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Title: Ethanol: The Surprisingly Effective Route for Natural Gas Consumption in the Transportation Sector

 [1];  [1]
  1. ORNL
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States). Fuels, Engines and Emissions Research Center (FEERC); Oak Ridge National Lab. (ORNL), Oak Ridge, TN (United States). National Transportation Research Center (NTRC)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)
OSTI Identifier:
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Resource Relation:
Conference: American Chemical Society Meeting, Boston, MA, USA, 20150816, 20150816
Country of Publication:
United States
ethanol; natural gas; LCA

Citation Formats

Szybist, James P, and Curran, Scott. Ethanol: The Surprisingly Effective Route for Natural Gas Consumption in the Transportation Sector. United States: N. p., 2015. Web.
Szybist, James P, & Curran, Scott. Ethanol: The Surprisingly Effective Route for Natural Gas Consumption in the Transportation Sector. United States.
Szybist, James P, and Curran, Scott. 2015. "Ethanol: The Surprisingly Effective Route for Natural Gas Consumption in the Transportation Sector". United States. doi:.
title = {Ethanol: The Surprisingly Effective Route for Natural Gas Consumption in the Transportation Sector},
author = {Szybist, James P and Curran, Scott},
abstractNote = {},
doi = {},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = 2015,
month = 1

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  • Proven reserves and production of natural gas (NG) in the United States have increased dramatically in the last decade, due largely to the commercialization of hydraulic fracturing. This has led to a plentiful supply of NG, resulting in a significantly lower cost on a gallon of gasoline-equivalent (GGE) basis. Additionally, NG is a domestic, non-petroleum source of energy that is less carbon-intensive than coal or petroleum products, and thus can lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Because of these factors, there is a desire to increase the use of NG in the transportation sector in the United States (U.S.). However,more » using NG directly in the transportation sector requires that several non-trivial challenges be overcome. One of these issues is the fueling infrastructure. There are currently only 1,375 NG fueling stations in the U.S. compared to 152,995 fueling stations for gasoline in 2014. Additionally, there are very few light-duty vehicles that can consume this fuel directly as dedicated or bi-fuel options. For example, in model year 2013Honda was the only OEM to offer a dedicated CNG sedan while a number of others offered CNG options as a preparation package for LD trucks and vans. In total, there were a total of 11 vehicle models in 2013 that could be purchased that could use natural gas directly. There are additional potential issues associated with NG vehicles as well. Compared to commercial refueling stations, the at-home refueling time for NG vehicles is substantial – a result of the small compressors used for home refilling. Additionally, the methane emissions from both refueling (leakage) and from tailpipe emissions (slip) from these vehicles can add to their GHG footprint, and while these emissions are not currently regulated it could be a barrier in the future, especially in scenarios with broad scale adoption of CNG vehicles. However, NG consumption already plays a large role in other sectors of the economy, including some that are important to the transportation sector. Examples include steam reforming of natural gas to provide hydrogen for hydrotreating unit operations within the refinery and production of urea for use as a reductant for diesel after treatment in selective catalytic reduction (SCR). This discussion focuses on the consumption of natural gas in the production pathway of conventional ethanol (non-cellulosic) from corn through fermentation. Though it is clear that NG would also play a significant role in the cellulosic production pathways, those cases are not considered in this analysis.« less
  • A recent US Department of Energy study indicates that under current conditions (e.g., taxes) cellulosic ethanol could be one of the key fuels used to achieve the 30% replacement fuel goals of the US Energy Policy Act, as well as significant reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. However, the study also concludes that transition costs and issues could be significant and need to be evaluated. This paper examines (a) the costs and issues associated with ethanol use in various submarkets and how these costs will affect market penetration and (b) the costs and issues resulting from ethanol production frommore » alternative feedstocks and their effect on the likely penetration of various feedstocks. The paper concludes that: technical opportunities exist to make major transitions in ethanol end-use and production; the end use transition has few and relatively small hurdles; the transition in feedstocks and production faces more significant technological and investment hurdles; but continued low gasoline prices are such that policy stimuli will be needed to start the transition to large scale ethanol use and may be required to maintain a growing market.« less
  • Abstract not provided.