It is surprising to many people in the United States that globally, propane autogas vehicles exceed the number of battery electric and natural gas vehicles on the road. In addition, the emergence of renewable propane is expected to dramatically increase the number of autogas vehicles operating in the U.S. – currently estimated at 150,000 vehicles – due to its low carbon intensity and cost-effectiveness.
Propane is for much more than your outdoor grill. There are more than 4,000 uses of propane for homes, businesses, and industrial applications, including in the U.S. transportation sector. The Carbon Intensity (CI) of traditional propane is 79.6, less than gasoline, which is currently at 90. Today renewable propane produced in the United States has a CI score of 18-20. In the next five years, innovations such as GTI Energy’s new Cool LPG technology will increase the production of renewable propane globally.
In 2022, rLPG North America formed to bring an increasing amount of renewable propane to the U.S. market in partnership with BioLPG, LLC. Their goal is to utilize GTI Energy’s Cool LPG technology to effectuate the widespread potential of renewably sourced propane. Currently, most renewable propane comes from the production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and renewable diesel. Renewable propane is a co-product of these fuels, which are derived from organic waste such as plant oils, beef tallow, and waste oils.
GTI Energy’s Cool LPG technology was recently recognized at the World LPG Global Science Conference as the technology with the most promise and potential to decarbonize propane and create a legitimate path to zero carbon emissions. Cool LPG technology converts biogas, or bio-syngas, into renewably sourced propane. Cool LPG will expand the number of feedstocks that can be used to produce more renewable propane, as it is agnostic to the feedstock source. This includes landfill waste, livestock and animal waste, food waste, and other sources of biogas. It is estimated that renewable propane derived from the Cool LPG process will have a CI score as low as (-)75 when produced from landfill waste and a score of (-)200 when utilizing dairy and animal waste. This means a blend of renewable propane and traditional propane could be used to provide a zero-carbon solution for small to large commercial fleets and consumers.
Renewable Propane is Clean
Nationally, the average CI score of the electric grid is 165. The battery electric vehicle (BEV) has garnered widespread government support and publicity, but it will be decades before the electric grid can accomplish a CI score equivalent to innovative transportation fuels such as renewable natural gas (RNG) and renewable propane. Companies and consumers who want to make a positive impact today have options. RNG provides a good option for Class 8 trucks and vehicles, while renewable propane autogas is ideal for Class 2 through 7 vehicles.
Over the past 15 years, operating a vehicle on propane autogas has averaged fuel costs 35 percent less than gasoline. Small and large commercial fleets can make a positive impact on emissions while also saving money – a rare feature for companies striving to meet their decarbonization and sustainability goals without extraordinary costs.
Promoting Energy Security
Renewable propane and traditional propane can be 100 percent produced in the U.S. In fact, more than 24 billion gallons of traditional propane are exported out of the United States. These exports could fuel more than 6 million commercial vehicles or 12 million consumer vehicles on an annual basis. Between today and 2035, it is projected that as much as 2 billion gallons of renewable propane can be produced in the U.S., enhancing the availability of a low-carbon transportation fuel that can make an immediate impact.
Why are propane autogas and RNG not more widely used as transportation fuels in the United States as they are in the rest of the world? Good question. The status quo and resistance to change are part of the reason. The other reason often cited is no longer valid – lack of viable technology. Today, there is vehicle technology to operate fleets efficiently and reliably on autogas or RNG. Companies such as Alliance AutoGas have more than 1,800 EPA-certified vehicle platforms available to businesses and consumers. Renewable propane will be compatible with current propane technology, so the question for consumers now is, why wait for renewable when we can be prepared for a clean, efficient technology right now?
Stuart Weidie is president and CEO of Blossman Gas, Inc. He also serves as president of the nationwide alternative fuels and equipment network Alliance AutoGas and is founder of the industry coalition AutoGas for America.