NGVConnection Newsletter - April 2012

Natural Gas Vehicle Institute to Exhibit at Waste Expo 2012

Understanding the specific operating characteristics and requirements for natural gas, as well as safety systems associated with natural gas vehicles and fueling stations, is one of the keys to a successful refuse-based NGV program.

One of the most frequently overlooked elements of successfully integrating CNG or LNG into a refuse fleet is the need for training.


  • Drivers must be trained on the unique properties of natural gas, and how to safely drive, fuel and prepare for the unexpected.
  • Vehicle technicians need to understand the differences in working with a high-pressure fuel and how to safely perform routine maintenance and required fuel system inspections.
  • Fueling station technicians must know best practices for fueling station operation and maintenance, and how to develop and implement effective routine maintenance and safety plans.

We'd love to talk with you about your CNG or LNG program. If you're attending the Waste Expo you're invited to stop by our booth inside the NGV Pavilion (Booth 15275). The conference will be held April 30 - May 3, 2012 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

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The Top Four Things You Can’t Afford to Forget

By Annalloyd Thomason, Vice President/General Manager, NGVi

Meet Dan.  Dan is the fleet manager for a large fleet of (insert any industry here) vehicles.  Dan spent months analyzing the costs and benefits of using natural gas vehicles, and finally senior management made the decision to go forward.  He specified and ordered the vehicles—and waited the three—or six—or more months it takes to get them.  The vehicle delivery date is fast approaching and Dan’s entire company is excited. 

And then it hits him—his technicians and drivers have never experienced natural gas vehicles.  They don’t know what to expect.  Heck, even Dan doesn’t know what to expect.  And didn’t he just read somewhere that vehicle maintenance facilities for NGVs have to be able to accommodate lighter-than-air fuel.  What does that mean? 

Suddenly a bit of panic sets in.  Dan’s vehicles will be here in two weeks.  Will he be able to put them into operation, or will they have to sit idle until he can sort out the two pressing issues of training and facilities evaluation?   How will that look on his performance evaluation?

Aren’t you glad you’re not Dan?

While Dan is a hypothetical character, his dilemma is not.  Nearly every week, we receive calls from fleet customers and industry members who have decided to integrate natural gas vehicles into their business but have not planned to meet all their needs.  To help prevent this from happening in your operation, here are a few common-sense (but often forgotten) guidelines.

1. Have a firm fueling plan and contract in place.

We realize this seems like an absolute no-brainer, but sometimes uninformed assumptions are made about where CNG (less frequently LNG) will be purchased or procured.  Perhaps more importantly, you need assurance that CNG fuel and fueling stations meet minimum performance specifications, that fuel is available in case of an outage at the primary CNG station and some pricing/cost control strategies are in place.  Some key elements to look for include:

  • Fuel quality standard - Fuel providers should guarantee a fuel quality standard that meets defined specifications.   There should be no oil or other contaminants in the delivered fuel.
  • Backup fuel supply plan – How will you get fuel if there is a station breakdown?
  • Full-fill guarantee - Does the fueling station provide the technology to perform temperature compensated fueling?
  • Price fluctuations and benchmark - The fuel price must be able to both increase and decrease to accommodate fuel price fluctuations.  The contract benchmark should not be based on the commodity price of the gas supply but rather on some variation of the Consumer Price Index. 
  • Fuel contract language – The contract price of natural gas per gasoline or diesel gallon equivalent (GGE or DGE) should spell out the cost of gas, compression, maintenance and the cost of capital so they can be calculated as a percentage of the GGE/DGE price.

2. Assess your vehicle maintenance facility to ensure it can safely accommodate CNG/LNG or both as needed.

One of your first priorities should be to ensure that vehicle maintenance facilities are built (in the case of new facilities) or modified to meet the code and safety requirements for maintaining and repairing NGVs.  This is especially important because even if routine maintenance is being performed on a natural gas powered vehicle —such as an oil change or tire rotation, the maintenance facility must be able to safely accommodate the lighter-than-air fuel. 

