Natural gas far from overtaking diesel fuel

Houston Chronicle /

All the talk of natural gas as a cheap alternative fuel has some who make or use diesel products rolling their eyes.

Not so fast, say backers of diesel, the fuel of choice for the largest, most powerful and thirstiest engines on the planet. They say talk of natural gas replacing diesel is nonsense being propagated by those trying to sell the now-cheap resource.

“It’s hysteria,” said Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, a nonprofit advocacy group backed by BP and several engine manufacturers and automakers, including General Motors.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that we’re going to be using more natural gas and I think that’s a good thing for national energy policy,” Schaeffer said. “I don’t think that means ... that diesel is on its way out.”

The way some executives have talked lately, however, that’s exactly what it might sound like.

“Large engines are going gas,” Joel Feucht, general manager for gas engines at Caterpillar, said in September.

Feucht said in a recent interview that Caterpillar believes many of the world’s largest engines will continue running on diesel. But the price advantage and capabilities of natural gas-powered engines will offer an undeniable economic benefit for heavy fuel users, he said.

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