Natural Gas

Natural Gas is a domestically produced alternative fuel and is readily available to end users through the utility infrastructure. It can produce significantly fewer harmful emissions than gasoline or diesel when used in natural gas vehicles. Natural gas is a mixture of hydrocarbons, predominantly methane (CH4). As delivered through the pipeline system, it also contains hydrocarbons such as ethane and propane and other gases such as nitrogen, helium, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and water vapor. See the AFDC Fuel Properties database for more details. Most natural gas is extracted from gas and oil wells. Much smaller amounts are derived from supplemental sources such as synthetic gas, landfill gas and other biogas resources, and coal-derived gas. Natural gas accounts for approximately one quarter of the energy used in the United States. Of this, about one third goes to residential and commercial uses, one third to industrial uses, and one third to electric power production. Only about one tenth of one percent is currently used for transportation fuel. The interest in natural gas as an alternative transportation fuel stems mainly from its clean-burning qualities, its domestic resource base, and its commercial availability. Natural gas has a high octane rating and excellent properties for spark-ignited internal combustion engines. It is non-toxic, non-corrosive, and non-carcinogenic. It presents no threat to soil, surface water, or groundwater. Because of the gaseous nature of this fuel, it must be stored on board a vehicle in either a compressed gaseous (compressed natural gas, CNG) or liquefied (liquefied natural gas, LNG) state. CNG and LNG are considered alternative fuels under the Energy Policy Act of 1992.

Compressed Natural Gas. To provide adequate driving range, CNG must be stored on board a vehicle in tanks at high pressure - up to 3,600 pounds per square inch. A CNG-powered vehicle gets about the same fuel economy as a conventional gasoline vehicle on a gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) basis. A GGE is the amount of alternative fuel that contains the same amount of energy as a gallon of gasoline. A GGE equals about 5.7 lb (2.6 kg) of CNG.

Liquefied Natural Gas. To store more energy on board a vehicle in a smaller volume, natural gas can be liquefied. To produce LNG, natural gas is purified and condensed into liquid by cooling to -260°F (-162°C). At atmospheric pressure, LNG occupies only 1/600 the volume of natural gas in vapor form. A GGE equals about 1.5 gallons of LNG. Because it must be kept at such cold temperatures, LNG is stored in double-wall, vacuum-insulated pressure vessels. LNG fuel systems typically are only used with heavy-duty vehicles.

See Natural Gas Fueling Station Locations to locate the natural gas stations near you.

Natural Gas Vehicle Availability: There is some light- and heavy-duty natural gas vehicles (NGVs) available from original equipment manufacturers. Certified installers can also economically and reliably convert many light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles for natural gas operation.

Light-Duty Vehicles: As of this writing, only one production light-duty natural gas vehicle is available: the Honda Civic GX sedan. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has called the natural gas Civic GX the cleanest internal-combustion vehicle on Earth. Visit the U.S. Department of Energy/U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Fuel Economy Guide to compare the Civic GX with other cars for environmental impact and petroleum savings. Also use the natural gas vehicle cost calculator to understand costs associated with buying and fueling the Civic GX. For more light-duty NGV options, see the NGV America's Guide to Available Natural Gas Vehicles and Engines.

Heavy-Duty Vehicles: See NGV America's Guide to Available Natural Gas Vehicles and Engines for the most recent list of available heavy-duty natural gas engines. These engines can be used for various applications, such as transit buses, school buses, and refuse trucks. Contact the engine manufacturers (see contact information in Available Natural Gas Vehicles and Engines) to find out which vehicles feature their engines. Alternatively, contact heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers to learn about the natural gas vehicles they offer. Also see the AFDC Heavy-Duty Vehicle and Engine Search.

TransEco Corporation opened its Altech-Eco CNG vehicle conversion facility in 2006 and its NC-CNG fueling station on Hendersonville Road in July 2007. Both are located in Arden, NC just south of Asheville. Altech-Eco Energy is a Small Volume Manufacturer and CNG vehicle conversion facility using EPA certified kits. It specializes in conversions of Ford vehicles.

Four public access CNG Stations in our area operated by the City of Asheville, NC-CNG, Henderson County, and PSNC Energy. Click here to find the locations.

Some of the Compressed Natural Gas End Users in our area:
o Altech-Eco Energy
o AT&T
o City of Asheville
o Henderson County
o Mission Health Systems
o Mountain Mobility
o PSNC Energy

Links for additional information:
o Clean Vehicle Education Foundation
o U.S. Department of Energy Alternative Fuels & Advanced Vehicles Data Center
o U.S. Department of Energy Clean Cities Program

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