LNG is the fuel of the future for long-haul trucking

Human civilization took a massive leap with the invention a wheel and since then there has been no looking back. Transportation and logistics have played important role in shaping our world throughout the ages. While transport sector is essential for globalized modern society, of late it has been under the scanner in terms of being one of the highest contributors of pollution. They are also among the biggest users of conventional fuel sources. It is time that transports sector, specifically heavy-duty transportation, get an immediate solution for cleaner and greener fuel alternatives.

How Natural Gas stands to disrupt the trucking sector

With a CAGR of about 7% over the last five years, the expansion of compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles in India has been notable. With the actions done by the many stakeholders, the growth, albeit concentrated in a few areas of the nation, is anticipated to be duplicated in many other areas of India. However, CNG has a limit for long-haul vehicles like trucks due to the trade-offs between a reduced range and the reduced payload due to gas cylinders. This is where LNG comes in as a practical substitute since it aids in overcoming this important drawback.

In a wide range of aspects, LNG is advantageous. It is common knowledge that a key factor influencing the choice of truck is the cost per tonne-km. Compared to diesel, which has an energy density of 10,900 kcal/kg, LNG has a calorific value of 12,950 kcal/kg. A LNG truck has better fuel efficiency and its lower maintenance and operational costs coupled with price differential of fuel results in a -best-in-class total cost of ownership. Depending on the duty cycle compared to diesel trucks, it emits up to 28% less carbon dioxide CO2, up to 100% less sulphur oxide SOX, up tp 59% less nitrogen oxide NOX, up to 91% less particulate mass PPM, and up to 30% less noise. Thus, making it quieter and cleaner.

The Indian question

To aid quick adoption of the fuel, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG) should come up with LNG strategy, which should include competitive fuel rates and incentives for the nation’s truck fleets to switch to LNG in the form of preferential toll rate & lower new vehicle registration cost. For long-distance, heavy-duty trucks and other vehicles, it is imperative to build infrastructure of LNG outlets across the country. A LNG terminal facilities are already in place to take care of import needs. The regulatory requirement with respect to safety and technical requirements is also in place. Also, tax concessions and green certifications should be planned as incentives for the automotive sector to produce LNG-based large vehicles and establish ancillary manufacturing facilities.

LNG is one of the viable alternative for trucks

The global picture for LNG heavy vehicles, especially trucks, is extremely bright in future.

While there are a number of feasible alternatives for short distance mobility in urban centres, the options are limited when it comes to heavy-duty long-haul transportation. EV currently has the dual problem of both range and cost not to mention the infrastructure especially for heavy duty trucking. Hydrogen could be an alternative, but it is at least 5-7 years away from being commercially viable. LNG is the only viable and mature immediate alternative for long distance transportation and can help transition to green trucking.

Global examples show that creating LNG corridors can hasten adoption by dispelling misconceptions and highlighting the benefits of using LNG as a fuel. Logistics Service Providers (LSPs) with assured loads at both ends of the transit leg along the corridor could start as the first adopters of LNG. This would make sure the truck is not left sitting idle for an extended period of time. This offers the benefit of shortening the payback period because to the increased vehicle utilisation.

The time is now

The time is right for long-haul heavy trucks to switch to LNG given the clear benefits of LNG in terms of cost economics and emissions. This, coupled with India’s vision towards becoming a gas economy, calls for fast tracking LNG infrastructure, stable LNG prices and incentives & subsidies for quick adoption of technology. Dedicated pilot programmes along corridors with LSPs, OEMs, and fuel suppliers will go a long way toward demonstrating the fuel’s advantages and will undoubtedly work as a stimulus for growing its adoption.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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