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Helping Communities Thrive: WSP advances cleaner, lower emission vehicle research


WSP has been retained recently as the primary consultant to conduct a feasibility study on behalf of the City of Abbotsford, British Columbia, and Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (ONTC) on the viability of transitioning their fleet from diesel and gasoline powered vehicles to alternative low or zero emission vehicles. In the ONTC study, WSP will explore the conversion to compressed natural gas for powering motor coaches. The objective of the study is to help our communities thrive by advancing the evolution to a cleaner, less costly and more environmentally friendly motor coach fleet.

The effects of these studies are expected to be substantial. While in Abbotsford, the feasibility study is designed to help the entire municipal fleet (fire trucks, public works vehicles, police cars, etc.) to reduce emissions by 20 per cent by 2025 against 2007 emissions levels, in Ontario, the study will examine the viability of CNG to contribute to the province’s target of reducing greenhouse gases (GHGs) by 37 per cent by 2030, compared to the 1990 levels.

“Ontario Northland is excited to work with WSP and other program partners to examine the viability of introducing alternative fuels to Motor Coach operations,” said Tracy MacPhee, Director of Passenger Services, ONTC.

From left to right: Corina Moore (President and CEO, ONTC), David de Launay (Deputy Minister of Norther Development and Mines), Ry Smith (Change Energy), Jeff Seider (WSP), Chris Minor (Union Gas), and Gordon Lau (Union Gas)

Behind this innovative initiative is Naeem Farooqi, a Toronto-based Senior Transportation Strategy Consultant. Naeem is not only the designer of the pilot concept, but the project manager who will be seeing this initiative through from A to Z.

From left to right: Gordon Lau (Union Gas), Ry Smith (Change Energy), and Naeem Farooqi (WSP)

Primary objectives of the feasibility study entail the following:

  • Is CNG feasible for Ontario Northland routes/runs today?
  • What will the infrastructure cost for fuelling be to Ontario Northland?
  • What will be the environmental, social and economic benefits of adopting CNG?
  • A gap analysis of the facilities for maintenance purposes converting to CNG
  • Lifecycle cost comparison and payback for adoption of CNG


What is CNG?

CNG is made by compressing natural gas to less than one per cent of the volume it occupies at standard atmospheric pressure. It is stored and distributed in hard containers at a pressure of 200-248 bar (2900–3600 psi), usually in cylinders or spheres. CNG is used to produce ammonia for fertilizers, and hydrogen, as well as in the production of some plastics and paints. Apart from being a propellant fuel, it can be piped into homes to provide heating and cooking, and also used as boiler fuel in many industrial applications.

ONTC: How CNG compares to other fuel sources

There is up to 20 per cent reduction in carbon emissions when utilizing CNG versus diesel, which translates to a reduction of 680 tonnes a year based on a fleet size of 25 Motor Coaches (current motor coach fleet size of ONTC). Besides carbon emissions reductions, other benefits of CNG as a fuel source include reduced noise level associated with the Coaches, maintenance costs decreasing by 10-15 per cent compared to a diesel coach, and reduction in fuel cost by 30-40 cent per litre compared to diesel. Natural gas has been historically about 30 per cent less expensive than oil and this trend is now relatively solid. Now is one of the best times to look into natural gas as an opportunity for cost savings on fuel.

CNG is relatively one of the safest fuels available, but is combustible and must be handled cautiously. CNG has a high ignition temperature and limited flammability range which makes accidental combustion of CNG highly unlikely. CNG is also lighter than air, so in the event of an emergency or accident CNG tanks have a quick release, the gas will disperse rapidly upwards into the atmosphere and dissipate, mitigating fire hazards and potential soil contamination.

WSP in Canada: A leader in alternative fuels

WSP is a leader in conducting alternative fuels feasibility studies, and developing and recommending associated pilot programs, for both the public and private sector. WSP has worked with alternative fuels across the world at various public and private agencies to examine the potential of introducing CNG and other low and zero emissions technology into fleets.  Change Energy will be acting as a sub-consultant on the feasibility study assisting WSP. Study Partners include:  Envoy Energy, MCI (Motor Coach Industries), Union Gas, Ontario Northland Transportation Commission. 

For more information about the CNG fleet study project, please contact Naeem Farooqi.