Compressed natural gas (CNG) (Methane stored at high pressure) can be used in place of gasoline (petrol), Diesel fuel and propane/LPG. CNG combustion produces fewer undesirable gases than the fuels mentioned above. It is safer than other fuels in the event of a spill, because natural gas is lighter than air and disperses quickly when released. CNG may be found above oil deposits, or may be collected from landfills or wastewater treatment plants where it is known as biogas.
CNG is made by compressing natural gas (which is mainly composed of methane, CH4), to less than 1 percent of the volume it occupies at standard atmospheric pressure. It is stored and distributed in hard containers at a pressure of 20–25 MPa (2,900–3,600 psi), usually in cylindrical or spherical shapes.
CNG is used in traditional gasoline/internal combustion engine automobiles that have been modified or in vehicles which were manufactured for CNG use, either alone (‘dedicated’), with a segregated gasoline system to extend range (dual fuel) or in conjunction with another fuel such as diesel (bi-fuel). Natural gas vehicles are increasingly used in Iran, especially Pakistan, the Asia-Pacific region, Indian capital of Delhi, and other large cities like Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Kolkata—as well as cities such as Lucknow, Kanpur, etc. Its use is also increasing in South America, Europe and North America because of rising gasoline prices. In response to high fuel prices and environmental concerns, CNG is starting to be used also in tuk-tuks and pickup trucks, transit and school buses, and trains.
The cost and placement of fuel storage tanks is the major barrier to wider/quicker adoption of CNG as a fuel. It is also why municipal government, public transportation vehicles were the most visible early adopters of it, as they can more quickly amortize the money invested in the new (and usually cheaper) fuel. In spite of these circumstances, the number of vehicles in the world using CNG has grown steadily (30 percent per year). Now, as a result of industry’s steady growing, the cost of such fuel storage tanks have been brought down to a much acceptable level. Especially for the CNG Type 1 and Type 2 tanks, many countries are able to make reliable and cost effective tanks for conversion need.
CNG’s volumetric energy density is estimated to be 42 percent that of liquefied natural gas (because it is not liquefied), and 25 percent that of diesel fuel.