NGVConnection Newsletter - November 2011
NGV Industry Charts New Course
By Annalloyd Thomason, Vice President/General Manager, NGVi

Recently, I joined nearly 200 other NGV industry representatives at NGVAmerica’s Annual meeting in Fort Worth.  Having advocated the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel for more than 20 years, it was gratifying to look around the room and see and feel the excitement and real momentum building around the market for natural gas vehicles and fueling in North America.  There was a sense of determination and evidence of real achievement that I have not witnessed in nearly a decade.

 

One of the highlights of the meeting was a presentation titled “Defining ‘There’:  Pegging Market Growth Potential and Benchmarks” given by David Hill, Vice Chair of NGVAmerica and Vice President of Operations for Encana Natural Gas.  David accurately assessed that from the year 2000 until recently, NGV market growth has been relatively flat lined, but quickly went on to describe the increasing momentum that will positively affect the market for NGVs and fuel—citing new entrants into the marketplace, collaboration, new products, new market segments, industry consolidation, unprecedented price separation between oil and natural gas, product expansion—and of course, the abundant supply of North American natural gas.

 

The industry’s vision of success also includes concrete, measurable and achievable goals.  The projections for 2025 without federal incentives include 3.1 million vehicles, 12.5 billion GGE (or 1.5 TCF) of natural gas and 4,000 fueling stations.  This would reportedly equate to a 1.3% share of the current transportation market, a 25% compound annual growth rate and 7.3% petroleum displacement.

 

To achieve these results, the industry has evaluated the basic requirements to penetrate the light-duty and heavy-duty markets.  For light-duty, the significant factors include home fueling, increased fueling infrastructure, consumers’ adoption of NGVs, OEMs manufacturing viable makes and models of NGVs, competitive pricing and the necessary supply chain.  For heavy-duty, the needs include multiple engine platforms, more fueling infrastructure, OEMs manufacturing a wide variety of engines and vehicles and supply chain growth. 

 

In looking at the projections, I believe they are challenging but achievable with focus.  Someone recently said to me “Natural gas for transportation has so much going for it right now—this is its time” and I agree.  Many of the significant factors that were missing a decade or more ago have been (or are being) put in place, but two things stand out for me.  First is the willingness on the part of industry stakeholders to invest the millions of dollars required to successfully and sustainably commercialize natural gas vehicles and fueling.  Second is the significant increase in gas supply and the continuing pressure to decrease our dependence on foreign oil.

 

David Hill pointed out in his presentation the length of time it took some of today’s most common household products to obtain a 50% market share in the United States, and the numbers were surprising.  The refrigerator reportedly took 20 years; color television took 15 years; the telephone took 53 years; automobiles took 22 years and cell phones took 16 years. 

By comparison, the industry projections for natural gas vehicles by 2025 seem very reasonable.

>>Back to Top


The Symptoms, Diagnosis and Prevention of Oil Carryover
By Leo Thomason, Executive Director, NGVi

 

A large transit agency was experiencing engine performance problems with their natural gas buses. Their contracted service technician, responsible for maintenance of the fueling station, diagnosed the problem as an engine issue. NGVi was brought in after explaining to agency management that the sealed fuel system onboard the vehicle allows gas to flow only one way, making it improbable that the oil could leak from the engine into the onboard fuel system.

The technician in question, like many working on natural gas vehicles, assumed a vehicle problem even though the majority of engine performance issues are attributable to oil carryover, which is a problem that begins at the fueling station. If the vehicle is hard to start, hesitates under acceleration, runs rough or stalls frequently, chances are the problem is with oil from the natural gas fueling station compressor carrying over into the vehicle fuel system. Once compressor oil gets into the on-board fuel system of a vehicle and travels through the high-pressure regulator to the fuel rail and fuel solenoids, it can be very costly to repair. In one such instance, a relatively new bus had to be repaired at a cost in excess of $2,000 due to oil carryover. Fortunately, oil carryover is a preventable issue. Here are some tips on how to identify, solve, and then prevent the problem in the future.

Diagnosis

 

Natural gas used for vehicular application and delivered from a CNG fueling station must be free of any solid material, water or oil. The heart of the natural gas fueling station is the compressor and most compressors require lubrication (oil). Over time, it is impossible to prevent some amount of the lubricant from leaking into the fuel stream. Specific equipment, called coalescing filters, are designed to remove any liquid or solid contaminate in the high-pressure natural gas. Coalescing filters need to be installed downstream of the compression system, before the compressed natural gas enters the time-fill or high-pressure storage system. They also need to be installed on the vehicle to ensure that oil does not get into the onboard fuel storage cylinders and ultimately into the engine.

