets to Study CNG, LNG Differences

By Jonathan S. Reiskin, Associate News Editor

This story appears in the Nov. 5 print edition of Transport Topics. Click here to subscribe today.

CINCINNATI — A Volvo Trucks executive described natural gas as a significant “windfall” for the United States, and a manufacturer of natural gas fuel systems said truck buyers must parse a host of fine details before purchasing a vehicle.

“Customers want to save money on fuel, and they like that natural gas prices are de-coupled from crude oil,” said Volvo Senior Vice President Bill Dawson. “Manufacturing is returning to the United States and expanding, in part because of the new energy situation. As a nation, we have to make this work.”

Aside from refuse vehicles, trucks powered by natural gas are a small portion of what Volvo builds — 1% of the total, Dawson said. However, Volvo and other truck makers are interested in compressed and liquefied natural gas as truck fuels.

“We are, to an extent, making decisions without the normal business case approval. Some of this is a hope and a prayer, but no wants to risk seeing this take off without having a card on the table,” Dawson said here Oct. 30 at the Integer Research conference on diesel emissions and diesel exhaust fluid.

Also at the conference, a Westport Innovations executive offered a briefing on the finer points of CNG and LNG engines. Westport, Vancouver, British Columbia, makes natural gas fuel systems to use with truck engines. It works with Cummins Inc., among others.

John Crawford, a Westport director, dissected and analyzed the several variations of natural-gas engines, including two versions of LNG, two of CNG and two types of combustion. Crawford said LNG comes in two forms — cold and warm. The cold version is stored at minus-260 degrees Fahrenheit and really is a liquid, whereas “warm” is only minus-200 degrees, at which point it is a vapor.

The cold fuel needs a fuel pump and works well with high-pressure direct-injection, or combustion through compression. This makes for a dual-fuel engine that also needs some diesel, Crawford said.

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