The energy expert and MacArthur “genius” Fellow Amory B. Lovins says that if we switched all heavy trucks from diesel to natural gas, it would be “the most important non-automotive way to get the nation off oil by 2050.” Lovins believes that the switch would result in saving close to a fifth of all U.S. oil used today.
Declaration of Independence: A new CNG fueling system from GE will make natural gas available to anyone keen to drop oil.
Engineers at GE Oil & Gas have been racing down the Lovins road for some time. GE makes the technology that fills trucks with compressed natural gas (CNG). This week the company and Chesapeake Energy Corp. rolled out a new system called CNG in Box, a versatile fueling sytem that allows anyone with the right engine to fill up.
The system, which is part of GE’s ecomagination portfolio, fits inside a 20-foot freight container and is easy to move and install. It draws in natural gas by tapping ubiquitous natural gas pipelines, compresses it, and dispenses it at a rate of seven gallons per minute. Customers like bus depots, taxi fleets and any light truck operators can install it on their property. Gas station owners can place the system on their lots and sell natural gas to all cars with a CNG engine. Two CNG in a Box units are already being installed at a pair of Peake Fuel Solutions in Texas.
Right now, CNG is the only environmental option for large truck operators, as electric motors, hydrogen cells, and even liquefied natural gas remain too expensive. GE estimates that a truck fleet can save up to 40 percent at the pump by switching from diesel to CNG, and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent.
The market is growing. There are 15 million vehicles powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) around the world, most of them trucks. As much as a fifth of all new buses and garbage trucks are using the fuel.
But GE is also thinking about regular motorists. In July, scientists at GE Global Research partnered with the government’s Advanced Research Project Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) to develop a home refueling station that can fill up an empty tank in less than 60 minutes and costs less than $500.
This is the road to energy independence.