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Bus running on compressed natural gas
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B.C.’s natural gas-powered vehicle fleet is growing

Buses and trucks, even ferries switch from diesel to natural gas to reduce emissions.

According to energy supplier FortisBC, in 2020 a number of organizations switched some of their vehicle fleet from diesel to natural gas. Among those increasing their non-traditional fuel fleet are BC Transit — which converted 78 buses to run on compressed natural gas (CNG) in 2020 — and UPS Canada. These conversions build on existing use of natural gas as a transportation fuel, bringing to total to about 900 natural gas-powered vehicles in B.C.

B.C.’s commercial transportation sector accounts for around 40 per cent of the province’s annual greenhouse gas emissions. This incremental but ongoing move to power vehicles using CNG or liquefied natural gas (LNG) presents a significant area of opportunity to reduce emissions. FortisBC estimates switching from diesel to LNG or CNG reduces carbon emissions by 25 per cent. In addition, fuel costs can be reduced by up to 45 per cent annually per vehicle.

In 2017, BC Ferries introduced three new vessels to its fleet — the Salish Orca, Salish Eagle and Salish Raven — which are capable of running on LNG as a fuel source. According to BC Ferries, the use of natural gas in these vessels results in the reduction of an estimated 9,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year per ferry, equivalent to taking 1,900 passenger vehicles off the road annually.

And there could be more good news on the horizon if hydrogen-powered vehicles become more widespread. ‘Blue’ hydrogen, created from natural gas, could be used as the fuel source and Alberta is well positioned to meet that growing demand.

A cleaner fuel

According to the Canadian Natural Gas Vehicles Alliance, natural gas vehicles offer a number of air quality advantages over other transportation fuels, including lower sulphur oxides, nitrogen oxides, mercury and particulate emissions. In addition, during refueling there are no evaporative fumes, as the connection between the vehicle and the fuel dispenser is a sealed system. Natural gas vehicles can reduce emissions by up to 25 per cent.