CNG and/or LNG vehicle maintenance and repair facilities must meet different code and safety requirements than those for gasoline and diesel.  While there may be others, the four primary fire codes covering natural gas vehicle maintenance facilities, including National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 52, 70, and 30A plus the International Fire Code. 

A comprehensive evaluation of the vehicle maintenance facility considers the following as they relate to the appropriate codes:

  • ventilation system
  • heating system
  • lighting system
  • electrical system
  • mechanical system
  • building envelope
  • internal structure

While implementing administrative procedures in the short run may allow you to perform some NGV maintenance without making changes to the buildings, vehicle maintenance facility modifications must eventually be made to ensure functional processes.  These modifications take time to engineer and implement—so getting an early start on assessing the facility to determine which modifications must be made is essential.

 

3. Plan and arrange formal general NGV safety training for drivers and technicians. 

Safety is the most critical training need for NGV drivers and technicians because of their daily contact with the fuel delivery system, storage and fueling equipment.  Prior to any vehicle-specific training, NGVi strongly recommends that every fleet and/or industry member involved in NGVs provide basic safety training for its drivers and/or technicians.  This training should include topics like properties and characteristics of natural gas, an overview of fueling equipment and safety practices, an emergency action plan and the correct use of safety equipment and safe fueling of an NGV.  Technicians also need to know how to safely maintain NGVs indoors and how to de-fuel a vehicle if necessary.  This training will give them the confidence they need to safely do their jobs.

4. Schedule CNG Fuel System Inspector Training for technicians.

In addition to general safety training, vehicle technicians also need CNG Fuel System Inspector Training because ensuring the integrity of NGV fuel systems is at the heart of NGV safety. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires all on-board CNG storage cylinders manufactured after March 1995 be visually inspected every three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. In addition, cylinders should be inspected following any accident. CNG Fuel System Inspector Training helps ensure that technicians are adequately trained to knowledgeably inspect CNG fuel systems, detect and assess damage and determine necessary next steps.

While this is not a comprehensive list of all the planning considerations for NGV fleet managers or industry members involved with vehicles, it is a list of the most frequently reported urgent needs by our customers.  That’s why in NGVi lingo we’ve labeled them the “top four things you can’t afford to forget.” 


EDF Study Draws Wrong Conclusions about Natural Gas Vehicles
By Rich Kolodziej, President, NGVAmerica

On April 9, the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) released a study titled “Greater Focus Needed on Methane Leakage from Natural Gas Infrastructure.” One of the study’s conclusions is that “a shift to compressed natural gas vehicles from gasoline or diesel vehicles leads to greater radiative forcing of the climate for 80 or 280 yr, respectively, before beginning to produce benefits.”  Because of significant uncertainty in the data on which the study is based and significant uncertainty in the assumptions about climate relationships in the study’s model, there is no reason to believe that EDF’s conclusion is accurate.  As a result, policy makers would be mistaken to withhold their support for natural gas vehicles based on EDF’s conclusions. 

Also, it is important to point out that study does state “Compressed natural gas vehicles could produce climate benefits on all time frames if the well-to-wheels CH4 leakage were capped at a level 4570% below current estimates.”  Because of uncertainty in the data and assumptions, this too could be wrong. Natural gas vehicles may already produce climate benefits in all time frames. 

EDF readily admits that the data on which this study is based is highly questionable.   The study uses U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) estimates of “well-to-wheel” leak rates, but the study states that these estimates are probably inaccurate.  Specifically, the study states:

  • “Despite recent changes to EPA’s methodology for estimating CH4 leakage from natural gas systems, the actual magnitude remains uncertain and estimates could change as methods are refined.” 
  • “Much work needs to be done to determine actual emissions with certainty …”
  • “Estimates of the net climate implications of fuel-switching strategies should be based on complete fuel cycles (e.g., “well-to-wheels”) and account for changes in emissions of relevant radiative forcing agents. Unfortunately, such analyses are weakened by the paucity of empirical data addressing CH4 emissions through the natural gas supply network.”
  • “Ensuring a high degree of confidence in the climate benefits of natural gas fuel-switching pathways will require better data than are available today.”

