Thursday, January 19, 2012

Update of the Natural Gas National Interstate System

Bakken growth refuses to stop -- a Motley Fool blurb that is not worth reading. I assume a paid subscription to Motley Fool provides better content, but the Motley Fool articles I've seen are pretty worthless.

On the other hand, seldom disappoints. One of the themes on this blog regarding natural gas is that if it is to succeed, users and suppliers will evolve together to develop an economically feasible natural gas national interstate system.

I don't follow this national interstate system but my "myth" is that long-haul truckers now have a natural gas interstate system from California to Nevada/Utah and on to Wyoming. provides an update of the national system.
On January 12 Clean Energy (CLNE) announced more details of the planned "Natural Gas Highway". The company has identified 98 locations and plans to have 70 stations open by the end of 2012 in 33 states. Here is a map of the company's planned refueling locations: [map at link.]

The first phase of the plan will be completed by 2013 and will include 150 natural gas refueling stations. Phase 1 is targeting major highway hubs including: the San Diego-Los Angeles-Riverside-Las Vegas cluster and the Texas Triangle (Houston-San Antonio-Dallas/Ft. Worth); CLNE is also targeting high use long-haul routes like Los Angeles-Dallas; Houston-Chicago; Chicago-Atlanta; and a network of stations along major highways in the mid-west region (IL, IN, OH, MO, KY, TN, KS, OK, AL) to serve the heavy trucking traffic in the area.
It looks like my understanding of the system is not too far off.

For simplicity, it looks like I-10, I-20, and I-80 are the most likely interstates to be targeted for coast-to-coast refueling stations.

With diesel hitting new highs, and natural gas hitting new lows, it should be just a matter of time.  It will be interesting to watch this unfold as we pass through the tipping point.


  1. From Seeking Alpha article written one year ago: "Today, with oil at $83 and natural gas at $4, the ratio is over 20."

    This morning oil was $101 and natural gas was $2.43. His "ratio" seems an artibrary benchmark crude to CCF natural gas benchmark. That said,
    $101 divided by $2.43 equals a ratio of 41.6, about double the ratio one year ago.

    It is interesting that even with the current cold snap the natural gas benchmark is still dropping.

    1. As noted, I am absolutely convinced if the long-haul semi's can't push us over the tipping point, we won't be seeing a successful interstate natural gas system. But my hunch is that the long haulers will do this.

      The highly capitalized fleet companies will be the first -- they have the capital and/or access to capital for the conversions. The independents will take longer, but it's amazing how much complaining I hear among truckers on the cost of diesel.

      I don't hear much of that complaining in North Dakota -- because all the truckers are busy, but where the economy is not so good, the cost of diesel is problematic.

  2. 5% drop in natural gas today even with a cold spell! NATURAL GAS $2.344

    I may be missing something but I can't figure out past claims that a they can make diesel engines that run on natural gas. Diesels use compression heat for ignition and pneumatic delivery (gaseous) is far more difficult than liquid delivery like current fuel injectors use. One possible strategy is using natural gas at a concentration just below the "knock" point and then using a "spritz" of diesel for added power. This would greatly reduce the
    amount of diesel fuel used. If natural gas was unavailable the engine could still run on regular liquid diesel fuel.

  3. Thinking of a duel fuel engine conversion a diesel could be started using diesel fuel and once running an air throttle could restrict intake air flow to effectively reduce compression to prevent "knock" with a natural gas and air mixture. The glow plug could be redesigned to incorporate a spark plug. An ignition and distributor system would need to be added. This would be easier than the other option of variable duration intake valves.

    Knock sensors would be needed along with a very good on-board engine computer.

  4. Few people will likely read this but to get it off my chest I can up with a design for a variable compression engine that could burn both natural gas and diesel. Basically, it is a two cycle dynamically aspirated (supercharged) engine that has two opposing pistons per cylinder. This is like the WWII "trident" submarine diesel engine design by Fairbanks-Morse but uses only one
    crankshaft. A lever attached to the arms on the secondary cylinders could regulate piston travel to lower compression.

    Another option is a rotary valve that works like a variable pitch camshaft that injects highly compressed natural gas into the cylinder with the needed timing and duration. This could conceivably allow the natural gas to combust with diesel level compression without "knock". Both of these would require substantial redesign of the current diesel engine. The natural gas with diesel "spritz" would not.

  5. I'm surprised by the number of folks that appear to read the comments. Regardless, it's posted and will be here for later reference for those interested. One thing about the internet, things tend to stay around for a long, long time. Sometimes, just hard to find something.

  6. Before natural gas can be used as a fuel, it must undergo processing to clean the gas and remove impurities including water in order to meet the specifications of marketable natural gas. The by-products of processing include ethane, propane, butanes, pentanes, and higher molecular weight hydrocarbons, hydrogen sulphide (which may be converted into pure sulfur), carbon dioxide, water vapor, and sometimes helium and nitrogen.