Compressed natural gas or CNG is now becoming the alternative fuel of choice for many Americans. A report by the Natural Gas Vehicles for America reveals natural gas vehicles or NGVs in the country now number more than 120,000. Overseas, there are now more than 8.7 million natural gas vehicles. These figures will continue to rise as more and more people discover the advantages of compressed natural gas compared to gasoline or diesel.

What made 9 million (and counting) vehicle owners from around the world make the big switch from petroleum-based fuels to compressed natural gas? What are the benefits that can be gained from CNG conversion? To answer these questions, it is important to look into the benefits of compressed natural gas as an alternative fuel.

First, CNG is environment-friendly. A vehicle that runs on CNG produces less hydrocarbon exhaust emissions compared to gasoline-fuelled engines. NGVs also emit 70% less carbon monoxide, 87% less non-methane organic gas, 87% less nitrogen oxide and 20% less carbon dioxide. Also, even though CNG is classified as a fossil fuel and emits methane, which is a principal greenhouse gas, the very minimal methane emission is offset by the substantial decrease in the amount of carbon dioxide release through the exhaust.

Second, CNG is efficient. Because natural gas is 90% methane, its octane rating is significantly higher than gasoline’s. This characteristic allows higher compression ratios that keep CNG engines more efficient. CNG is also a clean-burning fuel with little or no residue. Thus, it causes less wear and tear on the engine, specially the pipes and tubes. CNG’s efficiency causes longer engine life as well as more savings due to less frequent maintenance procedures such as tune-ups and oil changes.

Third, CNG is safer. CNG is lighter than air. In the case of leaks, CNG will dissipate into the air instead of forming pools in the ground that are dangerous fire hazards. CNG is also safer due to its narrower range of flammability. This means that CNG will not burn in air concentrations that are below 5% and above 15%. Natural gas is also non-toxic and non-corrosive. It does not pose a threat to soil or groundwater even in the case of leaks since it dissipates into the atmosphere. Also, CNG is stored in specially designed spherical or cylindrical tanks that are much stronger than gasoline or diesel fuel tanks. Not even a round of shots from a rifle can damage a CNG cylinder or tank.

Fourth, CNG is less expensive. With petroleum prices rising to unprecedented heights, this advantage is more important than ever. Natural gas is less expensive than gasoline or diesel. In fact, on average, CNG costs about a third of the price of gasoline. Natural gas prices are also less volatile than gasoline. CNG is also readily available in the United States. As a matter of fact, over 85% of the natural gas consumed in the US is produced domestically. Using CNG more can help reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil.