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Natural Gas as an Alternative Fuel for Vehicles

written by: Haresh Khemani•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 1/16/2012

Natural gas is a popular alternative fuel being used for vehicles. At present the greatest number of cars and trucks using alternative fuel are using natural gas, available as CNG and LNG.

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    What is Natural Gas?

    Natural gas is a mixture of various hydrocarbons, with the main component being methane. There are large reserves of natural gas in US, but it can also be obtained as a byproduct from landfill operations. Natural gas is being used extensively as an alternate fuel for vehicles in place of gasoline and diesel.

    Natural gas can be used as compressed gas (CNG) or as liquefied gas (LNG). CNG is used for small and medium sized vehicles as an alternative to gasoline while LNG is used in heavy vehicles using diesel as fuel. At CNG fueling stations natural gas is compressed in the compressors. At LNG stations the liquefaction of natural gas is carried out at temperatures below 260 Fahrenheit.

    Vehicles running on natural gas are called natural gas vehicles (NGV). A large number of NGVs are already running in US, with the largest number in California, followed by, Texas, New York, Oklahoma and Arizona.

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    Advantages of Natural Gas

    There are several advantages of the natural gas, some of them are listed below:

    1) Increased use of natural gas as fuel will reduce the dependency and demand of petroleum products, which will help in keeping the price of oil under control.

    2) Gasoline and diesel cause air pollution and increase geenhouse effect in the form of exhaust. The burning of natural gas is cleaner.

    3) Large reserves of natural gas are available in US making it cheaper in the long run.

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    Disadvantages

    Natural gas itself does not have any disadvantages, but there are some drawbacks related to the infrastructure available for producing or obtaining it. The first is the low number of natural gas fueling stations available in US. The number of gasoline fueling stations is more than 100 times that of natural gas stations.

    The number of vehicles using CNG and LNG is increasing in the US and their use is sure to grow at much faster rate due rising environmental concerns and the rising price of oil. There are a number of companies providing vehicles of different sizes using natural gas as fuel. If you are purchasing a new vehicle, it is worth giving serious thought to NGV for your benefit and for the benefit of the country.