EPA’s estimate of leaked gas has been strongly disputed by the natural gas industry.  Between errors in methodology and the fact that much of the gas attributable to leaks is really metering and measurement errors, EPA’s estimate could be off by orders of magnitude.  A 2011 report by IHS CERA titled, “Mismeasuring Methane: Estimating greenhouse gas emissions from upstream natural gas development,” documents the some of the flaws underlying EPA’s estimate.

As to the model, EDF has created a new model to determine “technology warming potentials” (TWP) as compared to “global warming potential” (GWP), which has been the recognized standard to date and used by most credible organizations, including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  EDF contends that their approach is better.  But like all such models, this model is filled with assumptions about climate change relationships that may or may not be accurate.  In fact, most models turn out not to be accurate.  EDF’s news release on the paper states “A number of scientific papers on the climatic implications of natural gas production and use have been published in the last year, inadvertently figuring into a growing sense of confusion due to conflicting conclusions.”  The implication is that these other papers got it wrong and EDF has it right.  There is a possibility that this is true, but it is highly unlikely.  Models are only as accurate as the validity of the assumptions on which they are based, and there is no reason to believe that EDF’s assumptions are valid or reflect reality.

Yet, despite all this huge uncertainty in the data and the assumptions, EDF boldly states:  “Presently, compressed natural gas (CNG)-fueled vehicles are not a viable mitigation strategy for climate change.” There is no reason to believe this is true.

NGVAmerica does agree with the view expressed in the study that “There is a need for the natural gas industry and science community to help obtain better emissions data.”  As Steven Hamburg, EDF’s chief scientist and co-author of the paper, states in the EDF news release: "… it’s critical that industry, regulators and other stakeholders work together to quantify the existing methane leakage rate.”  Gathering this data should be a very high priority. 

NGVAmerica also agrees that the natural gas industry should continue to reduce the amount of gas “leaked”.  The study states that “maintaining low rates of CH4 leakage is critical to maximizing the climate benefits of natural gas fuel-technology pathway.”  Methane is a greenhouse gas, and, if the goal is to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases, reducing methane leakage should be also be a goal.  But there is also an economic reason to reduce leakage.  If EPA’s estimates were accurate, the amount of natural gas lost in 2009 was 570 billion cubic feet.   At today’s prices, that would be over $1 billion lost to the industry!

The EDF study is another data point in the debate about climate change.  But it’s only one data point, and, it may just as easily be wrong.  Other studies draw opposite conclusions, namely that NGVs reduce greenhouse gases compared to gasoline and diesel.  Growing the use of NGVs reduces our dependence on foreign oil and reduces urban air pollution.  It may also reduce greenhouse gases.  To base transportation policy decisions on this study alone could be a substantial mistake.

 

NGVAmerica is a national organization dedicated to the development of a growing, sustainable and profitable market for vehicles powered by natural gas or biomethane. NGVAmerica represents more than 120 companies including engine, vehicle and equipment manufacturers; fleet operators and service providers; natural gas companies; and environmental groups and government organizations. NGVi has been a proud member of NGVAmerica since its formation.  For more information about NGVAmerica, visit www.ngvamerica.org


Natural Gas: A Favorable Fuel Choice for Refuse Operators
By Kasia McBride, Marketing Manager, NGVi

 

From Waste Management, Republic Services and municipalities to smaller independent operators, there has been a growing trend among refuse companies to transition to natural gas. In fact, waste collection and transfer vehicles are the fastest growing NGV segment, accounting for about 11% of total vehicular natural gas use. According to NGV America, almost 40% of the refuse trucks purchased in 2011 were powered by natural gas.

Waste Management, possessing the largest fleet of garbage trucks in North America, has more than 1,400 CNG-powered trucks in operation now and is acquiring more trucks every month. The company will replace 80% of its fleet with CNG vehicles over the next several years. Their nearest competitor, Republic Services, has 826 vehicles operating on either compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG), and plans to purchase about 550 CNG trucks in 2012.


