CNG 101: What is CNG?

History of CNG

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) is a fuel source that is made from compressing natural gas to less than 1% of its standard atmospheric volume, or 3,600 PSI. CNG can be used in place of gasoline or diesel in any vehicle with a CNG conversion kit available or CNG engine.

The use of natural gas as a vehicle fuel was first introduced in the late-1800s, with the first Natural Gas Vehicle (NGV) patented in the US. Shortly after World War II, compressed natural gas (CNG) was adopted as a primary fuel source by Italy as well as a number of other European countries. Today the number has increased to over 15 million CNG vehicles across the globe.

Producing CNG

In America, nearly 100% of the natural gas used in CNG applications is domestically produced. Natural gas comes from subterranean wells called shale plays. The shale rock creates a solid layer that traps methane, the principal component to natural gas fuel. Once drillers tap into the shale plays, the natural gas is pumped to the surface where it is cleaned, dried, and compressed to become CNG.

Natural gas dispensed for fuel is measured by a Gasoline Gallon Equivalent (GGE). A GGE is calculated to contain the same energy as a gallon of gasoline, or roughly 114,000 BTU (British Thermal Unit).

How does CNG work in a vehicle?

Because CNG is a compressed or concentrated form of the same gas we use in our homes for heating and cooking, it can be used in a combustion engine. The CNG flows through a fuel line from the compression tanks into a regulator and from there, it gets injected into the engine just like gasoline.

Natural gas will only ignite within a window of saturation. If there’s too much natural gas, there isn’t enough oxygen to ignite. The same holds true if there’s too little natural gas – there’s not enough oxygen to ignite. It’s a delicate balance. This also makes CNG vehicles inherently safer than traditional fuel vehicles.

Today, there are several manufacturers of gasoline-to-CNG conversion kits that are EPA-certified to convert GM, Ford, and Chrysler light-duty vehicles. In addition, Cummins Westport manufactures a 6.7, an 8.9, and a 12-liter natural gas engine for those who are looking to purchase a new vehicle.

Types of CNG Vehicles

Nearly any combustion engine can be converted to run on natural gas, and many manufacturers offer a hybrid version that can switch between CNG and gasoline or diesel without any change in performance.

We can review what kind of route your fleet runs and help you determine the type of vehicle you require. And if you are traveling to remote locations, we can help you find the right fit for your fleet.
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Next: Learn More about Benefits Of CNG