Aviat Aircraft has introduced the first airplane able to run on both standard aviation fuel and compressed natural gas. The airplane is the first to fly on CNG, opening the door to use a cheaper and cleaner alternative to gasoline.
Alternative fuels have been a pressing issue in general aviation, with many small airplanes still burning low-lead fuel, something the car industry phased out decades ago. But aside from the environmental benefits, the reduced cost of CNG can also help make flying small aircraft less expensive, and the test airplane that debuted in Oshkosh is the first step in realizing its potential.
“One aspect we're particularly excited about is the opportunity to dramatically reduce the cost of learning to fly,” said Greg Herrick, an aircraft owner who spearheaded the idea to convert an airplane to operate on CNG. “If a flight school installs a simple CNG refueling station they can cut the cost for the student's fuel, perhaps by thousands of dollars.” That's not an insignificant sum when you consider the cost of getting a pilot's license can run near five figures.
Eoin Treacy's view The low price of natural gas compared to
other fuels represents a situation without a current comparison in the commodity
complex. As with any other market when a large disparity exists between the
prices of commodities that can be substituted for each other, consumers think
of ways to use more of the cheaper one.
Utilities have used every opportunity to substitute natural gas for higher priced coal, oil and even uranium. Chemical companies have been migrating to the USA in order to avail of low energy prices. Fiat Industrial and Chrysler have a joint venture to build natural gas power trains for haulage fleets Cummins and Paccar are also active in this sector. (Also see Comment of the Day on May 23rd 2012). Caterpillar is building natural gas turbines for ships. (Also see Comment of the Day on July 18th) Both Caterpillar and General Electric are building natural gas powered locomotives.
The potential for natural gas fuelled planes would have obvious advantages for the airline sector which has laboured under high fuel prices for the last decade.
If GE, Eaton Corp and others succeed in their ambition, a $500 home refuelling station for CNG cars is only a few years away. This would represent a saving of 90% on what is currently available and would increase the size of the potential CNG car market by multiples. (This article dated July 2012 carries some additional detail.)
At Fullermoney we have believed for a number of years that natural gas is the fuel of the future. Eventually this will result in higher natural gas prices but that could be years away considering how overarching supply is.
CNGNow.com is an informative site which may be of interest to subscribers