Did you know that the Dallas-Fort Worth area has been classified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a nine-county, ozone non-attainment area since 1997, long before the Barnett Shale began development? So what is the source of the ozone problem that is regularly mentioned?
Ozone is formed when oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), both referred to collectively as ozone precursors, combine, and sunlight and heat is present. The TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) says that the ozone problem comes from mobile sources, i.e., cars and trucks emitting VOCs. Furthermore, TCEQ says that if all NOx were eliminated, there are enough biogenic VOCs that there would still be an ozone problem. So what can we do about the NOx problem?
Heavy-duty diesel trucks are one of the most significant contributors to urban air-quality problems, including smog. In America’s Natural Gas Alliance’s article, “Natural Gas: Balancing Economic Benefits and Environmental Stewardship,” the conclusion was made that “Replacing diesel trucks with cleaner-burning, low-emission natural gas trucks offers one of the best potential strategies to improve air quality and meet tightening emissions standards.” Furthermore, they explain that converting “one waste truck from diesel to natural gas is the pollution-reduction equivalent of removing as many as 325 cars from the road.”
An effective proposal, acted on in the 2011 session of the Texas legislature, is to encourage natural gas fueling stations in the most heavily traveled roads in Texas called the “Texas triangle.” America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) recently published an article entitled “Spotlight: Texas Clean Transportation Triangle,” which maps the “mega-region” know as the Texas Triangle:
“Connected by a triangle of interstate freeways: I-45, I-10 and I-35, at least 10 percent of the U.S. transportation sector travels through the Texas Triangle each year.”
ANGA goes on to explain the importance of the legislature and the impact that natural gas vehicles could have on Texas:
"On July 15, 2011, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed into law Senate Bill 20, a first-of-its-kind legislation created to help create a sustainable network of natural gas-refueling stations along what is now called the Texas Clean Transportation Triangle (TCTT). The bill lays a foundation for wider-scale deployment of heavy-duty, mid- and light-duty natural gas vehicles (NGVs) in the Texas market, making the transition to a lower cost, domestically produced, and cleaner fuel a more viable option for Texas businesses, cities and consumers."
The venture involved a high number of stakeholders, which ANGA called “unprecedented,” including “United Parcel Service (UPS) and business groups such as the Houston NGV Alliance and the Metroplex NGV Consortium, which was co-founded by the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council and the TCU Energy Institute.” Joining them in the strategic plan were “fuel suppliers such as Clean Energy Fuels Corp., natural gas producers, and universities.” ANGA states that the emission benefits from the Texas Clean Transportation Triangle will be the equivalent of taking over “175,000 cars and trucks off Texas’ highways in the state's most populated areas.” A major beneficiary would be the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and its ozone non-attainment designation. The future, it seems, could be less cloudy on the topic and in the air.