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Natural gas (and renewable natural gas) vehicle and fuelling technologies are available now. But Westport is also looking towards a future powered by a range of alternative fuels.
Natural gas vehicles can be modified to operate on blends of compressed natural gas (CNG) and hydrogen, or pure hydrogen. Westport's gas engine expertise also includes the use of hydrogen for internal combustion engines. Our past technology research programs have included working with hydrogen/CNG blends and also with direct injection of pure hydrogen.
Over time, as the world's hydrogen infrastructure develops, hydrogen internal combustion engines may become part of the transportation picture.
The existing network of natural gas refuelling infrastructure can also be adapted to dispense hydrogen or hydrogen/natural gas blends. Natural gas and hydrogen employ similar:
Renewable natural gas (RNG) is being produced and used for transportation today mostly through the process of anaerobic digestion. RNG can also be produced via thermal gasification, an industrial process that was originally developed to convert coal into gaseous products.
Thermal gasification will enable the use of promising advanced energy crops such as poplar or willow trees and switchgrass. While thermal gasification of coal is a mature technology, thermal gasification of biomass into RNG is at the pre-commercial stage.
Methane hydrates are considered to be a very long term source of energy. They are naturally occurring in solid crystalline form and are found in subsurface formations that have favourable temperature and pressure conditions.
Vast amounts of methane hydrates have been found under the Arctic permafrost and beneath the continental shelves of the world’s oceans (estimates cited in the IEA’s 2013 Resources to Reserves range from 2,500 trillion cubic metres (tcm) to 20,000 tcm).
Extraction is a challenge, as is capturing the methane for use once the deposits are accessed Technologies are being developed to access methane hydrates but no commercial-scale extraction has occurred yet. Energy analysts believe that methane hydrates could become a primary energy source in the next 50 years.