NGVConnection Newsletter - March 2012

Petroleum Equipment Industry “Buzzing” about CNG
By Annalloyd Thomason, Vice President/General Manager, NGVi

“There is a buzz in the petroleum equipment industry about compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling,” noted Bob Renkes, Executive Director of The Petroleum Equipment Institute (PEI).   “As soaring gasoline and diesel fuel prices continue to make headlines, and CNG retail prices average just $2.39 per gasoline gallon equivalent, CNG as a way to power fleets―and even consumer vehicles―must be considered.”  Renkes made these comments immediately following the first of three NGVi training courses on CNG Fueling Station Design and Construction offered in partnership with PEI.

PEI represents more than 1,600 companies around the world, in all 50 states and 81 territories and countries.  They are the leading authority and source of information for the fuel and fluid handling equipment industries and the organization is committed to promoting the value of distributor services and improving the business relationships and practices of its members.  Achieving that goal is exactly what they accomplished when more than 60 PEI members gathered February 23-24 in Las Vegas to attend NGVi’s CNG Fueling Station Design and Construction class. 

“The level of interest in CNG on the part of our members is exciting,” said Rick Long, General Manager of PEI. “We are pleased to help our members be at the forefront of helping build a broader CNG fueling infrastructure in the U.S.”  When the initial NGVi training course was offered by PEI, it sold out within a matter of days and accumulated a significant wait list.  To help meet that demand, PEI quickly organized the second two classes to be held in May—which are also sold out.

NGVi customized its standard CNG Fueling Station Sizing and Design course for the PEI audience.  The curriculum is designed for companies that are interested in or responsible for designing and building natural gas fueling stations, as well as equipment providers and those involved in permitting CNG stations. During the course, participants learned about the unique aspects of providing lighter-than-air fuel for vehicles.  Specific training topics included Codes and Regulations Relating to CNG Fueling Stations, CNG Fueling Station Equipment, CNG Station Sizing and Budgeting, Detailed CNG Station Design, Permitting, Construction, CNG Fueling Station Safety Systems and Procedures.

Class attendees included a mix of companies already involved in CNG fueling station construction in some capacity and others who see the potential demand and want to be trained and prepared.  Many of the attendees indicated that they are beginning to receive inquiries about building CNG stations and they are excited about the new business opportunities.  Attendee feedback from the NGVi course was extremely positive, as represented in written comments by one class attendee.  “I highly recommend this training.  NGVi has thorough knowledge of the material and it was well presented.”

From NGVi’s perspective, this level of interest on the part of the petroleum equipment industry tells us that CNG is finally and quickly going mainstream.  The approximate 1,000 CNG stations in the U.S. compete with nearly 160,000 retail gasoline and diesel stations.  It has been estimated that to be competitive, public CNG infrastructure equivalent to roughly 10 to 20% of that for traditional liquid fuels (or between 16,000 and 32,000 CNG stations) must be built.   If this goal is to be realized, the companies that specialize in building gasoline and diesel stations have to get involved.  Both their expertise and their sheer production capacity to build fueling infrastructure will be required.

One course attendee summed it up this way.  “This was a great course and I hope to be part of the 21st century fueling.”  That’s NGVi’s hope, too.

In addition to the PEI-member training, NGVi is publicly offering its CNG Fueling Station Sizing and Design Course publicly in Downey, California on April 10-11; Newark, New Jersey on April 26-27; and Atlanta, Georgia on May 24-25.  For more information, visit our home page at www.ngvi.com.

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The Nuts and Bolts of CNG Fuel System Inspection

Q&A with Leo Thomason, Executive Director, NGVi

Question: Are there any requirements in place for cylinder inspection or is it just an essential safety practice?

Answer: Of course, NGV safety is the key goal, but inspections are required by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) every three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first.  Additionally, any NGV accident that occurs at speeds greater than five mph and/or an incident that involves a fire anywhere on the vehicle requires that at least the fuel storage cylinders be inspected.  Inspections are designed to ensure driver safety. Unknown or undetected damage to cylinders or mounting brackets could result in a life-threatening situation.

Question:  Who is qualified to inspect CNG fuel storage cylinders?

Answer:  While there is no requirement that cylinder inspectors be certified, they must be trained by a recognized CNG fuel system inspection training provider. Certified inspectors have passed a third-party examination administered by CSA Standards that ensures they understand all of the key elements of the inspection process. Certification is an industry recommended practice.

Question: What is involved in the inspection?

Answer: It is an external visual inspection only and the cylinder is not removed from the vehicle. Inspectors are looking for any physical damage, loose brackets, or deterioration to the external surface of the cylinder including scratches, nicks, dings, chips, abrasion, impact damage or chemical damage. The inspector is required to gain access to the cylinder by removing the shield installed to protect the cylinder. Damage observed to the shield may be an indication of cylinder damage.


