New Paper Finds GHG Benefits Limited When Using Natural Gas

Fuels Institute Press Release | August 12, 2015

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Fueling medium and heavy-duty vehicles with natural gas does not reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, but it can reduce GHG emissions by more than 31% when used to generate electricity for battery electric Class 8 vehicles, according to a paper written by Carnegie Mellon University researchers. The paper also finds that using natural gas in these vehicles could produce other significant environmental benefits, such as reduced air pollutants and lower operating noises.

The low-cost and abundant supply of shale gas in the United States has increased the interest in using natural gas for transportation. The paper, “Comparison of Life Cycle Greenhouse Gases from Natural Gas Pathways for Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles,” is the first in a series of studies sponsored by the Fuels Institute and NATSO Foundation evaluating the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel.

In addition to studying the effects of natural gas on greenhouse gas emissions, the researchers are also looking at the effect of natural gas on local air quality issues by evaluating emissions of criteria air pollutants to determine where it might make most sense to deploy natural gas vehicles. They also are evaluating the feasibility of developing an infrastructure system to support a natural gas transportation economy.

“Natural gas as a transportation fuel continues to gain significant attention from policymakers, fuel retailers and fleet owners, in particular,” said John Eichberger, executive director of the Fuels Institute. “We co-sponsored the study to provide objective analysis of the comprehensive effect of natural gas on the market and the environment, and to provide some insight into the most effective strategies for infrastructure and vehicle deployment.”

This research paper is just one in a series that will provide a more robust understanding of the potential of a natural gas transportation market. Researchers also are examining strategies to effectively install natural gas infrastructure where it makes most sense and have developed a new model to optimize development of a system to supply major transportation corridors.

“The number of truckstops and travel plazas investing in natural gas continues to grow as commercial fleets increase their adoption rate of natural gas fueled trucks,” said NATSO Foundation President Lisa Mullings. “This study will help truckstops and travel plazas better understand this emerging market and implement a sound strategic plan for bringing the next big fuel to their customers.”

Each publication prepared by Carnegie Mellon University within the series is intended to be published in a peer reviewed scientific journal and will contribute directly to the overall understanding of the developing natural gas market.

This report and all papers produced by Carnegie Mellon University in this natural gas series will be publically available through the appropriate journals. The Fuels Institute will provide links to each paper as it is available and will present the series as a collection on the Fuels Institute website at The initial report was recently was published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology and can be accessed free of charge at


The Fuels Institute, founded by NACS in 2013, is a non-profit research-oriented think tank dedicated to evaluating market issues related to vehicles and the fuels that power them. Led by a Board of Directors and driven by a Board of Advisors, the Fuels Institute incorporates the perspective of interested stakeholders affected by this market, including fuel retailers, fuel producers and refiners, alternative and renewable fuel producers, automobile manufacturers, environmental advocates, consumer organizations, academics, government entities and other stakeholders with expertise in the fuels and automotive industries.

The NATSO Foundation is the research, education and public outreach subsidiary of NATSO, Inc., the trade association of America’s travel plaza and truckstop industry. The foundation is organized as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Founded in 1961 as the National Association of Convenience Stores, NACS is the international association for convenience and fuel retailing. The U.S. convenience store industry, with more than 151,000 stores across the country, posted $696 billion in total sales in 2013, of which $491 billion were motor fuels sales. NACS has 2,100 retail and 1,600 supplier member companies, which do business in nearly 50 countries.