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Tomorrow's fuel? Natural gas gives gasoline, diesel a run for the money

Garbage trucks, school buses, tractor-trailers experiment with liquefied natural gas as a motor-vehicle fuel

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The new Shell Flying J truck stop north of Calgary opened in March offering liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a motor-vehicle fuel. “We’re creating a new market, we recognize that takes time,” says David Williams, a Shell Canada spokesman.

Shell Canada

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Winnipeg-based Bison Transport Inc. is the LNG station’s main customer. Bison’s fleet of 15 tractor trailers, used between Calgary and Edmonton, fill up there. While only a fraction of the firm’s 1,250-unit fleet has switched to LNG, it is part of a growing number of initiatives across North America that could herald a new era for natural gas as a motor-vehicle fuel, especially for trucks and buses.

Shell Canada

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Trevor Fridfinnson, Bison’s senior vice-president, says the project has so far had mixed results. On one hand, the company has realized some savings compared with diesel. But those savings have yet to reach the level Bison expected.

Chris Bolin/The Globe and Mail

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Because natural gas burns more cleanly, companies wanting to project a “green” image have added natural-gas-fuelled vehicles to their fleets. A company called Waste Management has introduced new waste/recycling trucks fuelled by compressed natural gas (CNG) in Ottawa and Vancouver. The trucks run more quietly than traditional diesel engines and produce 25 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions.

Waste Management Inc.

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In British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, a school bus fleet runs on CNG. Here, at a private fast-fill station in Kelowna, B.C., the buses refuel. The City of Hamilton is also considering buying a new fleet of CNG buses.

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A WorldCNG shuttle bus uses compressed natural gas in Kent, Wash. While the number of commercial vehicles that have converted to natural gas remains modest, their numbers dwarf the number of private vehicles that use the fuel. In June six dual-fuel demonstration cars were rolled out. “We believe consumers deserve more choices in the vehicles they drive and the fuel they use to power their vehicles,’’ said Kathryn Clary, executive director of the Drive Natural Gas initiative.


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