Question: How long does cylinder inspection take?


Answer:  
It depends on the number of cylinders onboard the vehicle and the location of the cylinders. For example, a transit bus with natural gas fuel storage cylinders located on the roof of the bus under an enclosure has cylinders that are relatively easy to inspect. Conversely, a pick-up truck with cylinders located underneath and possibly in the bed of the vehicle with shields covering them may take longer.

Question: What equipment is required to conduct a vehicle fuel system safety inspection?

Answer: There is specialized equipment required to measure the depth and length of any cylinder damage.  The reason this is important is because the depth and length of the damage determines whether the cylinder can be repaired or must be replaced.


Question: When we hear about cylinder ruptures, what’s happening?

Answer: If a cylinder has ruptured, it is most likely due to external damage that was possibly not observed during inspection and properly addressed or was caused by a cylinder being damaged and the damage going unnoticed either because it wasn’t inspected or the inspector was not properly trained. To inspect cylinders properly, the shields have to be removed, allowing a visual inspection all the way around the cylinder. If the cylinders are located underneath the vehicle, the vehicle must be placed on a lift. The inspection includes examining each cylinder, cylinder valve, mounting brackets, pressure relief device (PRD) and the PRD vent line. The entire high-pressure portion of the fuel system also must be inspected for external damage. That portion of the inspection includes the fuel lines, regulators, coalescing filters, receptacle and solenoid valves.

Question: What happens if a cylinder is so damaged it must be disposed?


Answer:
The cylinder must be safely defueled and decommissioned according to manufacturers’ specifications or Compressed Gas Association (CGA) guidance documents.


Question: 
Speaking of manufacturers, do they have any liability in case of cylinder failure?


Answer:
Manufacturers provide a warranty for a portion of the useful life of the cylinder. These warranties generally cover manufacturing defects, but they do not cover road damage or other external damage.


Question: Do vehicle cylinders have a finite useful life?

Answer:
Yes. For use in the United States vehicle fuel storage cylinders for CNG are manufactured to NHTSA Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 304 and American National Standard Institute (ANSI) NGV 2.  These cylinders have a useful life of 15, 20 or 25 years from the date of manufacture. Once the cylinder reaches the end of its useful life as stated on the cylinder label, it must be defueled and disposed of in accordance with the cylinder manufacturers’ guidelines or CGA guidance documents.


Question:  
What is the most cost-effective way to provide for fuel system and cylinder inspection?

Answer: The best approach for a fleet owner, whenever possible, is to have in-house maintenance technicians trained to visually inspect the entire fuel system including the cylinders. General visual inspections, which are a cursory 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 observed to a cylinder shield or fuel system component during a general visual inspection should be reported to a trained fuel system inspector for proper evaluation and possible further inspection of the damaged component.

Question: What is covered in NGVi’s CNG Fuel System Inspector Training Course?

Answer:  Any compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel system inspection training needs to be comprehensive and cover the entire fuel system, from the vehicle fueling receptacle to at least the outlet of the high-pressure regulator—not just the fuel storage cylinders.  By the end of the training, I especially want the potential inspector to know how to assess the CNG fuel system and cylinder damage and determine the necessary steps to either correct the problem or safely dispose of the damaged component, including any damaged cylinders.


Fueling Options Are Growing
By Kasia McBride, NGVi Staff

While there has been ongoing concern about limited fueling infrastructure, recent developments in the market and initiatives to expand natural gas vehicle fueling indicate that the natural gas fueling infrastructure in the U.S. is heading in the right direction.  Today there are approximately 112,000-115,000 vehicles fueled by natural gas in the U.S. and more than 1,000 natural gas fueling stations. Just over half of the CNG fueling stations in the U.S. are available for public use.   Others are for fleet vehicles only. 

While gasoline prices continue to rise and generally be unstable, more fleets have started to recognize the precarious nature of being reliant upon imported oil for transportation.  Many of them have determined that natural gas vehicles make sense for their fleets—both operationally and economically. The list of commercial fleets converting to natural gas is striking, and includes Verizon, AT&T, United Parcel Service, Ryder, Waste Management, and many more.

In response to the increased demand, the number of CNG commercial vehicles available to choose from has grown over the past decade. In fact, we’ve never had as many NGV options as we have today, and product offerings continue to grow. The medium- and heavy-duty vehicle markets have a long list of trucks and buses available that are powered by natural gas.


