Growth in Natural Gas Vehicles Will Have ‘Minimal Impact’ on Prices
A transition to natural gas-fueled heavy duty and light duty vehicles over the next decade will have a minimal impact on natural gas prices, according to research by the American Clean Skies Foundation.
Driving on Natural Gas: Fuel Price and Demand Scenarios for Natural Gas Vehicles to 2025 used three scenarios to calculate potential natural gas demand and price impacts attributable to natural gas vehicles.
The estimated level of natural gas demand from natural gas vehicles, even under the most optimistic scenario, accounted for only about 2 percent of the overall market by 2025. The incremental rise in fuel prices for this high growth scenario was only approximately 25 cents per MMBtu, or 5 percent, according to the report.
ACSF’s optimistic growth scenario included high adoption rates of both light duty and heavy duty NGVs. In this scenario, the transportation sector’s natural gas demand grew from 57 billion cubic feet in 2013 to 711 Bcf in 2025, which equates to roughly 2.3 percent of total demand that year. The scenario estimated roughly 2.4 million NGVs on the road by 2025, of which 480,000 are heavy duty trucks. The effect on 2025 natural gas prices across the scenarios ranged from an additional 3 cents to 27 cents per MMBtu.
ACSF says that the report highlights an opportunity to move America away from petroleum-dependent transportation. Currently, 93 percent of the country’s transportation fuel is petroleum based, leaving the economy susceptible to oil price shocks. In the report’s highest NGV growth scenario, more than 180 million barrels of petroleum fuels are displaced by natural gas in 2025 and almost 1 billion barrels of oil consumption avoided cumulatively from 2013-2025.
The report also found that retail prices for compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas will remain attractive compared to diesel and gasoline even if natural gas prices increase significantly. Currently, about 20 percent of the retail CNG price is attributable to the raw natural gas cost. Even if natural gas prices double from $4/MMBtu to $8/MMBtu, the commodity component of retail CNG prices will be about 40 percent, and CNG will cost about $2.20 per gallon of gasoline equivalent.
The amount of natural gas used to generate electricity this year is significantly lower than last year at this time, when low natural gas prices led to significant displacement of coal by natural gas for power generation, according to figures released earlier this month by the US Energy Information Administration.
By late March, wholesale natural gas prices at the Henry Hub trading center were back to $4 per million British thermal units, a dollar or so higher than a year ago. In response, electricity generators used 16 percent less natural gas this March compared with March 2012. Coal recovered some market share as as result of the natural gas price rise, the EIA said.
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