December 29, 2009
Canadian Equivalent Of Pickens Plan For Natural Gas

T. Boone Pickens had bad luck in timing his proposed Pickens Plan to transition from oil to natural gas for vehicle power. The financial crisis, recession and associated temporary decline in oil prices took the momentum out of his plan soon after it was announced. But a Canadian natural gas producer might succeed in implementing a smaller scale version of what Boone proposes.

Over the past few months, EnCana Corp. (ECA-T34.49----%) has been in talks with government officials about a plan to build a network of hundreds of compressed and liquid natural gas fuelling stations between Windsor, Ont. and Quebec City, Canada's busiest highway corridor.

EnCana wants to migrate some trucks over to natural gas. Long haul trucks make a good first target for large scale natural gas roll-out because they use a fairly small subset of all gasoline stations - mostly really big truck stops on interstates that have large areas to handle trucks. A relatively small number of long haul truck stops connected to natural gas pipelines could enable a large shift from diesel to natural gas burning.

Diesel demand varies more over the course of the business cycle than gasoline demand. In the last big surge in oil prices the price of diesel went up much more than the price of gasoline. I watched a gallon of diesel go from 28 cents less than gasoline to 96 cents more by July 2008 in a Shell station near where I live. That's gotta hurt the truck drivers. If the world economy can get strong enough to push up the price of oil up above $100 per barrel again then the economics for natural gas powered trucks will look a lot more favorable.

In the long run Peak Oil is going to force a big shift toward natural gas for cars and trucks. But natural gas also offers a health advantage: Far less particulate pollution. You'll breathe cleaner air on road trips and daily commutes to the extent that trucks shift from diesel to natural gas.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 December 29 11:46 AM  Energy Transportation

RP-in-TX said at December 29, 2009 12:40 PM:

On Pickins, you may want to talk to some Texans. A lot of his "Pickins Plan" was cover to get the state to use bonds sales and eminent domain to create a right of way for a water pipeline. He wanted to drain the Ogallala Aquifer to sell water to Dallas and Austin. He even created a quasi-government water district in the panhandle so he could freely pump water out from under the farmers and towns that sit over it to sell it off. He's got a long history in Texas of being considered a low-class douche.

The natural gas conversion thing wouldn't be that hard to pull off. Back in the 1970's I knew a lot of farmers who converted their pickups to natural gas. It didn't cost too much to do and they ran great. Plus they could fuel up in their own garages. It shouldn't be too hard to do on a large scale. In India they've been converting a lot of cars and autorickshaws to compressed natural gas for the last few years. Five years ago you never saw the "CNG" sticker on vehicles there but now I'd guess at least half of the autorickshaws have them.

Randall Parker said at December 29, 2009 1:13 PM:


Yes, I'm aware that Boone was trying to enrich himself in a few ways at once.

The ease of vehicle conversion: The problem in the US is EPA regulations for certifying a car as clean after conversion. Never mind that natural gas conversion almost always makes car cleaner. The converted designs have not been verified with extensive EPA testing. So they aren't legal.

What's needed is regulatory reform in this area. It ought to be easy for the aftermarket to get conversion designs certified without spending a lot of money per year, make, and model.

RP-in-TX said at December 29, 2009 1:45 PM:

I didn't even think about the EPA. Those farmers I knew back in the 70's probably didn't think about it either, if they even had to deal with it.

no i don't said at December 29, 2009 2:05 PM:

It's time for alternative energy sources. SINCE 20 or 30 years ago!!

We're waaaaaay behind, still living in a sort of medieval stagnant state of mind.

no i don't said at December 29, 2009 2:07 PM:

Still using fossil fuels in this planet??

Mmmmmm, such primitive society.

Bruce said at December 29, 2009 3:09 PM:

"Still using fossil fuels in this planet??" Have you stopped? Have you stopped eating food transported by fossil fuels? Heating? Electricity?

I wish everyone who says we should stop using fossil fules would actually STOP THEMSELVES. Walk the walk. Then there would be more left for the more practical of us.