The transit sector represents perhaps the largest contributor to the growth of natural gas transportation fuel sales the U.S. The latest data shows natural gas transit buses using 153.4 million diesel gallon equivalents annually.  In addition to medium- and heavy-duty markets, there are nearly a dozen manufacturers offering EPA-certified systems for light-duty vehicles.  It is not just the high fuel-use fleets that can benefit from CNG anymore.

Compare that data with the 2003-2007 time period in the U.S.  Since many light-duty original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) left the NGV market during those years, there was a strong correlation between the discontinuance of NGVs and the declining number of CNG fueling stations.

U.S. CNG Fueling Station Counts
Highlighting Years Following OEM Discontinuance of NGVs


Today the outlook for light-duty OEMs is on the upswing. Manufacturers, including Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler are getting back in the game. Ford now offers Transit Connect, and has teamed up with Westport Innovations to equip F-250 and F-350 trucks with a system needed to transition those vehicles to natural gas. GM will offer a bi-fuel model of the 2013 Chevy Silverado and GMC Sierra
, and Dodge has announced that it will start selling compressed natural-gas vehicles this year. 

 

Not surprisingly, the growth in the number of vehicles offered and the anticipated arrival of even more new vehicles coincides with new fueling stations being opened. Every week we see the number of announcements about new CNG station openings increase.

 
In 2011, Clean Energy, a major U.S. CNG retailer, completed 68 fueling station projects in 16 states, including five LNG truck fueling stations on America's Natural Gas Highway.  During the second half of 2011, the company received total investment commitments of $450 million, largely to fund substantially more fueling station development going forward. The company also plans to increase the number of truck stops that offer liquid natural gas.

 

Additionally, there are new developments from exploration and production companies, such as Chesapeake Energy, who are helping to rapidly grow the industry, and from gas utility companies who are returning their attention to, and getting involved in marketing NGVs to fleet customers.  For example, recently, Chesapeake Energy and General Electric partnered to bring natural-gas fueling to gas stations, combining GE's oil and gas technologies with Chesapeake's natural-gas knowledge in developing fueling solutions.  By 2015 , GE plans to provide more than 250 natural-gas compression stations called "CNG in a Box" The "box" is an on-site facility for compressing natural gas coming from a pipeline at a fueling  station or industrial location.

Evidence clearly shows that the role of natural gas in the U.S. is increasing. Rising energy prices, growing concerns about energy security, and increased awareness of the cost advantages and environmental benefits of natural gas are causing fleets to recognize that natural gas makes good business sense. In response to growing demand, CNG retailers have started to take advantage of the opportunities that the NGV transportation market brings.  There are many encouraging indicators that show improvement in the natural gas vehicle industry which, along with the new fueling technology developments, projects, and vehicle availability, should drive natural gas fueling infrastructure growth in the U.S. in a very positive direction for the foreseeable future.  

 


Test Your CNG Knowledge
By Annalloyd Thomason, Vice President/General Manager, NGVi

 

There is a lot of misinformation published on the internet and elsewhere about compressed natural gas (CNG) and sometimes it’s hard to determine myth from fact.  Test your CNG knowledge below by taking our True/False quiz.

Any and every type of vehicle can be legally converted to operate on CNG in the U.S.

False.  Only those conversion/power systems that have been approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and/or the California Air Resources Board (CARB) may be legally installed on vehicles.  Every approved system will have a Certificate of Conformity from EPA and/or an Executive Order (EO) from CARB.

NGVs are less safe than gasoline vehicles because CNG is stored in high pressure cylinders.

False.  NGVs are considered safer than gasoline vehicles because of that very reason.  Unlike the gasoline storage tanks made of plastic or sheet metal which can easily rupture on impact, onboard CNG fuel storage cylinders are manufactured to much more stringent standards.  They are designed to accommodate up to 1.25 times their nominal service pressure and come equipped with thermally activated pressure relief devices (PRDs) in case of fire. 

There must be a problem with some NGVs because I can’t get a full tank of fuel when I fill up.

False.  All onboard CNG fuel storage cylinders accommodate a maximum amount of fuel specified by the manufacturer.  If your vehicle isn’t getting a full-fill, the limiting factor isn’t with the vehicle but with the fueling station.  Some CNG stations provide temperature-compensated fueling, which automatically handles both ambient temperature and heat of compression during the fueling cycle.  Other stations—especially older CNG stations—may not have this feature, and the result is getting less than a full tank of CNG.  Another possible cause is that you may be fueling your vehicle from a lower pressure rated fueling nozzle.  A 3600 psi rated vehicle fuel system should be fueled from a 3600 psi rated fueling nozzle.  Some CNG fueling stations offer both 3000 psi ad 3600 psi rated vehicle fueling service.

