ARB Research Seminar

This page updated July 3, 2017

Potential to Build Current Natural Gas Infrastructure to accommodate the Future Conversion of Near-Zero Transportation Technology

Photo of Amy Myers Jaffe

Amy Myers Jaffe

Photo of Joan Ogden

Joan Ogden

Amy Myers Jaffe, M.S., Executive Director, Energy and Sustainability, University of California, Davis and Senior Advisor, Office of the Chief Investment Officer, University of California Regents; Joan Ogden, Ph.D., Professor Environmental Science and Director of Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways Program, University of California, Davis.

July 18, 2017
Cal EPA Headquarters, 1001 "I" Street, Sacramento, CA

Research Project


The Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS) provides time for the development of advanced, near-zero technologies. However, having infrastructure already in place to deliver alternative fuels to fleets, once more alternative fuels are already in place, will ease the future transition to zero or near-zero transportation technology (e.g. biofuels, electric and fuel cell technology). This project aimed to complement ARB's on-going work on technology assessment by exploring how the near-term development of natural gas infrastructure, in the heavy-duty transportation sector, can be implemented to include technology that can best facilitate the long-term conversion to near-zero technology.

The researchers found that infrastructure requirements for natural gas and renewable natural gas (RNG) have many synergies. Fossil natural gas network investors can benefit from receiving carbon credits by blending RNG into their fossil based natural gas fuel while RNG investors can save costs by piggy backing on existing fossil natural gas infrastructure. In contrast, the production of hydrogen with truck or hydrogen pipeline delivery would have minimal overlap with the existing natural gas distribution and refueling systems.

The analysis considers three possible natural gas pathways (CNG, conventional LNG, and onsite LNG) and five hydrogen (H₂) fuel pathways (on site, central H₂ delivered by truck, central H₂ delivered by pipeline, central H₂ blended and separated, central H₂ blended but not separated). H₂ stations with onsite steam methane reforming or H₂/natural gas blends delivered by natural gas pipeline, do have some potential overlap with natural gas distribution and refueling systems, but the majority of storage and refueling equipment are not compatible for both H₂ and natural gas due to the fact that H₂ is stored at higher pressures (require different compressor designs) and requires special materials. The timing for the likely build-out for hydrogen stations serving new, H₂-ready trucks and buses will be a decade or more later than the current expansion of the fossil natural gas and RNG networks, limiting the potential for synergies for overlapping infrastructure for commercial fleets. Natural gas fueling infrastructure built today will need to be refurbished or replaced within 15 years, while H₂ networks are likely to only reach wide scale adoption in that timeframe. The analysis shows that certain port and urban locations will favor renewable natural gas resources initially, but may be able to link to H₂ supply chains in the longer term.

Speaker Biography

Amy Myers Jaffe, M.S., is Executive Director for Energy and Sustainability at the University of California, Davis and Senior Advisor on energy and sustainability at the Office of the Chief Investment Officer, University of California Regents. Ms. Jaffe is a leading expert on global energy policy, geopolitical risk, and energy and sustainability. Her research focuses on scenarios for peak oil demand and stranded assets; Low carbon fuels including renewable natural gas, biofuels and hydrogen pathways for freight, and California refining and competition with sustainable fuels. Jaffe is widely published, including as co-author of "Oil, Dollars, Debt and Crises: The Global Curse of Black Gold" with Mahmoud El-Gamal and co-editor of "Natural Gas and Geopolitics From 1970 to 2040." Ms. Jaffe currently serves as a member of California's Petroleum Marketing Advisory Committee, the US National Petroleum Council, and served as chair of the Global Agenda Council on the Future of Oil and Gas with the World Economic Forum (Davos).

Joan M. Ogden, Ph.D., is Professor of Environmental Science and founding Director of the Sustainable Transportation Energy Pathways Program at the University of California, Davis. Prior to joining UC Davis in 2003, Dr. Ogden was a research scientist at Princeton University's Environmental Institute. Dr. Ogden's primary research interest is techno-economic assessment of low carbon energy technologies, especially alternative fuels, hydrogen, fuel cells and renewable energy. Her recent work centers on hydrogen infrastructure strategies, and applications of fuel cell technology in transportation and stationary power. Professor Ogden has served on high level committees advising clean energy policies in California, the US and internationally. She holds a BS in mathematics from the University of Illinois, and a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Maryland.

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