If Terasen Gas has its way, refuse trucks and buses will soon be running on natural gas.
The company announced in a Dec. 2 news release that it has applied to the British Columbia Utilities Commission to providing fuelling stations through Terasen Gas-owned and operated compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) fuelling stations.
That means that customers with heavy vehicles will be able to fill up on natural gas, which burns the compound CH4 to produce carbon dioxide instead of heavier emissions associated with gasoline and diesel.
"Our application to provide natural gas fuelling services for fleet vehicles is a further demonstration that natural gas is an economically-viable, environmentally-friendly and convenient fuel source for the transportation sector," Doug Stout, vice-president, energy solutions and external relations, said in the news release.
"As a forward-thinking organization committed to helping address B.C.'s climate action goals through innovative energy solutions, we are working towards facilitating the use of low carbon natural gas, in new ways within B.C."
Terasen reasons that natural gas fuel is better for the following reasons. For one thing, vehicles fueled by the chemical have fewer emissions and less noise than vehicles powered by diesel, a fuel commonly used to move trucks and buses.
Compressed natural gas is stored at high pressure as a gas, while liquefied natural gas has greater density so it's stored in liquid form. CNG, the company believes, is suited for local use, in vehicles such as garbage trucks, while LNG is better suited for high mileage uses such as long-haul trucks.
Terasen has calculated, using a model developed by Natural Resources Canada, that a CNG-powered garbage truck driven 45,000 kilometres in a year will produce about 15 fewer tonnes of emissions than if powered by diesel. The company also estimates that natural gas is 40 per cent less expensive than diesel, resulting in operating cost savings.
Terasen spokesman Marcus Wong said in an interview that the company has been involved in supporting natural gas for about 25 years, but that only in the last five to 19 years has the technology for large vehicle fuelling become economically viable.
The application, if successful, will allow Terasen Gas to set up fuelling stations around the province - including in the Sea to Sky region, if there's enough demand for it.
"Once we have the approval, then we'll be able to look at different opportunities throughout B.C.," Wong said. "The most important thing right now is to get approval and go ahead with this project."
Terasen has engaged various parties to gauge demand for natural gas. One of them is Carney's Waste Systems, which provides waste management services to Sea to Sky communities including Squamish, Whistler, Pemberton and Furry Creek.
Paul Kindree, general manager of Carney's Waste Systems, said in an interview that his company would be interested in fuelling its fleet of about 25 trucks using natural gas but they would need more stations to make that happen.
"The roadblock right now is there's no infrastructure to actually fuel the trucks up," he said. "Just having natural gas in Squamish might work for two or three of the trucks in the fleet, but it won't work with all of them."
As Wong tells it, in 2007, the B.C. provincial greenhouse gas inventory report showed the transportation sector producing over 25 million tonnes of gases out of a provincewide total of 67 million. About 44 per cent of transport emissions came from the trucking sector.
"Clearly when you switch to natural gas, which produces fewer GHG emissions than other fuels, it would have a pretty big impact on reducing GHG emissions across B.C.," he said.