The Girl Who Pumped Methane-Diesel

OK.

OK. The headline is a shameless gloss on Stieg Larsson. There is no evidence that Salander can even drive a big rig (although she could undoubtedly figure it out, posthaste).

But Volvo Trucks—based in Sweden, so it isn’t a gratuitous reference—has just initiated a program of running heavy trucks on liquefied methane gas. How do you liquefy methane gas you wonder? Well, it is a matter of cooling it down to -160 °C and then it liquefies. And that leads to a halving of its volume, so the tanks holding the fuel can provide enough of the liquid to travel a long way.

According to Volvo Trucks, when liquid methane and diesel are used in a 75:25 ratio, a truck—either operating in a long haul or intercity model—will achieve 2X the operating range of methane diesel vehicle running on compressed gas and four times the range of trucks running with conventional a conventional internal combustion engine (i.e., gasoline) cycle.

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And there is an environmental aspect, as well: says Lars Mårtensson, Environmental Director at Volvo Trucks, “When trucks can operate on 80% pure biogas and 20% pure biodiesel, carbon emissions will be 80% lower than with conventional diesel technology.”

It should be noted, however, that there isn’t a whole lot of availability of liquid methane in Sweden or anywhere else, for that matter. This week the first filling station for the fuel is opening in Gothenburg.