(photo credit: Mian Khursheed/Reuters)
Despite the potential security risk posed to buses powered by compressed natural
gas (CNG), this alternative fuel can provide Israel with a more environmentally
and economically friendly alternative to gasoline in public transportation,
experts said on Sunday.
CNG – gas compacted to less than 1 percent of the
space it inhabits during standard atmospheric pressure – offers a fueling
alternative that would be cleaner and cheaper than traditional diesel in
commercial buses and trucks, explained Dr. Bracha Halaf, at the “Electric Buses
and Natural Gas-Based Transportation” seminar in Holon that day.
engine operates quite similarly in many ways to a traditional fuel engine, since
the natural gas, compressed inside a cylinder, interacts with the air to ignite
After performing intense analyses of the different CNG
fueling options, the Energy and Water Ministry determined that the most optimal
cost-saving fueling option is a slow fueling station that feeds from the
country’s distribution grids, according to Halaf, who is the senior manager of
oil replacements in the ministry.
As for the vehicles themselves,
commercial buses and trucks that drive across long distances would financially
benefit most from using CNG, she said.
“The most significant improvement
compared to conventional fuels, is due to minimal land use, the lack of a
production plant and the redundancy of fuel transportation, as well as
improvement in vehicle emissions, but it is mainly for inter-city drives and
heavy vehicles – not for private vehicles,” Halaf added.
already replaced 93% of its public buses with models running on CNG, as part of
the country’s green growth policy that kicked off in 2008, explained Kyung Ryul
An, Korean Ambassador for Green Growth.
While there has been proven
international experience as well as great environmental and cost benefits of
feeding commercial vehicles with CNG, there are also potential weaknesses, Halaf
said. There is the “chicken and egg” problem of deploying infrastructure – what
comes first, the fueling stations or the vehicles.
“It’s not the chicken
or the egg,” said Sim Herring of Florida-based PowerFuel CNG, whose father built
the state’s first CNG station in 2009. “It’s both – the chicken and the egg at
the same time – and the government has a role to support that.”
government, he stressed, must encourage new technology growth and establish
standards for CNG, as well as provide incentives for vehicle purchase. Moreover,
it might be beneficial to push for the purchase of entire fleets, rather than
individual vehicles, he added.
Perhaps most frightening, however, is the
security issue posed by CNG specifically to Israel.
“There is the issue
of safety – and I do not mean accidental damage, but I mean what we look at here
in Israel as intentional damage that can be caused to buses driven on CNG,”
“This is another issue that we in the government are dealing
Herring, however, saw this security threat as a
“You can’t just say it’s taken care of like elsewhere,” he
said. “I think it’s a chance for Israeli innovation to find the opportunities.”