Blue Flame Technology Gives You More For less

The statement, cooking with gas, has long been a coined phrase with an intended meaning that all is right, you’ve done well, that’s the way it should be, etc. In today’s foodservice industry, that statement could not be more true! In a study conducted by an independent agency, 97% of chefs said that they preferred to cook with gas as an energy source. They preferred the precise control and speed that only gas can typically provide. With that in mind, is it any wonder that Gas is America’s Favorite Cook?

The statement, cooking with gas, has long been a coined phrase with an intended meaning that all is right, you’ve done well, that’s the way it should be, etc. In today’s foodservice industry, that statement could not be more true! In a study conducted by an independent agency, 97% of chefs said that they preferred to cook with gas as an energy source. They preferred the precise control and speed that only gas can typically provide. With that in mind, is it any wonder that Gas is America’s Favorite Cook?

Even with the recent price blips, natural gas still remains the best value when it comes to the majority of cooking, water heating and space heating applications. Even though industry forecasts had predicted higher prices during the winter of 2003-2004, prices have stabilized over the past several months, and in some regions of the country, pricing is lower than a year ago.

Many operators who feared the worst and did significant fuel-switching after the winter of 2001, now have regrets for doing so as they are stuck with using equipment that will generally cost more to operate and not offer the control and flexibility of gas cooking equipment. If you remember nothing more from reading this article, it should be this: Gas gives you more for Less! 

Why Gas Costs Less

The reason that natural gas generally is less expensive than electricity is that it has a higher cumulative amount of BTUs delivered from the point of extraction to the point of use. Although advocates for the electric industry will boast of higher energy efficiency, the energy lost in transmission to the point of use is the reason for generally higher costs on a BTU to BTU comparison.

As an example, let’s assume that we start with 100,000 BTUs of natural gas at the wellhead and convert it into electricity at a power plant, transfer it via wires to your restaurant, where it then goes to work in your kitchen. During this process, 73% of the original energy is lost, thereby delivering only 27,000 BTUs to your facility, but yet you are billed for the entire 100,000.

On the other hand, we start with that same 100,000 BTUs of natural gas at the wellhead and send it directly to your restaurant through a series of underground pipelines, and voila, we’ve delivered 91,000 BTUs of useable energy! Only 9,000 BTUs are lost during the process. This is the cumulative delivered energy factor that makes the cost of natural gas significantly less expensive than electricity; up to 75% less in many cases!

And, gas does not have a demand factor built in (like electricity does) which requires you to pay for energy that you may never use, but do so for the privilege of it being available to you if and when you do decide to use it. The message here is that although gas may not be the most efficient at the point of use, it is a more economical energy source because less product is lost during the delivery process!

Gas Is Friendly to the Environment

When it comes to cleanliness, natural gas is clean burning, producing primarily carbon dioxide, water vapor and small amounts of nitrogen oxides. Other fossil fuels are coal and oil, which together with natural gas, account for about 88 percent of U.S. energy consumption. And the fact that it is a home-grown resource, with nearly 99% of the natural gas we use in the United States coming from North America, the forecasts for long-term supplies are abundant.

Since demand for this efficient and environmentally friendly fuel is projected to increase significantly over the next twenty years, legislative policy changes and infrastructure expansion will be necessary to meet market needs. There is plenty of natural gas out there, it’s just that the environmental restrictions have influenced the supply and price volatility that have been experienced over the past couple of years.

The Truth About Ventilation

Contrary to what advocates for other energy sources may report, natural gas foodservice equipment does not require more kitchen ventilation and does not increase the heat level in today’s modern commercial and institutional kitchens. Ventilation requirements are the same for electric and gas equipment and are determined by the cooking process rather than the energy source.

If you think you can forego the cost of adding additional hood space by installing an electric oven in your facility to keep up with increased cooking demand, think again. Section 507 of the International Mechanical Code (the majority of States now use this code system) clearly says that a hood shall be installed at or above all commercial food heat-processing appliances that produce grease vapors, smoke, fumes, steam, odor or heat.

That statement should make it very clear that there are no differentiation in the Code between electric or gas appliances when it comes to ventilation requirements. The message here is, if it produces heat, vent it!

New and Improved Gas Equipment

There have been a number of interesting product developments employing gas technology over the past few years which have proven to be of significant advantage to the end user. Some of these improvements have been with high-efficiency gas fryers, which can produce more product at less cost than ever before, with fuel-use efficiencies better than 80%; something unheard of just five years ago.

Improvements have also occurred with gas griddle technology that can provide surface areas that have consistent temperatures from edge to edge allowing the operator to increase production with an uncompromising product quality and consistency. A number of equipment test sites around the country have recently proven these findings.

The introduction of combi-oven technology nearly a decade ago clearly made a case for the electric industry as having a product that was cheaper, higher in food production and less maintenance intensive than gas-fired units. This however has changed significantly, as the gas industry can now boast boilerless combi oven technology that is not available in any other fuel source. This development has virtually eliminated the most costly maintenance problem with combi oven technology and provides the gas combi oven user with a more maintenance-free piece of equipment. Again, Gas gives you more for Less!

Food Quality Improvements

Food products cooked with gas appliances can have a superior quality. A recent cook test conducted by a prominent national chain showed that not only did gas fryers produce a better finished product, food safety was not compromised due to the superiority of gas fryer recovery, affording batch after batch during heavy load cycles to be cooked to required internal temperatures. Electric fryers tend to produce a greasier product since recovery times are somewhat longer than an equal input gas fryer.

When it comes to the baking ability of gas ovens, they are unequalled for producing a moister product that will hold up better and longer under warming lamps used by quick serve operations. This longer hold time can add significantly to an operator’s bottom line by reducing food waste.

The case for incorporating gas-fired equipment in any foodservice operation is strong. With high tech product improvements now available, a predictable long term supply of North American resources and prices that are stabilizing (and are predicted to remain the most economical energy source), it’s easy to understand how and why Gas gives you more for Less and why Gas is America’s Favorite Cook.

About Energy Solutions Center, Inc.

Energy Solutions Center, Inc. (ESC) is a non-profit organization of energy utilities and equipment manufacturers based in Washington DC that promotes energy efficient natural gas solutions and systems for use by residential, commercial, and industrial energy users. The Center concentrates on the development of tools and resources designed to enhance the success of those utility customer service professionals responsible for enhancing customer productivity, efficiency, reliability and comfort.

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