As for NG in trucks ... its about time! Its clean compared to diesel. And Canada has lots. As does the USA.

carlandgai said at December 30, 2009 10:54 AM:

I wonder why these folks prefer compressing NG or liquefying NG over converting it to DME. My understanding is that the difficulties are
about the same and the product a lot easier to use. I also wonder if these folks are factoring in some projected topping out and decline
in production of NG in Canada or if they are presuming, in the usual promoter's fashion, that the resource is infinitely expandable and
can't be depleted.

Bruce said at December 30, 2009 11:56 AM:

"According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), 100,000 to 300 million trillion cu. ft. (tcf) of methane exists globally in hydrate form--most of it in the ocean floor. "There's more energy potential locked up in methane hydrate formations across the world than in all other fossil energy resources combined," says Brad Tomer, director of the Department of Energy's Strategic Center for Natural Gas and Oil.

Up to 200,000 tcf of methane is in hydrates in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone. Two Rhode Island-size areas in the Blake Ridge, east of the Carolinas, contain a total of more than 2012 tcf--110 times the country's annual natural gas consumption. Substantial new deposits are still being found, including one in California's Santa Monica Basin that was announced in December"

I really wouldn't worry about running out of NG.

Engineer-Poet said at December 31, 2009 8:45 AM:

The problem with methane hydrates is finding a way to capture them before they bubble off by themselves.

Bruce said at December 31, 2009 11:18 AM:

The Japanese have found a way.

"For six straight days, the JOGMEC was able to produce methane gas from methane hydrate deposits 1,100 meters below arctic permafrost in northwest Canada. The agency used its proprietary technology to obtain the gas efficiently by lowering the subsurface pressure when converting methane hydrate into water and gas."

no i don't said at December 31, 2009 4:11 PM:

I believe it has to start with governments who keep blocking new technologies by diverse means. It would be good if the world's most powerful government started as an example. - I do not want to get into all of the Kyoto Protocol talk- because it's just a disgrace, but how has the government really promoted clean energy, really?

I have an electric stove, I have solar panels on my roof that heat my water and hey, I'm ready to buy a hydrogen, solar or electric car as soon as the powerful ones decide that we deserve them at a reasonable price.

So what are you doing?

Bruce said at December 31, 2009 5:22 PM:

"but how has the government really promoted clean energy, really?"

Well, in Europe they promoted diesel over gas so that 50% of the cars are diesel... and diesel produces way more black carbon.

Oh, you meant CO2? CO2 is plant food. Its not dirty.

I personally plan to spend my money on the cheapest energy I can get that does what I need.

NG should be the liquid fuel of choice in the future. There is probably 3500 years worth in the ground and in hydrates. Nuclear would be the best choice for clean electricity if hydro isn't possible (or isn't picketed by greenies).

But if you really, truly believe the world is doomed by CO2, stop using hydrocarbons directly and indirectly. And have a chat with Al Gore and everyone who flies in jets public and private. Tell them to teleconference. Quit flying 100,000 people to Copenhagen to talk about Carbon Trading (which is just a tax on stupid people and method for con artists to rip people off).

Engineer-Poet said at January 2, 2010 9:17 AM:

And how well does the Japanese system work to recover the methane in the permafrost, or in areas where the permafrost has melted and no longer forms an impermeable cap?

Bruce said at January 2, 2010 9:38 PM:

Permafrost? On the bottom of the ocean?

Engineer-Poet said at January 3, 2010 7:06 AM:
Permafrost? On the bottom of the ocean?
For six straight days, the JOGMEC was able to produce methane gas from methane hydrate deposits 1,100 meters below arctic permafrost in northwest Canada.
Bruce said at January 4, 2010 11:21 AM:

The Japanese plan to harvest the hydrates from the ocean EP (they did the testing in Canada) :

"In 2007, the government announced that there were 1.14 trillion cubic meters of methane hydrates in a Pacific Ocean trench, the Nankai Trough, some 50 kilometers from the eastern coast of Honshu, the main Japanese island. This reserve is equivalent to almost 14 years of gas use by Japan at current rates - equivalent of a giant gas oil field. Other reserves are also buried around Japan."

Engineer-Poet said at January 5, 2010 6:34 AM:

Wake me up when they get breakeven from harvest of sea-floor hydrate, without losing so much to the atmosphere that it represents a bigger GHG input than the CO2 from the methane they catch.

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