Natural gas, natural solution: Devine

It’s good for the environment, economy and food security, according to a former Saskatchewan premier

The move is on to switch heavy vehicles to natural gas, and that will benefit farmers and enhance global food security, says former Saskatchewan premier Grant Devine.

There’s an abundance of cheap natural gas across the country, and new extraction technology is adding to the surplus here and abroad, he said.

“We have no end to natural gas,” Devine said at the recent Farming for Profit conference.

Plunging prices mean compressed natural gas costs half as much as petroleum to power vehicles and produces 30 per cent fewer emissions, he said.

Switching to natural gas on the farm will make food cheaper to produce and doing the same for transportation will lower export costs, he said.

The main roadblock to using compressed natural gas is access to it, Devine said. Natural gas filling stations, which use large compressors to ensure natural gas refuelling times are similar to those for gasoline, are relatively rare, he noted. Moreover, fuel providers are reluctant to build more until there are more vehicles powered on natural gas, while companies and consumers are reluctant to buy natural gas-powered engines until there are more filling stations.

The alternative is “return to base” fuelling, which allows for slower, overnight filling, and many truckers, rural municipalities, and other heavy-equipment operators are considering doing just that, said Devine. That’s an option for farms with natural gas service, which is the case in much of Alberta and Saskatchewan, he noted.

Overall, the trend towards natural gas is building, he said.

Equipment manufacturers, including Cat, Volvo and Cummins, are building engines that burn natural gas, some natural gas filling stations are being built in B.C. and Washingto, and Shell is planning to build stations in Red Deer and Medicine Hat, said Devine. There’s also talk of stations along the Trans-Canada Highway as far east as Winnipeg, he said.

According to Wikipedia, there were 14.8 million natural gas vehicles in the world in 2011, with Iran, Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil, and India all having from one million to three million such vehicles on the road.

Lowering production and transportation costs would significantly boost food security, said Devine.

About the author


Allan Dawson

Allan Dawson is a reporter with the Manitoba Co-operator based near Miami, Man. Covering agriculture since 1980, Dawson has spent most of his career with the Co-operator except for several years with Farmers’ Independent Weekly and before that a Morden-Winkler area radio station.



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