CNG Availability and Price Proposition

Gary S. Vasilash

Although there is a tremendous amount of interest in the electrification of the vehicle—there must be something there, not only because of the tremendous investments being made in the technology (for example, there’s this article in the current issue of the magazine about GM and electrification), but also because of the sturm und drang associated with it (as in the recent Tesla-versus-the-New York Times situation).

But some people think that there is a more immediate means by which there can be reduced use of petroleum without wholesale changes to vehicle architectures: compressed natural gas (CNG).

As this map from the U.S. Energy Information Agency quite clearly shows, in the U.S. there are a whole lot of places where natural gas is being sourced:


One of the reasons why betting on electrified vehicles is a reasonable thing to do is based on the number of organizations that are working on developments germane to it, from utilities to corporations like GE.

And a recent development that caught our attention regarding CNG is the first CNG tank made by 3M. It is a 21.5 x 60-in. tank that uses “proprietary 3M Matrix Resin featuring nanosilica technology.” Which means that it is light and strong. It is designed for use in light- and medium-duty pickups, as well as fleet vehicles.

Jean Parsons
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“We are enthusiastic about the future of natural gas vehicles and are proud to introduce this tank to help companies take advantage of the benefits of natural gas as a transportation fuel,” said Mike Roman, vp of 3M’s Industrial Adhesive and Tapes Div. (Adhesives and Tapes Div.? It’s where the company’s advanced composites capabilities are housed.)

3M and Chesapeake Energy Corp., a leading producer of natural gas, and 3M announced last year that they would collaborate in designing, manufacturing and marketing CNG tanks. This one is the first, and Chesapeake is converting a number of its vehicles to use it.

“The fuel tank has been the most expensive single component on a CNG vehicle, causing a bottleneck for the market,” said Nathan Pumphrey, Chesapeake Director—Flee Operations. “3M’s tank portfolio will lower the total cost of natural gas vehicle ownership and speed market adoption.” Pumphrey also noted that “CNG [is] available for as little as $0.99 per gasoline gallon equivalent in some markets.”

According to the EIA, the average price of a gallon of regular in the U.S. as of February 11 was $3.61.

CNG looks pretty good, eh?