SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Despite declining diesel prices and the lack of a 15-litre natural gas engine in the North American market, Shell remains bullish on the potential for liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be used as a transportation fuel.
Speaking at Shell’s 2015 Global Media Event at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, vice-president of Shell Americas, Colin Abraham, said LNG is “widely available, abundant and affordable.” He noted there are 230 years’ worth of known gas deposits based on current consumption rates.
“Gas is going to be a part of the energy mix into the future,” Abraham predicted. He sees it growing as a transport fuel for road and ocean transport.
Shell built its first North American LNG fuelling station in Calgary in 2013, before Westport killed its 15-litre LNG engine and Cummins announced it was putting development of its own 15L on hold. Asked by Trucknews.com if that facility is still viable without a 15L LNG engine available in the marketplace, Scott Hartman, downstream LNG application specialist, insisted it is.
“The station is viable,” he said. “We’d have liked to have Westport trucks still being manufactured the last couple years. But there’s a new Cummins Westport engine, the ISX12 G, there’s a Volvo engine offering in Europe that’s similar to the Westport system that’ll be released in the next two years, so there are plenty of other OEMs now realizing the natural gas area is an attractive area to build their products. We will continue to build that (fuelling) network. It’s not ideal, but others are stepping into that space.”
Chinese engine manufacturer Weichai has expressed interest in bringing a 13-litre natural gas engine to market in North America.
Hartman also said he’s heard Westport is considering once again taking orders for its discontinued 15-litre LNG engine. (In response to a Trucknews.com request for confirmation, Westport spokesperson Heather Merry said there are no plans to bring the engine back, unless demand was for large volumes and a truck OEM was on-board. She said the company’s position hasn’t changed, and it prefers to share its technology with OEMs rather than to provide loose engines).
Globally, China leads the charge in adopting natural gas-fuelled vehicles. It is the largest and fastest-growing market for natural gas-powered commercial trucks, representing` more than 300,000 vehicles.
“The number of (natural gas-powered) vehicles has been growing by 20% every year,” said Abraham, noting there are 22 million vehicles in the world fuelled by natural gas.
Shell is a proponent of LNG over compressed natural gas (CNG) because of its purity.
“LNG is a highly purified product,” Hartman explained. “When you reduce natural gas into a liquid, you purify it. We see very high purities of LNG entering the engine. CNG is a product that passes up and down the pipeline and needs additives for safety. Those are sulfur-based products and when that gets into the engine it can cause deposits on injectors and poison catalysts, so LNG has the benefit of being a much cleaner fuel…We believe LNG will meet one fifth of the global gas demand by 2020,” he predicted.
Shell is currently developing a new engine oil for use in natural gas engines. Conventional oils aren’t compatible with natural gas engines. More detergents are required to achieve extended oil drain intervals, so the new oil will provide a higher total base number (TBN) and less sulfated ash, according to Sueng-Min Yeo, project leader, heavy-duty oils.
Both a low- and high-ash product will be offered, depending on the priorities of the customer.
Shell Rotella T3 NG and Rotella T5 NG will be introduced in North America in the third quarter of this year.
James Menzies is editor of Truck News and Truck West magazines. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies