NGVConnection Newsletter - February 2013


 


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Why CNG Station Performance Specifications Are Critical for Maintenance Technicians
By Annalloyd Thomason, Vice President/General Manager, NGVi

The CNG fueling station maintenance technician has a huge responsibility.  He or she is, by default, in charge of safety for station users and the general public, ensuring the highest station reliability possible, maintaining environmental and regulatory compliance, managing operating costs, and protecting the long-term capital investment. 

The information contained in performance specifications will become the basis of an effective Operation and Maintenance (O&M) program for any compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station.  Therefore it is essential that CNG fueling station maintenance technicians understand what performance levels are required of the equipment.  These performance specifications should have been established when the station was designed.

While stations vary widely and not all of the following may apply, here are seven areas of specifications to which the O&M technician must have access to effectively perform his or her job:

1. Fuel delivery – This specification is essential so the O&M technician can evaluate whether the station is performing as specified.  Fuel delivery specifications are usually expressed as a volume of fuel over a particular time period—for example, in gasoline gallon equivalents (GGEs) per minute, per hose or in vehicles per hour, per hose.  In addition, specifications should ensure that vehicles are fueled to a nominal 3,600 psi at 70ᵒF.

2. Gas quality – Gas quality is critical to ensure that vehicles fueling at the station perform optimally and are not damaged by failure of the fuel to meet specifications.  Gas quality specifications may include those for lubrication oil content, water content, and odorant level.  A sample gas quality specification for these elements might look like this:


  • Lube oil content <0.5 pounds per million scf (10 ppm) at the compressor skid discharge
  • Water content <0.5 pounds per million scf (-10ᵒF at 3,600 psig) at the dryer discharge
  • Odorant level - gas detectable > 1/5 of the lower flammability limit

3. Operations and maintenance – A general specification may be established for the amount of time a station must be operational and available to deliver fuel to customers.  As an example:

  • Operational and available to deliver fuel to customers 99% of the time
  • Maximum downtime twelve month period < 90 total hours
  • No routine maintenance to be performed during peak fueling hours

4. Overall operation and maintenance Costs – Usually fuel and electrical costs make up the major cost of CNG.  A specification designed to measure these costs is very effective in helping determine whether the station is operating within the projected cost parameters.  For example, the specification might be read:

  • Operating costs less than $.30/GGE, including electrical or fuel gas costs. (Of course, these factors are very volume and transaction dependent and this is merely an example.)

5. Service requirements – Whether the CNG station is being maintained by in-house fleet operations personnel or a third party, a minimum specification for service expectations should be established and met.  Some of the criteria might include:

  • Service representative on site within less than two hours of emergency call
  • All parts will have a 12-month warranty period
  • Spare parts must be available in less than 24 hours

This is particularly important during the start-up, warranty and/or extended service contract period.

6. Noise level – The noise emanating from a CNG fueling station can be a major issue within certain locations.  For example, there are usually noise restrictions for stations near hospitals, schools and other similar institutions that are administered by local planning organizations or other permitting groups.  CNG stations need a minimum specification for noise level to be measured in dba scale.  For example, a station located near a hospital might have a noise level specification of less than 75 dba per compressor skid. 

7. Liquid and vapor fugitive emissions – Properly working CNG stations should have no liquid (oil or other) or gas emissions except for the depressurization of the nozzle/receptacle connection when a vehicle is being fueled.  In other words, nothing should be emitted into the environment from the station.  The ideal specification would indicate that there are no liquid or vapor fugitive emissions coming from the station’s equipment.

While this is not an exhaustive list of CNG fueling station specifications, they are some of the most important items that the CNG fueling station maintenance technician must have. 

To learn more about what CNG fueling station maintenance technicians must know, click here

 

Perspectives With Joel Hirschboeck of Kwik Trip, Inc.
Celebrating Outstanding NGV Market Development Leadership
By Kayla Vickaryous, Marketing Specialist, NGVi

NGVi recently sat down with Joel Hirschboeck from Kwik Trip, Inc. Kwik Trip is a leader in the alternative fuels industry, a pioneer in the development of the nation’s natural gas fueling infrastructure, and a recipient of the Natural Gas Vehicle Leadership Award for building the nation’s first dedicated alternative fuels station in LaCrosse, WI. 

Please tell us about Kwik Trip, Inc.

Kwik Trip is one of the largest convenience store chains in the upper Midwest.  Headquartered in La Crosse, WI, it operates in excess of 400 stores in three states: Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.  The first convenience store opened in 1965 in Eau Claire, WI, but the chain did not begin to sell fuel until 1970.  Since its inception, Kwik Trip has continued to grow through new initiatives like a strong focus on food and value priced commodities, as well as, its newest endeavor; natural gas and other alternate fuels.

What is your personal role at Kwik Trip and experience in natural gas?

As Superintendent of Alternative Fuels, I oversee Kwik Trip’s Alternative Fuels Division which focuses on development, adaptation, education and promotion of natural gas as a vehicle fuel. I have been in the transportation industry for eight years, planning and managing operations until I reached my current role within the Alternative Fuels Division. I have played key roles in cost reduction and green initiatives, such as implementing new delivery methods and dynamic routing solutions. I am currently dedicated to the creation of the first ever functional infrastructure of CNG retail locations throughout Kwik Trip’s operating region of Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.   

How did Kwik Trip emerge into the natural gas transportation fueling industry?

Natural gas was the answer to an important question: “What is Kwik Trip going to sell for fuel in the future?”  This question had been asked by senior management and ownership. The distribution division was tasked with researching not only natural gas, but all alternate fuels that were available. Natural gas stood out as the clear alternative that could stand on its own legs.  Natural gas does not need government assistance and subsidies to be a success.  Additionally, it is a clean fuel producing 90% less emissions than its petroleum-based counterparts.  Finally, there is an abundant domestic supply that will last over 100 years. 

What are some of the challenges Kwik Trip faced? What were some of your motivating factors?

The biggest challenge is educating the general public about natural gas and dispelling its perceived dangers. When you break it down, natural gas is safer than conventional diesel or gasoline, but unless an individual is educated by someone knowledgeable in the industry, they might think the opposite.  Natural gas dissipates when released, opposed to pooling on the ground like gasoline or diesel does. It has a higher ignition temperature than gasoline or diesel, and a higher flammability rage than its petro counterparts.


Not only were we focused on positioning Kwik Trip, Inc. for the future, but also looking for ways to reduce our own operating costs. Kwik Trip’s transportation company, Convenience Transportation, LLC, travels 20 million miles per year, so if we can save $2 per gallon of fuel, we can save the company millions of dollars in fuel costs.

 

When you began building CNG fueling stations, did you have market data to help project sales?

Kwik Trip is taking a different approach to natural gas fueling stations.  We are bringing natural gas to the market as a standard fuel.  You will find our dispensers to be the same ones as our gasoline or diesel dispensers with the same point of sale interface. They are in line with the diesel pumps, with full truck access under canopy.  We are focused on building a functional infrastructure throughout our operating area, connecting the dots of every major market on every major corridor in the tri-state area. Our philosophy is to give companies the confidence in an available infrastructure and take the guesswork out of location fueling stations, which will result in operators in our region to see the benefits of natural gas.


Once we decide to enter a market, we typically complete a two-phase analysis of the market and host educational seminars for local fleets, operators, municipalities, etc. Our seminars include heavy-duty and light-duty breakout sessions, and speakers from experts in the industry, which include local dealerships and engine distributors.  This is a tool used to expose the general public to the benefits of natural gas, and provides them with resources to help them apply it to their operation. 

How did you size the compressor for your first station? Have you had to change the size of the compressor since the station was installed?

Kwik Trip customers hold a certain expectation when it comes to their experience and we want natural gas to meet those expectations.  Our goal has been to design and build with the retail experience in mind.  We focus on diesel-like gallons per minute performance, and today our systems are designed to dispense at 1400 SCFM. Our systems offer full redundancy and guaranteed up time. We cannot afford to be down when our customers count on us as their only fuel supply. They typically will not be able to go across the street to a competitor. In addition, we are aggressively transitioning our own fleet to natural gas, so performance is as important to our success as it is to our customers. 

How many stations do you currently operate?

Today we have nine stations open: La Crosse, WI (2), Sturtevant, WI, Oshkosh, WI, Rochester, MN; Minnesota City, MN; Owatonna, MN; Pewaukee, WI; and Sheboygan, WI.

Who is your equipment provider and how were they selected?

We currently have two equipment providers for CNG, Galileo and ANGI—the majority of our systems being ANGI. We also produce LCNG at our fuel island through a Chart system designed by GP Strategies.  We wanted to be able to test multiple equipment providers to better understand performance and backside service and support.  We continue to take bids from other companies with hope to push the envelope on compression system performance. 

Recently, you’ve been nationally recognized for building the nation’s first truly alternative fuels station located in La Crosse, WI. Can you tell us more about the station?

Our alternative fuels fueling station offers CNG, LNG, Propane, E-85, Multiple blends of Bio-Diesel, Premium Diesel #1 and #2, as well as DEF at the pump. 

Which fuels have the highest demand? 

Of the alternative fuels, natural gas has the highest demand, specifically CNG, primarily from our own fleet.  However, we do have multiple outside customers that take advantage of the cost benefits of our CNG in their own fleets and personal cars, allowing CNG to maintain as our top alternative fuel. 

 

Were government grants involved or was this venture internally funded?

The natural gas initiative was planned to be entirely internally funded, and only when our local Clean Cities Coalition Rep asked us to apply for an unclaimed state grant did we get a small token amount.  What we have found, especially on the vehicle side, is that natural gas vehicles do not require government assistance or funding to make economic sense. The return on investment is very attractive even with increased NGV costs. When you consider the cost differential of around $2 per gallon, it does not take long to make your initial investment back as a vehicle operator.

How did Kwik Trip choose La Crosse, WI for the station’s location?

La Crosse, WI is our corporate headquarters and home to our ever expanding production, warehousing, and operations campus. This is where our primary fleet resides and where our maintenance and engineering group operates. It only made sense to do it here in La Crosse where we can monitor, learn, educate, and better promote our new product lines. 

Can you speak on Kwik Trip’s future in natural gas fueling? Can we expect to see more alternative fuels stations popping up across the country?

Kwik Trip is dedicated to building a functional CNG infrastructure in the three states we operate in: Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. We plan to have 20 sites up by the end of our spring 2013 build season and another 10 by the fall of 2013 (for a total of 30). We will create an LNG corridor from Chicago to Minneapolis to compliment some of the national movements by other natural gas retailers.

We’ve noticed you are beginning to offer conversion assistance. Can you tell us a bit more about that venture?  

Vehicle conversions are part of our Beyond Green Fleet Solution. We have converted 10 of our own light-duty vehicles, and offer our services to outside customers at competitive rates. This is not a big revenue generator for us, but we want to help assist and promote the use of natural gas as a vehicle fuel. Contact our Alternative Fuels group to see if your vehicle is eligible for conversion, or to answer any questions you might have. KTBeyondGreen@kwiktrip.com or 855-710-3800. In addition to vehicle conversions, our Beyond Green Fleet Solution also includes vehicle selection assistance, maintenance and repair, roadside assistance, and professional services such as business case development, vehicle spec assistance, and other educational support—many of which are free of charge for those that operate in our region.  It is part of our promotion and education of natural gas as a vehicle fuel.  We are happy to provide guidance and share our experiences to benefit the industry. 

We’ve heard Kwik Trip also uses natural gas in its own vehicles. How many vehicles do you currently have running on natural gas?

We currently operate 38 natural gas vehicles, with more coming into service as we speak. Additionally, we have placed an order for 20 more this year, nine of which will arrive this spring.  At this point we do not see a reason to purchase another diesel-powered vehicle.  We have found that CNG or LNG fits in every application that our fleet operates in.  This includes light duty pickups in our Store Engineering Department, our Yard Spotter, and Straight trucks with a Class 7 tandem axel, to our Grocery and Petroleum Delivery applications operating class 8 tractors. 

 

 

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The Evolution of CNG Cylinders

By Kasia McBride, Marketing Manager, NGVi

The natural gas vehicle industry has been expanding quickly, and with it, an increase in the demand for cylinders that safely contain and store natural gas. Because modern CNG fuel systems operate at a nominal 3600 psi, the CNG cylinders, as well as the tubing, fittings, filters, regulators and valves, must be very durable and sustain high pressures in all varieties of working conditions.

Cylinder manufacturers and suppliers have been working to improve current technologies allowing them to reduce fuel system and vehicle weight, provide higher energy density storage, and use materials which significantly improve cylinder strength, corrosion resistance, and overall safety.

The evolution of CNG cylinders has gone through four separate stages: all-metal cylinders, metal hoop-wrapped composite cylinders, metal-lined composite cylinders, and plastic-lined composite cylinders. Natural gas cylinders are available today in four categories, based on their type of construction.

Type 1: All Metal

These cylinders are the most common and widely used, with a long history in the NGV industry around the world. They are made entirely of metal, specifically steel or aluminum. These durable steel cylinders are made using low-alloy steel and are typically inexpensive compared to the other types. The metalworking skills and machining equipment needed to produce them is widely available. 


Type 1 cylinders are relatively low-cost with a “ball park” estimated price of $375 for an 8 GGE (gasoline gallon equivalent) 3,600 psi (250 bar) cylinder. Type 1 cylinders are extremely heavy—a filled Type 1 cylinder can easily weigh over 350 pounds.

These cylinders are the most economical for applications that are not weight sensitive, such as forklifts or light-duty vehicles, including passenger vehicles and trucks.


Suppliers of all-metal Type 1 CNG cylinders include Faber and CNG Cylinder
s International.


Type 2: Hoop-Wrapped Composite

Type 2 cylinders have a metal liner (low-alloy steel or aluminum alloy) and a composite "wrap" or reinforcement wound around the sidewall in a hoop manner. The composite wrap is made of  a glass and carbon fiber matrix  in an epoxy or polyester resin.


The metal liner and composite materials share structural loading equally, meaning each takes 50% of the load stress caused by the inner pressurization. The metal liner, which is of sufficient thickness and strength to contain the pressure, is designed to withstand the high pressure by itself, but the wrap provides added support and safety.


Type 2 cylinders cost about 50 percent more to produce than Type 1 cylinders, but can reduce the weight of the storage containers by 30 to 40 percent.  These cylinders represent a compromise between the low cost of Type 1 cylinders and the lightest weight Type 3 and 4 cylinders.

Type 2 cylinders are currently manufactured by Faber, Luxfer Gas Cylinders, and Wire Tough.

Type 3: Metal-Lined, Fully-Wrapped Composite

The Type 3 cylinder consists of an all-in-one metal liner that is completely wrapped by a composite reinforcement. The liners are made of aluminum alloy and the composite wrap is manufactured from a glass and carbon fiber matrix in an epoxy or polyester resin. The wrap goes around the entire sidewall and vault ends. The main purpose of the metal liner is to seal in the gas, while the composite wrap carries almost all of the containment strength.


These cylinders are used in a wide range of applications where weight reduction is important --for example, in transit buses, and refuse or delivery trucks.

Suppliers of Type 3 cylinders include Structural Composite Industries (SCI), Luxfer Gas Cylinders, Dynatek Industries, CNG cylinders international, and NGVI.

Type 4: Fully-Wrapped and Non-Metallic Liner

These cylinders have an all-composite construction and are made of a plastic liner (comprised of high density polyethylene or polyamide) and a full wrapping of carbon and glass fiber  in an epoxy or polyester resin. The liners are a permeation barrier only. The strength is in the carbon fiber wrapping.

Plastic liners are substantially lighter than the metal liners of Type 3 cylinders, but using aluminum or steel liners can cost less. The carbon fiber laminates used comprise 65% of the total manufacturing cost.


Type 4 cylinders are currently manufactured by Lincoln Composites, Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies, Ullit, and Xperion.

Type 3 and 4 cylinders are considerably lighter than Type 1 and 2 cylinders. The cost can be roughly twice as much as Type 2 cylinders and 3 times more than the all-metal Type 1 cylinders.


To better illustrate the difference in weight between the four types of cylinders, the table below shows cylinder weights when identically configured for size and capacity.


TYPE

SIZE

CAPACITY

WEIGHT

Type 1
Example: All-Steel

74” x 15”

1,820 SCF

387 lbs.

Type 2
Example: Hoop-Wrapped Aluminum Composite

74” x 15”

1,820 SCF

290 lbs.

Type 3
Example: Fully-Wrapped Aluminum Composite

74” x 15”

1,820 SCF

141 lbs.

Type 4
Example: All Composite

74” x 15”

1,820 SCF

141 lbs.

In addition to existing manufacturers, the 3M Company has recently announced intent to launch a collection of new Type 4 CNG cylinders. The company has successfully completed the NGV2-2007 certification process for its first CNG cylinder. The 21.5 x 60 inch tank is designed for light- and medium-duty pick-up trucks and corporate fleet vehicles.

3M’s cylinders are manufactured primarily from carbon fiber, as well as a combination of proprietary liner materials, barrier films and coatings, damage resistance films and nanoparticle-enhanced resin technology. Initially, cylinders will be available through five approved up-fitters.


Type 5: Next Generation Linerless Technology

Type 5 cylinders, recently designed, tested and built by Composites Technology Development Inc. (CTD), are a linerless solution made from the company’s KIBOKO® epoxy-based toughened resins and filament-wound or tape-placed carbon fiber or fiberglass. These KIBOKO® materials microcrack at high strain levels, at both room and cryogenic temperatures. This property allows for increased toughness, and enables linerless tanks to achieve high design-operating strains, which should result in a lower tank dry mass.

Company studies indicate that Type 5 linerless tanks will be 15 to 20 percent lighter than current Type 4 cylinders, and because the cost of the lining material and liner fabrication will be eliminated, they also say it will cost less to manufacture.

At present, because of U.S. Department of Transportation’s regulations that mandate lined tanks for compressed natural gas (CNG), the vehicle market remains off limits for any linerless technologies.

Instead, CTD is addressing interest and opportunities for its linerless technology in space, aerospace and light-rail specialty markets, and is also in the process of qualifying its Type 5 tank for commercial aircraft applications.  

CNG cylinder manufacturers have been steadily seeking ways to improve existing tank technologies. The fuel-containing cylinders in a CNG-powered vehicle are the single most expensive vehicle component. Recent rapid growth in the market for natural gas vehicles is creating great need for lightweight, reliable and safe fuel tanks. 

Some cylinder types are better suited for specific applications, but regardless of which application is considered and which variety of cylinder is to be used, safety precautions should always be followed. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration FMVSS304 requires that any in-use cylinder, regardless of type, must be inspected every 36,000 miles of service, or 36 months -- whichever comes first -- or in the event that the vehicle is involved in an accident exceeding five miles per hour or any vehicle fire. 

The best approach for a fleet owner is to have in-house maintenance technicians trained to visually inspect the entire CNG fuel system, including the cylinders. General visual inspections, which are a less complex inspection of the visible portion of the fuel system and cylinder(s) not covered by shields, should be conducted regularly as part of the vehicle’s routine maintenance schedule. Any damage to a cylinder shield or fuel system component observed during a general visual inspection should be reported to a trained fuel system inspector for proper evaluation and/or further inspection of the damaged component.


NGVi Earns ASE Accreditation

By Kayla Vickaryous, Marketing Specialist, NGVi

Recently, NGVi became the first and only natural gas vehicle industry training provider to earn ASE accreditation. Continuing Automotive Service Education (CASE) is a voluntary ASE accreditation program for training entities that provides continuing education to working automotive technicians. The program is administered by the Automotive Training Managers Council (ATMC), and the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) grants the accreditation.

