Are Natural Gas Cars a Realistic Alternative?


From the moment I became part of the oil and gas industry, natural gas processing specifically, I have wondered about natural gas vehicles.  I came into this knowing there are a few out there but I want to know more.  How expensive are they?  Where can you refuel them?  Is maintenance on them the same as a gasoline fueled car?  Are they a better environmental alternative to some of the electric vehicles that are readily available?  Is a natural gas vehicle safe during a crash?  That is one of the most important questions since my fellow Houstonians are CRAZY drivers, me excluded of course.  With all of the progress in the science of horizontal drilling, shale gas or natural gas has become heavily produced here in the US. 

Let’s start off by learning about the two forms of natural gas that can fuel cars.  Natural Gas Vehicles or NGV’s use compressed natural gas, CNG or liquefied natural gas, LNG, as their source of fuel.  Both are clean-burning, domestically produced, relatively low priced and widely available.  So what is the difference between the two NG fueling options?

Per the CNG Now! Website:


  • Compressed Natural Gas is made by compressing natural gas to less than 1% of it volume at standard atmospheric pressure. 
  • It consists mostly of methane, is odorless, colorless and tasteless. 
  • It emits up to 90% fewer emissions that gasoline
  • It is the ‘narrow flammability’ range so it disperses rapidly. 
  • It is lighter than air so it will not pool if leaked as a liquid or a vapor
  • It is drawn from domestically drilled natural gas wells or in conjunction with crude oil production. 
  • Indoor leaks can form a flammable mixture in the vicinity of an ignition source so indoor monitoring is needed.

According to the Consumer Energy Center:

  • LNG is produced with natural gas is cooled to minus 259 degrees Fahrenheit through a process known as liquefaction. 
  • During the process, the natural gas, which is primarily methane, is cooled below its boiling point so certain hydrocarbons, water, carbon dioxide, oxygen and some sulfur compounds are either reduced or removed.
  • This liquefaction process reduces the volume and makes transportation much more cost effective through sea vessels or cryogenic road tankers.  

Okay, so we now know what 2 types of natural gas can fuel vehicles.  Now onto the part that really matters, how do I get LNG or CNG?  I found a really cool website, Alternative Fuels Data Center that will locate alternative fueling stations all over the United States.  All you have to do is search by zip code. I found out that there are over 23,579 alternative fueling stations nationwide. However, it's not just LNG and CNG, its biodiesel, electric, ethanol, hydrogen and propane.  Once I filtered the site I discovered that there are 73 LNG and 845 CNG fueling stations nationwide.  79 CNG and 14 LNG in Texas, with 19 CNG and 3 LNG here in the Houston area.  

 Alternate fuel stations 2017.png

So Compressed Natural Gas is easier to get to than Liquified Natural Gas in the Houston area.  But, you know you can get it. Next step, vehicles. Can I purchase a vehicle that is already able to use CNG or LNG?  If not, can I get my vehicle outfitted to be able to run on these natural resources? And how much will that cost me?  

That is going to be discussed next week.  

If you have a natural gas stream that needs to be processed, Croft Production Systems can help.  No matter what the volume of your gas stream we have a unit that can dehydrate, cool, condition, sweeten, remove heavies or recover liquids.  
Click the button below and learn about all the natural gas processing units CROFT manufactures.  
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** Orginally published July 24, 2015 by Amy J.