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Intermodal transport – where goods arrive at major seaports and are transferred to trucks and trains – presents numerous economic and carbon emissions mitigation opportunities across the value chain. High-horsepower transport like tractor trailers and railroad locomotives currently utilize diesel as their primary liquid fuel, but switching to liquefied natural gas can in many cases reduce fuel costs – at current commodity prices – and reduce both particulate matter and greenhouse gas emissions.

Rail companies are just beginning to switch from diesel to LNG, so there is limited data, but one early mover – Canadian National – is seeing carbon dioxide emissions reduced by 30% and nitrogen oxide emissions reduced by 70% during initial tests. The company retrofitted two locomotives that are currently running on 90% natural gas and 10% diesel.

With regard to on-road applications, heavy-duty trucks that run on LNG emit 13% lower GHG emissions and 40% lower NOx emissions.

Additionally, switching from dirty bunker fuel to LNG in the marine segment of the value chain offers further emissions reduction opportunities, and this is beginning to occur at the margins. Stricter environmental regulations in the US and Europe could help encourage a shift away from heavy fuel oil to LNG, which emits 85% less NOx and sulfur oxides, 90% less particulate matter, and 30% less carbon dioxide, according to a recent study.

Read additional Breaking Energy coverage of the benefits and challenges that come with using natural gas for transport applications here and here.

This brief video sponsored by trade group America’s Natural Gas Alliance discusses LNG generally and some of the benefits associated with using it as a rail and heavy truck transport fuel. The full-length version provides additional detail and can be viewed here.