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Natural gas is one of the cleanest, safest, and most useful forms of energy. It represents about 25 percent of all primary energy used in the United States. The natural gas used for NGVs is the same natural gas that is piped to millions of homes for cooking and heating. Information on the superior safety characteristics of natural gas can be found here. Natural gas is a very simple fuel. Around 90% of natural gas is methane.
The only simpler fuel available is hydrogen, which is technically an energy 'carrier' rather than an energy source itself. As yet there is no economic method of creating and distributing large quantities of hydrogen, so, until this occurs, natural gas will remain the clean fuel of choice for some time. Ultimately, an investment in natural gas infrastructure is an investment in hydrogen infrastructure.
Natural gas, although a fossil fuel, is different from gasoline, diesel and coal because it does not contain the same harmful compounds found in other fossil fuels. Natural gas has negligible sulfur dioxide content, does not contain lead, has a low nitrogen dioxide content, a low particulate content, and a low carbon monoxide content. As well, natural gas does not require carcinogenic (cancer-causing) additives to boost octane levels because natural gas is naturally high in octane.
Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)
Natural Gas is compressed so more of it will fit in a smaller space. Typically, the pressure of Natural Gas in a pipeline ranges from five psi (pounds per square inch) for most homes to a couple hundred psi for commercial uses. This works for consumers that have ready access to the pipeline but vehicles need to operate independently. With gasoline, this is made possible by carrying a tank with gallons of liquid fuel in it. Similarly, Natural Gas is stored in a cylinder tank. Much like a compressor is used to fill an air tank, and in turn that tank is used to fill other items of lower pressure, a compressor forces Natural Gas into a special cylinder on the NGV where it can be stored and slowly released to run the engine. (Both the cylinder construction and pressure are closely regulated by the U.S. government to maintain uniformity and safety.)
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