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The prospects of natural gas in the transport business


Natural gas and heavy duty vehicles is a commonly established relationship in the road transport sector. Numbers are there to show it (in four years, a 30% growth was recorded in the number of CNG driven trucks) as well as the positive experiences of some of the most important transport companies using these trucks, such as HaviLogistics and LC3 (present at Autopromotec 2017).

Gennaro Speranza


The booming segment of Methane driven trucks

Record breaking numbers indeed for this road transport segment. According to the most recent data released by the Federmetano Observatory, the fleet of CNG driven transport vehicles has grown by as much as 29.2% in the last four years, from 66,088 in 2012 to 85,381 in 2016. A far greater growth, for example, if we compare it to the road transport sector as a whole (in the 2012-2016 period, the national freight truck fleet increased by only 0.74%). Numbers that clearly testify to how the users’ interest in methane (CNG) trucks has grown considerably over the last few years, gaining a larger slice of a market that has so far been dominated by more “traditional” fuels.


Why is natural gas so economically viable?

But why so much renewed interest in methane freight trucks? The reasons are primarily to be found in their cost effectiveness. CNG (Natural Gas in compressed form) used as fuel on a heavy truck guarantees an average saving of 5,000 euro per annum compared to a diesel truck. Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) too allows for significant economic savings on fuel costs thanks to increased mileage (LNG is 600 times denser than CNG, which provides considerable benefits in terms of transportable volume) . At the same time, Natural Gas brings important benefit associated also to reducing pollutants: a quality particularly appreciated by road transport companies, who are now increasingly focusing on this alternative fuel to sustainably renew their fleets.


Fieldwork experience by HaviLogistics and LC3

Here are some interesting data that stem from the experiences of Italian transport companies, such as HaviLogistics (a company active in the logistics and transport industry with headquarters in Modena, Rome, Lodi and Catania) in using Natural Gas powered vehicles. The company acquired its first CNG truck in 2014. To date, out of the 53 vehicles making up the company’s fleet, 10 are powered by CNG. The technical choice fell on Scania’s 340hp – euro 6, CNG, P Series, with its 520 km mileage, a truck that allows a further 16% reduction in CO2 emissions compared to a conventional diesel engine. These already positive data can be further improved if LNG fuel is used, especially as far as mileage is concerned. In Italy, some transport companies are already making extensive use of LNG fueled trucks, such as LC3 Trasporti (a company based in Gubbio, Umbria, and Italy’s first gas powered trucks user). Today, LC3 boasts 70 LNG-powered vehicles, and has set its sight on having, by 2018, 70% of the total fleet running on LNG. Thanks to the use of these vehicles, LC3 has reduced CO2 emissions by more than 1 million kg in 2016. This figure, according to company estimates, will rise to 10.4 million kg over the next two years.


Natural Gas showcased at Autopromotec 2017

The advantages and interesting potential of the use of Natural Gas in its various forms in the transport sector, received extensive coverage  during the 27th edition of Autopromotec. In fact, besides large exhibition spaces which saw the presence of some of the most important operators and specialists in the Natural Gas transport segment, two conferences were also organized, in cooperation with Federmetano, within the AutopromotecEDU agenda. The first conference entitled "Natural Gas and heavy duty transport: savings and fuel supply logistics", analyzed the development of the distribution network, including insights into technological options now available on the market (heavy duty vehicles and Dual Fuel Transformation Systems) as well as the use of this fuel in logistics / transport fleets. Protagonists during the conference, among others, were the case histories of HaviLogistics and LC3. The second convention, entitled "Aftermarket CNG – LPG transformation: regulatory and technological news and CNG cylinders inspection procedures", dealt with the topic of aftermarket Natural Gas and LPG transformations with a special focus on technological innovations such as the installation of Dual-Fuel systems on transport vehicles and gas fuel systems on direct injection engines.

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