Users of some of the world’s bulkiest, most powerful vehicles got an earful Wednesday about the cost benefits of natural gas over diesel fuel.
“This really has turned the world upside down as far as fuel and economics,” said Erik Neandross, CEO of Gladstein, Neandross & Associates, which organized the High Horsepower Summit at the Royal Sonesta Hotel.
For example, Neandross said a single mining truck could save about $500,000 annually by using natural gas instead of diesel.
With natural gas prices running close to $2 cheaper for the energy-equivalent of one diesel gallon of fuel – and with gas producers pronouncing a steady supply of the resource for decades to come – the hundreds of attendees were eager to hear about the possibilities for everything from oil field machinery to trains to massive trucks used for hauling loads of mined material.
These machines have for decades been tied to diesel and its prices.
“Energy is a really high portion of their operating costs,” said Tom Aubee, a vice president for global energy consulting firm Pace Global, which advises mining companies worldwide.
“They say to me, ‘Where can I buy a natural-gas haul truck?’?” Aubee said. “They’re ready to go.”
Richard Heckmann, CEO of Heckmann Corp., an environmental services company that hauls water in the oil fields, said liquefied natural gas makes his truckers happy, too. He said the drivers like using leading-edge technology, they feel patriotic about using U.S.-sourced natural gas and they appreciate going home and not reeking of diesel.
He said he has even been approached by oil and gas companies wanting to know why “we’re producing natural gas and burning diesel.”
In the oil field, drilling equipment can be fueled almost directly from natural gas produced at the well sites, said Ryan Landry, an operator for Green Field Energy Services, which was showing off a pressure-pumping system used in hydraulic fracturing that can run on either diesel or gas.
Chris Velek, a manager for Green Field’s manufacturing department, said substituting natural gas for diesel can cut fuel costs by about 60 percent.
The system takes in water, sand and chemicals, and fires them toward a well at high pressure. The pump, capable of maximum pressure of 15,000 pounds per square inch, runs on both diesel fuel and natural gas, with gas use resulting in a fuel savings of about 60 percent, said Chris Velek, a manager for Green Field’s manufacturing department.
Conference speakers are set to talk about their usage of natural gas in boats, trains and large on- and off-road equipment through the rest of the week.
To kick off the event, Neandross hosted small demonstrations using liquefied methane gas and several props to explain the science behind using natural gas as fuel and respond to safety concerns.
At one point, he put methane gas into a balloon and cooled it into liquid form to illustrate how the fuel was more compact and dense as a liquid.
To illustrate its safety, Neandross also put a burning cigarette into a canister of liquefied natural gas. Nothing happened.