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Thread: Natural Gas to power a boat?

  1. #1
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    Default Natural Gas to power a boat?

    If you have Sirius/XM, their POTUS channel ran recap of a National Press Club session with T. Boone Pickens and Ted Turner all day today. For those of you who don't know him, T. Boone Pickens was an oilman and corporate raider who has recently started pushing for American energy independence by using natural gas.

    Pickens had some interesting statistics about diesel fuel and its uses in this country, and talked about converting over-the-highway trucks and buses to natural gas, because those vehicles cannot be powered by electric and still be viable. That got me thinking about boats. Does anyone know of boats that are powered by natural gas?

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    Default Re: Natural Gas to power a boat?

    Pickens and Turner? that sounds like financial porn to me. The regulations and dangers associated with propane on boats would seem to argue against natural gas. Stray vapors can't just fall out the bottom like on a truck.

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    Default Re: Natural Gas to power a boat?

    Pickens' science evolves to reflect his business interests.

    The difficult part of natural gas propulsion would be getting the gas to a dock.

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    Default Re: Natural Gas to power a boat?

    The problem with natural gas (methane) is that you have to have a large high pressure tank to hold enough to run for long. Personally, I wouldn't want a 3500 psi tank of methane aboard. Also it would be next to impossible to get it filled given current infrastructure. Your bext bet would be to install a bunch of CNG tanks of the sort used for cooking. You can exchange those, but even that normally requires calling ahead. Plus, CNG is EXPENSIVE.

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    Default Re: Natural Gas to power a boat?

    Quote Originally Posted by kbowen View Post
    Pickens and Turner? that sounds like financial porn to me. The regulations and dangers associated with propane on boats would seem to argue against natural gas. Stray vapors can't just fall out the bottom like on a truck.
    Natrual gas is lighter than air, it is preferable on a boat to propane, which will sink to the bilge.

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    Default Re: Natural Gas to power a boat?

    Honda sells (did sell??) a Civic converted to run on natural gas. Natural gas is a good bit cheaper than gasoline to drive the car down the road. The problem is that, indeed, you need to pump up the 3 psi gas delivered to your house to 3500 psi to get enough carbon atoms stored in a practical sized tank. IIRC, you needed a 220v $4500 compressor in your garage to refuel your car and this process took several hours and some electricity. Almost an identical problem to recharging an electric car. Not many places to fill up with natural gas, either.

    There are a few city busses around here running on natural gas.
    Denny Wolfe
    www.wolfEboats.com

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    Default Re: Natural Gas to power a boat?

    Aren't most of the automotive conversion kits set up to use propane, rather than CNG? I know a great many forklifts, generators, and other industrial engines run on propane.

    To convert a gasoline engine such as an Atomic Four to propane might not be terribly difficult. I don't know about diesel engines. But if you already use propane for cooking and lights aboard, then it doesn't seem like a big stretch.

    Did a quick search for some info:

    http://www.moyermarine.com/forums/showthread.php?t=2030

    http://forums.sbo.sailboatowners.com...p/t-13354.html
    Last edited by Chip-skiff; 04-26-2011 at 03:08 PM.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Natural Gas to power a boat?

    I dug around a little bit and found this link on Picken's Plan:

    http://www.pickensplan.com/ngv/

    Please note - I am neither endorsing Picken's Plan nor Pickens, just focusing on his statements about the use of diesel fuel in this country and the need to replace it with something that generated similar power. It made me think about how much diesel gets used to operate boats, especially commercial boats.

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    Default Re: Natural Gas to power a boat?

    Quote Originally Posted by kbowen View Post
    Stray vapors can't just fall out the bottom like on a truck.
    Seems to me that gasoline vapors do the same thing. That's why we have bilge blowers.

    Then to answer the "it's too hard, given the current infrastructure" comment. Do you think gas stations just appeared instantly when the first cars appeared?

    And then, who is talking about refueling CNG vehicles at home? Nobody. Citing the "high cost of charging equipment" for an electric car? Really? Chevy's Volt plugs right into a common 110 outlet to recharge overnight.

    A topic like this should really be in the Bilge. It brings out all the nay sayers. To answer the OP, absolutely. Propane and CNG can power virtually any gas engine. ALL buses in the Washington D.C. area run on CNG. It is very popular to run converted cars in large fleets. Fairfax County VA runs all of their cars on CNG(except police cars). It is also very common to convert generators for propane or CNG. In some cases, the actual pieces the install on the intake are the same between the two. Propane or CNG will never gum up a carburetor.

    Back to the infrastructure, I would paraphrase from "Field Of Dreams". Build it, and they will come.
    The Water is Wide. I Can Cross Over.

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    Default Re: Natural Gas to power a boat?

    Quote Originally Posted by kbowen View Post
    The regulations and dangers associated with propane on boats would seem to argue against natural gas.
    On the contrary, the dangers associated with propane argues for natural gas. (But against petrol)

    I'm sure it would work well for boats that are usually fuelled on the trailer, until we can get dockside CNG stations. Last time I checked it was about the price of petrol, adjusted for energy content.

    There is work being done in Norway powering ferries with CNG:
    http://www.sintef.no/upload/MARINTEK...0Ferry_PME.pdf
    And here's a ferry planned to be fuelled by LNG:
    http://www.ngvjournal.dreamhosters.c...ends/item/4412
    1947 Nordic Folkboat "Nina"

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Natural Gas to power a boat?

    fwiw, according to Wikipedia, the volumetric energy density of CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) when compressed to 3000+ psi is 25% that of Diesel. The tanks would, of course, need to be constructed at least as heavily as scuba tanks, would need to be cylindrical rather than shaped to fit the boat in order to take the pressure, and would need to be protected somewhat from getting hot in a closed boat. I like the fact that methane is a potentially pure hydrocarbon w/o a lot of sulfur and other stuff in it, but the supply chain is definitely a chicken vs egg scenario, and most boats lack the space to increase the size of the fuel talks by a factor of four or more.

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