There are more than a dozen alternative fuels in production or under development. Most of these fuels are used by different Government and private sectors vehicle fleets, now individual customers are increasing day by day. The main reason to use alternate fuels is to reduce the emission of an automobile. Some of the alternative fuels are Biodiesel, Ethanol, Hydrogen fuel cell, propane, natural gas and etc. Today we are going to talk about compressed natural gas (CNG). 

What is CNG? 

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is one of the most viable alternative fuel that can be used instead of gasoline in your car. It is a natural gas that under pressure remains clear, odourless and non-corrosive. It is also cheaper, greener and more efficient than the traditional petrol and diesel for vehicles. 

This fuel comprises mostly Methane gas, similar to gasoline it produces power when mixed with air and fed into the combustion chamber and ignited with the help of a sparkplug. Although vehicles can use natural gas in both liquid and gaseous form, most vehicles use the gaseous form. The natural is compressed to 3000psi so that enough fuel can be stored in the vehicle’s tank.  

How is CNG obtained? 

Similar to fossil fuels, natural gas is found deep beneath the earth’s surface. Millions of years ago when the remains of plants and animals build up in thick layers on the earth’s surface and ocean floors gets mixed with sand, silt and Calcium Carbonate. Over time these layers under pressure and heat change some of this Carbon and hydrogen-rich material to coal, oil and natural gas. 

Upon finding sites where natural gas comprises wells are drilled to extract these gases. It can be drilled vertically or horizontally into the gas-bearing formations. In these conventional natural gas deposits, the gas generally flows up easily through the drilled wells to the surface. Natural gas withdrawn from crude oil wells is called wet natural gas. Apart from Methane, the wet gas contains other hydrocarbons and non-hydro carbons. It is processed further to remove the unwanted chemicals components to get consumer-grade natural gas. 

Pros and Cons

Pros: 

  • Natural gas is less expensive than gasoline, it costs as low as a third of the cost of gasoline. 
  • Natural gas is more eco-friendly than fossil fuels. It produces fewer harmful hydrocarbons emission when compared. 
  • CNG makes the engine cleaner and more efficient. It minimizes the carbon deposits in the combustion chamber resulting in a cleaner engine. 
  • Most of the cars are CNG hybrid, which means they can run on both CNG and gasoline eliminating ‘Range Anxiety’ and delivers longer mileage. 
  • Any gasoline car can be turned into CNG by implementing conversion kits in your car. These conversion kits will enable you to drive with a mixture of both gasoline and CNG. 

Cons: 

  • Storage of CNG is a problem as it requires extra space in your car to place the storage tank. The tank can be heavy and adds extra weight to your car.
  • The availability of CNG across the country is a problem. CNG gas filling stations are present only in few cities and it could be inconvenient during long journeys.  
  • The installation of CNG kits costs extra and increases the purchasing cost of the car.
  • The performance of the car is reduced with the use of CNG.  In most cases, CNG powered vehicles are usually less powerful compared to their diesel and petrol counterparts. As per some reports, on average the performance of CNG powered cars is dropped by 10% every year. 
  • Apart from the reduced performance, CNG kits also put a heavy toll on the engine injectors. The lubricating capability of petrol helps the injector performance, this fuel lacks this property reducing the life of injectors. 

So, is this a sustainable alternative?

Despite many drawbacks, CNG cars have their devotees. There is a chance that gasoline prices will increase, which makes the low-cost CNG appealing. If you live in a city with sufficient natural gas fuel stations and if you are willing on investing in a home fueling system then a CNG vehicle could be a perfect choice for you.

Also , read : Alternative fuels: A Step Towards A Greener Future