Natural gas is a domestically produced gaseous fuel, readily available through the utility infrastructure. This clean-burning alternative fuel can be used in vehicles as either compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Natural Gas Fuel Basics
Natural gas is an odorless, nontoxic, gaseous mixture of hydrocarbonsâ€”predominantly methane (CH4). It accounts for about a quarter of the energy used in the United States. About one-third goes to residential and commercial uses, such as heating and cooking; one-third to industrial uses; and one-third to electric power production. Although natural gas is a clean-burning alternative fuel that has long been used to power natural gas vehicles, only about one-tenth of 1% is used for transportation fuel.
In recent years, 80% to 90% of the natural gas used in the United States was domestically produced. Most natural gas is drawn from wells or extracted in conjunction with crude oil production. Natural gas can also be mined from subsurface porous rock reservoirs through extraction processes, such as hydraulic fracturing (see a list of supplemental sources from EIA). Renewable natural gas is an emerging fuel produced from decaying organic materials, such as waste from plants, landfills, wastewater, and livestock.
Natural Gas Fuel Fueling Stations
Hundreds of compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations are available in the United States. A handful of liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueling stations are available mostly in areas that service the long-haul trucking industry. For consumers, fueling natural gas vehicles at home can be possible with the help of a small fueling appliance.
Natural Gas Vehicles
Natural gas powers about 112,000 vehicles in the United States and roughly 14.8 million vehicles worldwide. Natural gas vehicles (NGVs), which can run on compressed natural gas (CNG), are good choices for high-mileage, centrally-fueled fleets that operate within a limited area. For vehicles needing to travel long distances, liquefied natural gas (LNG) is a good choice. The advantages of natural gas as a transportation fuel include its domestic availability, widespread distribution infrastructure, low cost, and inherently clean-burning qualities.
CNG and LNG are considered alternative fuels under the Energy Policy Act of 1992. The horsepower, acceleration, and cruise speed of NGVs are comparable with those of equivalent conventional vehicles. And, compared with conventional diesel and gasoline vehicles, NGVs can produce some emissions benefits.
There are many heavy-duty natural gas vehiclesâ€”as well as a growing number of light-duty NGVsâ€”available from original equipment manufacturers. Qualified system retrofitters can also economically, safely, and reliably convert many vehicles for natural gas operation.
Natural Gas Laws and Incentives
State and federal governments enact laws and provide incentives to help build and maintain a market for natural gas fuel and vehicles.
Find laws and incentives for natural gas by state.