NGVs inherently have performance problems.  My NGVs are very difficult to start, sometimes stall, and generally run “rough.”

False.  NGVs are designed and tested to perform comparably to their gasoline and diesel counterparts.  If your NGVs are experiencing difficulty starting, stall or run “rough,” there is likely oil in the fuel stream coming from the CNG fueling station.  This is a very common problem, and if proper maintenance procedures are not in place at the CNG station, oil eventually will make its way into the vehicle’s fuel system—affecting everything from fuel injectors to the onboard fuel storage cylinders.

Any company that maintains/repairs a gasoline or diesel fueling station is qualified to maintain CNG fueling stations.

False.  Because CNG is a high-pressure gas, CNG fueling stations operate very differently from liquid fueling stations and the maintenance practices and procedures are totally different.  Maintenance technicians must be  properly  trained and experienced in CNG before becoming truly qualified to maintain CNG fueling stations.

CNG fueling stations can be sized just like gasoline/diesel stations.

False.  There are design requirements unique to CNG infrastructure due to the physical properties of high pressure gas. These depend on the fueling requirements and pattern of the vehicles utilizing the stations. 

All pipeline quality natural gas used to make CNG is the same.

False.  Gas quality, including methane, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, water and other chemical components, varies depending on the source of the supply.  For example, the water content of gas from a local utility typically contains seven pounds of water per million standard cubic feet of gas. This level is low enough to prevent condensation, hydrate formation and freeze-ups in a pipeline and traditional end-use applications like heating or cooking, but it can cause problems for CNG fueling stations.  Gas dryers, installed at the CNG fueling station, can solve this problem and ensure the gas quality meets Society of Automotive Engineers fuel specification (SAE J1616).

My vehicle manufacturer/dealer/distributor is responsible to advise me when my CNG fuel system must be inspected.

False.  The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) requires all on-board CNG storage cylinders manufactured after March 1995 to be visually inspected every three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first. In addition, cylinders should be inspected following any accident or fire.  The vehicle owner is responsible to ensure that the CNG fuel system is inspected in accordance with the requirements—regardless of who actually performs the inspection.

Any vehicle maintenance or repair facility that services gasoline/diesel vehicles can safely service CNG vehicles.

False.  Traditional gasoline and diesel vehicle maintenance and repair facilities are designed to accommodate heavier-than-air liquid fuels.  To make them safe for CNG and/or LNG vehicles, these facilities must be evaluated and modified to safely accommodate lighter-than-air fuel and comply with all regulations affecting CNG and/or LNG vehicle maintenance.   

The required modifications to vehicle maintenance and repair facilities to accommodate CNG always require extensive measures like replacing existing systems with explosion proof lighting and doors.

False.  The codes affecting CNG vehicle maintenance facilities include the minimum requirements to ensure safety.  While there are others, three primary considerations include ventilation, heating systems and potential sources of ignition.  Usually, there are ways to ensure that a facility meets the code requirements without involving expensive measures such as rubber doors and replacing all lighting with explosion proof fixtures. 

 

 

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...  

Natural gas fueling infrastructure in the U.S. must meet numerous fire, mechanical, electrical and building codes and standards. Among the most important are National Fire Protection Association standards 52, 30A (Code for Motor Fuel Dispensing, Facilities and Repair Garages), 70 (National Electric Code), and American Society of Engineers (ASME) Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code, which includes siting and set-back issues, and strict construction and materials specifications.

If your organization is purchasing, building, operating or maintaining a CNG fueling station, it is crucial to understand the national codes and regulations that these stations are subject to.

Understanding the codes and how to apply them is a critical factor that contributes to the safe and successful sizing, design and construction of a CNG fueling station
.


NGVs & CNG in the News


NGVi Welcomes New Sponsors

Ferus deploys first LNG powered tractor in Alberta, Oil Voice

Officials celebrate opening of Montebello Bus Lines’ new compressed natural gas fueling station, Pasadena Star-News

GP Strategies Designs and Constructs Public LNG-CNG Station in Wisconsin, Market Watch

Pickens to talk about adding alternative fuel stations on Coast, SunHerald.com

Cummins Announces Development of 15-Liter On-Highway Natural Gas Engine, Market Watch

 

To read more, click here.











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Apps You Can Use: GreenMeter Upcoming Training from NGVi

GreenMeter is an app that measures a vehicle's engine power and fuel economy, and evaluates driving to increase efficiency, decrease fuel consumption and cost, and lower the environmental impact. Results are displayed in real time.






To download this application, go to the Apple Store.

CNG Fueling Station Design Training
April 10-11, 2012, Downey, CA 

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April 24-25, 2012, Newark , NJ


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April 26-27, 2012, Newark , NJ






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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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