So what makes natural gas such a favorable choice for refuse companies? What is causing this strongly accelerating trend?

Operating costs lead the list for several reasons.  First, the cost of natural gas is less than diesel and gasoline—as much as 50% less. This wide difference in fuel costs is multiplied when one considers the tough-duty routes, long engine hours, numerous stops and starts, and lengthy idling times for these vehicles.  These usage patterns translate directly into substantial fuel savings for refuse companies. And even though the initial costs of buying new trucks or converting them to run on natural gas is greater than the cost of a diesel version, natural gas vehicles save money over time because of lower fuel costs, and longer engine life.


“Natural gas trucks, which cost less to operate on a per-mile basis than traditional diesel vehicles, ultimately can have a noticeable impact on costs,” said Edward A. Lang, Treasurer for Republic Services, in an article published by Waste and Recycling News.  Lang also estimated CNG savings at around 30% on a per-mile basis. This substantial savings is depicted in the diagram below, which shows that the payback periods depend largely on fleet size and fleet type. Refuse truck fleets have a sharp drop in payback period once the fleet size hits 30 vehicles. The fleet of 30 vehicles will realize a payback of about seven years.

 

 

Source: DOE


Refuse operators also have an advantage in regards to fueling availability. Businesses that do all their work locally can make the transition much more easily than, say, long-haul truckers, who will need infrastructure along their long routes to use the fuel. Since most collection routes are local, waste haulers with larger fleets have the option of fueling their natural gas vehicles onsite daily with either CNG or LNG.  These vehicles typically return to a base each night where they can refuel with natural gas. 


Another benefit for refuse fleets using natural gas is that the vehicles perform well.  Engines that power these vehicles are designed to both meet the most stringent emissions regulations and provide efficient and reliable service.  “Performance has been fine and reliability good for the CNG engines on our refuse collection fleet,” said Russ Barnett, environmental protection director with the town of Smithtown, the first community outside of California to have 100% of its refuse collection fleet switched fully to CNG. (The city was highlighted in the Fueling the Future article by MSW Management).

In an article published by Waste Age about Choice Environmental Services, Inc., the Fort Lauderdale-based refuse hauler that became the first independent refuse fleet in Florida to run on natural gas, Choice’s CEO Glen Miller cited three important reasons to support natural gas:

  • Performance and maintenance of the trucks has been great
  • Driver acceptance has been overwhelmingly positive 
  • The trucks are 90% quieter than diesel trucks at idle

 

Converting to natural gas also can help create a healthier, more sustainable environment. CNG refuse trucks are much cleaner than diesel trucks and achieve a much smaller carbon footprint. They reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 23%, and produce significantly less smog-generating nitrogen oxides. Reduced emissions are especially important because of the lengthy amount of time these vehicles are on their routes, and often in well-populated areas as well. Additionally, CNG engines run quieter than traditional diesel engines, reducing noise on community streets.


“This is a special milestone in our journey to develop the cleanest fleet of heavy-duty trucks in our industry,” said Duane Woods, Waste Management’s vice president, in the press release distributed last July. “We are pleased that we have so many natural gas trucks now in service, particularly in Southern California where clean air is such a critical issue,” he added.


Finally, OEM refuse trucks are widely available for waste companies to purchase, and in a variety of types and sizes. Multiple vehicles, including those manufactured by McNeilus and Mack Trucks, and powerful engines -- designed strictly for natural gas -- have been available for several years from Cummins Westport Inc., a Vancouver-based company that specializes in alternative and clean-burning fuel technology.


There is little doubt that the role of natural gas is increasing among refuse companies. The unique operating characteristics of refuse trucks and the huge savings that natural gas can provide make this fuel highly desirable.  The economic advantages of natural gas, immediate environmental, health, and quality of life benefits, great performance, and a very favorable safety record are just some of the many reasons why refuse companies are driven to use natural gas, and are embracing this clean and cost-effective transportation alternative.


