NACFE Report Notes Renewable Fuels

April 1, 2024
Compressed and renewable natural gas offer respective benefits on the road to decarbonization.

The North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) has released a report on natural gas' role in decarbonizing trucking, including reducing the more immediate and local health effects caused by air pollutants like nitrogen oxides and particulate matter.

Although natural gas has been used in combustion engines for decades, currently there is a renewed interest in using it in transportation because it is a lower-carbon fuel than diesel fuel and is cleaner burning. According to the report, renewable natural gas (RNG) in particular is being looked at because of its potential to have a negative carbon intensity when the feedstock is from animal waste.

“CNG and RNG offer a lot of benefits as we decarbonize the transportation industry, however, there are challenges," said Jeff Seger, NACFE’s clean energy consultant, in a statement. "Each fleet must assess all of these to be assured it is the right solution while in the messy middle."

Read also: Renewable diesel holds promise for fleet sustainability

The report provides an overview of the various types of natural gas and details fleets’ experience using natural gas fuel for their medium- and heavy-duty trucks. It also looks at available natural gas engines and truck makers that are offering a natural gas option in their product portfolios.

As with any technology there are both benefits and challenges for fleets when it comes to natural gas as a power source for their trucks and the report explains what those are.

“Natural gas engines need to be looked at as part of the ‘messy middle’ so fleets can decide if they want to invest in it considering other powertrain options,” said Mike Roeth, executive director, in a statement. “It has it pluses and minuses, but it does produce less CO2 per unit of energy on a full-comparison basis compared to No. 2 diesel fuel.”

The report concludes with nine key findings about natural gas engine use in commercial vehicles.

  • There appears to be a wide range in perception and results regarding the business case for natural gas.
  • There are several positive environmental aspects of natural gas engines.
  • There are environmental concerns with natural gas.
  • Sustainability goals, regulations, and the California conundrum are considerations.
  • The new 15-liter Cummins X15N engine seems promising.
  • Aftertreatment is simple and more reliable.
  • Natural gas is abundant in the US.
  • There is a question as to whether there will be an ample supply of RNG.
  • Because of economics and the environment, there are a few points to consider when comparing BEV and CNG.
About the Author

Harlee Hewitt

Harlee is associate editor for Construction Equipment. She has a Bachelor's in English with a focus on technical writing.