EnCana Corp. has been in discussions with government officials about a plan to build a network of hundreds of compressed and liquid natural gas (“LNG”) fueling stations for Highway 401 – one of Canada’s busiest highways between Windsor and Quebec City. At the same time, EnCana has also been negotiating with the B.C. and Alberta governments about building filling stations between Edmonton and Vancouver.
North America’s natural gas reserves have gone through a fundamental shift whereby shale gas has dramatically increased reserves and long term potential of natural gas as a cleaner alternative to oil and coal. There is so much natural gas in North America now, the real question becomes what do we do with it all?
It seems odd that Canada is currently the 3rd largest producer of natural gas in the world and yet there are only 11,500 natural gas vehicles in Canada. (There are over 1.5M compressed natural gas cars in Brazil). For heavy transport vehicles, 18-wheelers there are not battery or hybrid solutions that can meet the horsepower for hauling heavy loads. The only option is natural gas to replace diesel and it will do so with 30% less carbon emissions. And the solution for converting heavy transport vehicles to natural gas is right here in Canada… Vancouver-based Westport Innovations is one of the leaders in natural gas powered engines (See: Westport Innovations signs natgas engine deal with Volvo). Oh, and one of the leaders in compressed natural gas filling stations is also in Canada… IMW Industries is based in Chilliwack, BC, with virtually all sales to the international market.
The U.S. understands the importance of natural gas. Like Canada, shale gas discoveries have increased the natural gas reserves in the U.S. by an estimated 40%. In the U.S., all 50 states offer up to a $32,000 (U.S.) credit to truckers who switch from diesel, and the U.S. is set to pass the bi-partisan Nat Gas Act;
- It extends the tax credit for natural gas used as a transportation fuel.
- It provides a tax credit for 80 percent of the additional cost when purchasing a dedicated natural gas vehicle.
- It extends the tax credit for the installation of natural gas refueling pumps.
- It creates incentives for the major manufacturers to sell natural gas vehicles in the United States.
If the U.S. passes the Nat Gas Act and starts to increase the number of natural gas-powered 18 wheelers on the road, Canada will have to ensure those heavy trucks can seamlessly and conveniently refuel in Canada.
Canada needs to do a better job at leveraging natural gas and increase the amount of natural gas used in the overall energy mix. Natural gas is the only resource that can meet current energy requirements while reducing carbon emissions. It is a carbon fuel with carbon emissions but they are about 30% less then diesel, and about 50% less then coal. And keep in mind… it takes energy now to build the manufacture and build the renewable sources of tomorrow (yes, that’s right… it takes fossil fuels to build the wind turbines, solar panels etc). On the transport side there are no hybrid or battery power systems that can haul the heavy load of an 18 wheeler.
This is exactly what EnCana is focusing on. The strategic placement of natural gas fueling stations that will provide the necessary natural gas distribution network for heavy transport vehicles on Canada’s busiest highways. Increased distribution of natural gas on Canadian roadways would help address criticism that natural gas is not convenient enough to encourage or warrant its usage in transportation. However, contrary to popular belief CNG fill stations are relatively easy to find in major cities across Canada. (As a side note, all major manufacturers make and sell natural gas vehicles around the world. None are readily available in Canada).
Having natural gas play a bigger role in Canada’s transportation system is a step in the right direction.
Globe & Mail: EnCana pushes for $1-billion highway revamp
Horn River News – Natural gas is the way forward (Feb. 2009)
Horn River News – Transition Canadian transport network to natural gas (Feb. 2009)