What is CASE?

ASE recognizes that it is important for automotive service technicians to participate in continuing education throughout their careers. Such education should be upheld to the standards set in place by CASE content, which encompasses a body of knowledge and skills generally recognized and accepted as within the curriculum of accredited programs of automotive service technology, as well as new knowledge required to service emerging automotive technologies.


CASE consists of educational activities that are offered by accredited institutions and organizations, which maintain, develop, or increase the knowledge, skills, and professional performance that an automotive service technician uses to serve clients, the public, and the automotive industry.

What does the CASE process entail?

The CASE application process serves as a tool for program improvement, by way of self-evaluation of the company. There are two major steps: the application and the on-site visit. For NGVi, this began with weeks of documentation for each department, followed by a two-day intensive meeting that allowed the entire staff to sit down together and evaluate every aspect of its training procedure—from the mission statement to the development and execution of curriculum.

What benefits did the CASE process bring to NGVi?

Paul Pate, NGVi Training Manager, reflects on the experience. “Perhaps the best part about the CASE process was that it gave our team a chance to dive into the details of how we do things with fresh eyes and a new perspective. We took a full two days to scrutinize our processes, which resulted in very important improvements.”


In October, an evaluation team visited NGVi headquarters and performed a detailed on-site interview and evaluation of our training development process and curriculum, leading to the accreditation. To receive accreditation, training companies must go through a rigorous and extensive review of their training and student assessment methods, validity of the curriculum and material, administrative processes, and instructor qualifications. “It’s extremely gratifying as an educator to receive commendation on our work from a third party,” Pate added, “Especially when it comes from reputable organizations like ATMC and ASE.” 

How do training attendees benefit from CASE accreditation?

Selecting an ASE-accredited CASE training provider ensures that the training method is professional, structured, and effective. CASE applicants are evaluated based on a stringent set of standards that validates the training institution as a whole. Additionally, ASE-accredited training providers are authorized to provide CEUs (Continuing Education Units) to the participants who successfully meet the requirements.

Who is ASE-accredited?

To date, only 53 elite companies have obtained ASE accreditation, including American Honda, General Motors, Lexus, Nissan, Penske, and Toyota. For a full list of ASE-accredited CASE providers, click here

More about the organizations behind CASE:

The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is a non-profit organization, established in 1972 by the automotive industry in response to the need to improve the competence of automotive mechanics. ASE's mission is to improve the quality of vehicle repair and service in the United States through the voluntary testing and certification of automotive repair technicians. To learn more about ASE, click here.

The Automotive Training Managers Council (ATMC) was founded in 1984 as a non-profit organization designed to promote the advancement of training and professional development within the automotive service industry. Recently reorganized as a member of the ASE Industry Education Alliance, the ATMC continues to help members stay abreast of innovations in automotive training by facilitating interaction among its members. To learn more about ATMC, click here.

 


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 October 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)

$3.82

$3.52

$0.30

per gallon

Diesel

$4.13

$3.75

$0.38

per gallon

CNG

$2.12

$2.05

$0.07

per GGE


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Upcoming Training from NGVi

NGV Technician and Fleet Operations
Safety Training

March 12, 2013 | Charlotte, NC
April 2, 2013 | Downey, CA

Training for technicians on the information and skills required to knowledgeably inspect CNG fuel systems, detect and assess damage and determine necessary next steps.

CNG Fuel System Inspector Training

March 13-14, 2013 | Charlotte, NC
April 3-4, 2013 | Downey, CA

Training for technicians on the information and skills required to knowledgeably inspect CNG fuel systems, detect and assess damage and determine necessary next steps.

 



Click here to Register

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August 15, 2017
Atlanta, GA

Level 2: CNG Fuel System
Inspector Training

August 16-17, 2017
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Level 1: NGV Essentials
and Safety Practices

September 12, 2017
Chicago, IL

Level 2: CNG Fuel System
Inspector Training

September 13-14, 2017
Chicago, IL

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About NGVi

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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