CNG Fuel Price Report
From Clean Cities Alternative Fuel Price Report published by Argonne National Laboratory for DOE's Clean Cities Program

Overall Average Fuel Prices (as of January 2012)

 

Nationwide Average Price for Fuel This Report

Nationwide Average Price for Fuel Last Report

Change in Price This Report vs. Last Report

Units of Measurement

Gasoline (Regular)

$3.37

$3.46

$0.09

per gallon

Diesel

$3.86

$3.81

$0.05

per gallon

CNG

$2.13

$2.09

$0.04

per GGE


Did You Know...  

Effective CNG station maintenance can determine the success or failure of both a CNG station and the overall NGV program. Yet maintenance is perhaps the most often overlooked issue affecting most CNG fueiling stations.

In NGVi's experience, when inspecting and evaluating CNG fueling stations of various capacities, ages and types across the country, here are the top 6 commonly missed maintenance items:

  • Removal of hazardous materials (e.g. dryer desiccant, liquid from dryer regeneration, high pressure desiccant filter cartridges, compressor lubrication oil, oily rags.)
  • Improper recording of compressor suction, inter-stage and discharge temperatures and pressures
  • Not draining coalescing filters and ASME pressure vessels
  • Not re-certifying safety relief valves
  • Not testing the methane detector installed inside the compressor enclosure
  • Maintenance contractor failure to respond or to perform




NGVs & CNG in the News

NGVi Welcomes New Sponsors

 

N.C. may give natural gas vehicles an unfair boost NewsObserver.com

Using their own product
TheDailyReview.com


CN looking into purchasing CNG vehicles
CherokeePhoenix.org


New EPA rules target fracking site pollution
BostonHerald.com


$10 million expansion planned at Dane County landfill
Wisconsin State Journal


Quantum Receives New Orders for Natural Gas Heavy Duty Truck Fuel Storage Systems
Market Watch


 

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The 50 Ways to Become a Great Fleet Manager

Upcoming Training from NGVi

Do you want to find out what traits, skills and sets are necessary to become a great fleet manager?

Automotive Fleet surveyed more than 200 fleet professionals who identified 50 traits.

To read the story authored by Mike Antich, Automotive Fleet,
click here.

NGV Driver & Technician Safety Training
May 21, 2012, Atlanta, GA

CNG Fuel System Inspector Training
May 24-25, 2012, Atlanta, GA


CNG Fueling Station Design Training

May 24-25, 2012, Atlanta, GA



Click here to Register

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Upcoming Training

 

Level 1: NGV Essentials
and Safety Practices

March 28, 2017
Charlotte, NC

Level 2: CNG Fuel System
Inspector Training

March 29-30, 2017
Charlotte, NC

Level 3: Heavy-Duty NGV Maintenance
and Diagnostics Training

April 10-11, 2017
Egg Harbor, NJ

Level 2: CNG Fuel System
Inspector Training

April 12-13, 2017
Egg Harbor, NJ

CNG Fueling Station
Design Training

April 24-25, 2017
Spring Valley, NV

CNG Fueling Station Operation
and Maintenance Training

April 26-27, 2017
Spring Valley, NV

Level 1: NGV Essentials
and Safety Practices

May 9, 2017
Denver, CO

Level 2: CNG Fuel System
Inspector Training

March 10-11, 2017
Denver, CO

 

 

Register Now »



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Natural Gas Vehicle Institute is North America’s leading provider of training and consulting on natural gas as a transportation fuel.

Our services address the full range of natural gas vehicle and fueling issues, including:

Technical consulting services – Sizing and designing compressed natural gas fueling stations, vehicle assessments and technical assistance for fleets, CNG fueling station troubleshooting, natural gas vehicle maintenance facilities upgrades, liquefied natural gas fleet and fueling management.

Technical training – NGV Essentials and Safety Practices, CNG Fuel System Inspector Training, Heavy-Duty NGV Maintenance and Diagnostics Training, Light-Duty NGV Maintenance and Diagnostics Training, CNG Fueling Station Operation and Maintenance Training, CNG Fueling Station Design Training and CNG/LNG Codes and Standards Training for Fire Marshals and Code Officials.

 

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