Appalachian Basin

Natural Gas Abundance Drives GM to Offer CNG Pickup Trucks in 2013

In 2013, General Motors will be releasing two pickup trucks that run on compressed natural gas (CNG).  The move comes in response to fleets all over the nation, and Ohio, converting to natural gas as a fuel source in part thanks to its low cost.  The development of Ohio’s Utica Shale and shale formations across the country are expanding our natural gas reserves exponentially, and it is a large part of why more and more companies and fleets are switching to the clean-burning, abundant fuel source.

Next year, GM will roll out its Chevrolet Silverado Heavy Duty and GMC Sierra 1500HD bi-fuel pickup trucks.  Both vehicles feature a Vortec 6.0-liter V8 engine that runs on gasoline and CNG. The trucks hold 17 gas-gall-equivalent of CNG and 26 gallons of gasoline, providing a 650-mile range.

The Youngstown Business Journal explains how the “bi-fuel” system works:

A truck will automatically run on CNG until the supply is exhausted, “then automatically switch over to gasoline,” says Mike Jones, GM fleet and commercial product manager. Drivers can also manually switch to gasoline while CNG remains in the tank. He admits there’s a slight drop in horsepower when a truck runs on CNG – 360 horsepower with gasoline, 301 with CNG – but Jones says the savings makes these vehicles worth the investment. (CNG Fuels New Pickup Trucks GM Rolls Out, 12/17/12)

Switching to CNG is ideal for fleets.  Many fleets in Ohio have taken notice and made the switch – the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority has set plans to switch their vehicles to natural gas, and, back in AprilSmith Dairy announced they would convert their entire fleet of large diesel power trucks to run on CNG.  The company recently broke ground on a $1.5 million fueling station at their headquarters in Orrville.

Starting next year, TravelCenters of America LLC, a company based in Cleveland, reported in June that they hope to add at least 200 CNG fuel pumps at its truck stops across the nation through a partnership with Shell.

The trend is taking place in other regions of the country as well. In April, Frito-Lay announced it would add 67 trucks that would run on CNG to its fleet.  Other national companies making the switch include Sunny Delight and AT&T.

In the oil and gas industry, Chesapeake Energy is showing their commitment to CNG vehicles.  Of their 5,000 pickup trucks, more than 1,800 run on CNG.

Our natural gas fleet vehicles are currently saving the company between 4 cents and 9 cents per mile in fueling costs. Our fleet is on pace to reach 150 million miles this year and that equates to somewhere between $10 million and $12 million in possible annual savings.—Nate Pumphrey, Chesapeake Energy Fleet Operations Director (CNG Fuels New Pickup Trucks GM Rolls Out, 12/17/12)

Converting to CNG also gives Chesapeake the advantage of a better environmental footprint since natural gas vehicles emit 30% less carbon dioxide than gasoline vehicles.

More and more, the public awareness of the benefits and viability of natural gas vehicles are beginning to catch up to the market demand, and we are beginning to see a growing interest.  This past October, America’s Natural Gas Alliance, in coordination with Governor John Kasich’s office and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, held a Natural Gas Vehicle Summit to help companies and municipalities see these benefits, and offer a glimpse of what’s here in Ohio, and what will be an expanding industry in the years to come.

As shale development continues to expand in Ohio and across the U.S., and our natural gas resources continue to grow, it’s apparent more automakers – and consumers –  will be looking towards CNG vehicles to fit their transportation needs.

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