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Compressed Natural Gas vs. Liquefied Natural Gas: What’s the Difference?

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The last decade has seen natural gas emerge as the leading domestically produced fuel in the United States. In 2013, the U.S. used 26,035 billion cubic feet of natural gas, 2,883 billion cubic feet of which was imported.1 As a result, new applications for natural gas are emerging in the industrial, retail and transportation sector.

Natural gas began millions of years ago as organic matter. Over the millennia, decomposition and high pressure converted this organic matter into methane, pockets of which remain trapped under the earth until extracted through a variety of processes.

Once the gas has been retrieved and refined, it is usually converted into one of two forms: compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG). Although these different versions come from essentially the same place, the distinctions are significant.

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CNG is methane that, through a multi-stage process, has been compressed to less than one percent of the volume it occupies at standard atmospheric pressure. LNG, while still composed of methane, undergoes a much more complex cryogenic process in which it is cooled to a temperature of around -162 degrees Celsius, bringing it to a liquid state at which it occupies 1/600th of its gaseous state volume at standard atmospheric pressure.

The differing states of these two natural gas products make each more appropriate for certain applications. Because it is easier to produce, CNG can be created at individual fueling stations to be easily dispensed to fleet vehicles that can use either modified gasoline or diesel engines or CNG-specific engines. The growth in popularity of CNG as a vehicle fuel has also resulted in a decrease in the cost of the tanks required to store it.

While LNG is an excellent way to transport large volumes of natural gas over great distances where pipelines don’t exist (over land via tanker trucks and by sea using specially modified ships, for example), it must be housed in special cryogenic storage facilities and tanks, resulting in higher production costs and making it less desirable for fleet fueling.

When considering a natural gas product for your business, it’s always best to take into account which type will work best with your fleet, your company’s existing infrastructure and your cost tolerance. For more information on the differences between CNG and LNG, contact one of the seasoned energy professionals from Direct Energy Business. 

1 U.S. Energy Information Administration, “Natural Gas Explained: Data and Statistics,”

Posted: June 17, 2015