In the past, we have written about the increasing popularity and benefits of using compressed natural gas (CNG) in cars and motor vehicles. The low cost of CNG when compared to other types of fuel in addition to the readily-available supply make it a quickly growing energy source. Today we’re going to examine the possibilities of using CNG in another form of transportation: airplanes.
Natural Gas Planes in History
While the recent growth of natural gas can make this seem like a new industry, non-petroleum gas usage in vehicles has a long history. The Tupolev Tu-155, a world’s first plane to run on liquid hydrogen and CNG, had one of its first test flights in April 1988. Tupolev went on to do many tests using natural gas as a fuel for aviation. They decided to explore the use of natural gas in flight due to natural gas’s low weight. Because of its low density, it is 20% lighter than conventional jet fuel but provides the same amount of power. By increasing the amount of energy that can be stored on a plane while saving space allows airline companies to spend less on jet fuel.
Natural Gas Planes Today
Today, natural gas planes are being designed and used by companies such as Aviat Aircraft, Chromarat, and Qatar Airways. Airplanes with Rolls Royce and General Electric engines are also able to be fueled with natural gas. As companies work to develop even more efficient air vehicles, CNG stands out to owners of small aircrafts. Aviat Aircraft recently unveiled the Husky CNG 200HP, the first duel fuel plane. Planes like this have the benefit of reducing the cost of flight for small plane owners.
“I like to say that natural gas is the gift that keeps on giving. It’s both cleaner, cheaper and lighter than diesel or petroleum. No other alternative aviation fuel can make two of these claims, let alone all three.
Natural gas is cheaper because of newfound supply: We now have approximately 150 years of natural gas reserves vs. 50 years for jet fuel. The spot price of natural gas is about 1/3 that of jet fuel and the final “pump” price becomes about ½ that of jet fuel once infrastructure and delivery are accounted for.”
With all the benefits that natural gas brings, the future of aviation and natural gas as a fuel source will be an interesting one to watch.