Ordinarily, a technician would use computer diagnostics to evaluate an engine performance issue. In the case of oil carryover, when the OEM vehicle is plugged into the computer, it will not show an engine problem because the problem is with the fuel. However, there are several inspections you can perform to verify oil in the vehicle’s fuel system.

 

  • Remove and inspect the vehicle’s fuel injector or spark plug. If it’s black or if there’s oil on the fuel injector or spark plug, it’s an indication that there is oil in the vehicle’s fuel system coming from the fueling station’s compressor.
  • If there’s a coalescing filter on the vehicle, depressurize the system and unscrew the bowl on the bottom of the filter housing. Look inside the filter bowl and determine if there’s liquid oil in the bottom of the coalescing filter housing. If there is, it means there’s oil in the entire fuel system, including the onboard fuel cylinders.
  • If the vehicle doesn’t have a coalescing filter, depressurize the fuel system and remove the high pressure regulator to inspect for oil. If you find oil, there’s oil in the entire fuel system, including the onboard fuel cylinders.
  • If for some reason you must remove the onboard fuel storage cylinder from the vehicle, if you drain the cylinder, the presence of oil would provide further verification that the oil is coming from the fueling station’s compressors. It is not recommended that you remove the cylinder just to prove the existence of oil.

Solution

 

Fuel provided by a third party

The fueling station operator may not want to hear that the station is the source of the problem. You can demonstrate oil carryover by putting a Q-Tip inside the vehicle’s receptacle, removing it and checking for oil. If oil is present, it is coming into the vehicle via the fueling receptacle. Then go to the station fueling nozzle and repeat the Q-Tip exercise. Again, you should see oil on the Q-Tip, proving your point.

As demonstrated by the transit example in the opening paragraph, if there’s oil in the vehicle onboard fuel system it has to be coming from the fueling station because the fueling system onboard the vehicle is sealed and gas only flows in one direction – toward the engine.

If you own the fueling station

There should be a coalescing filter inside the housing of each dispenser, one for each hose. The fueling station also should have no less than two coalescing filters between the discharge of the compressor and the inlet to the high pressure storage system. These filters should be located as close to the storage as possible, because the gas has more opportunity to cool and the oil to drop out and be captured in the filter element. The filters should be inspected and drained periodically. If upon inspection there is oil in the coalescing filter bowl, the filters should be drained daily until there is no more oil.

The vehicle

If there is a coalescing filter in the fuel system you must drain it several times a week until liquid oil ceases to flow. First depressurize the system and unscrew the bowl on the bottom of the filter housing. Look inside the filter bowl and determine if there’s liquid oil in the bottom of the coalescing filter housing. If oil is present, then you may have to repeat the depressurization and drain process several times a week. You also can clean the spark plug and the fuel injectors. In severe cases, it could take several weeks to remove the oil from the system.

Prevention

 

Fortunately, there are many ways to prevent oil carryover problems. The following five recommendations provide a starting point to eliminate oil carryover and improve fuel system operation and reliability.

Recommendations:

  • Include a fuel quality standard with liability clause in contract for third party fuel.
    Read NGVi’s Technical Paper: Clause and Effect: What to Look For In an Effective Natural Gas Transportation Fuel Contract at www.ngvi.com.
  • Install at least the minimum number of coalescing filters on the fueling station.
  • Install at least the minimum number of coalescing filters on the vehicle.
  • For CNG vehicle operators/maintenance technicians, develop and implement comprehensive preventative maintenance practices, including routine filter inspection for vehicles.
  • For station owners/operators, implement training specific to the CNG fueling equipment operated including operation, diagnostic and maintenance practices necessary to ensure clean fuel and highest fuel system safety, operation and reliability.

 Conclusion

 

Once the recommendations above are implemented, the oil carryover issues should cease and thereby eliminate the poor vehicle performance caused by oil carryover. However, training and maintenance, on both the station and vehicle sides, are crucial to keep the problem from returning. It is important that the equipment installed to facilitate the removal of oil be properly sized, located and maintained. With maintenance technicians properly trained in the current maintenance and operation practices specific for the equipment installed at their station or on their vehicles, they will be able to diagnose a potential equipment or system problem well in advance of equipment failure, thus ensuring the cleanest fuel and highest fuel system safety, operation and reliability.


APTA Expo 2011
By Lawrence McBride, NGVi Staff (photos by author)

NGVI’s Executive Director, Leo Thomason, and I recently attended APTA Expo 2011.  The event was held from October 3-5 in New Orleans, and although final attendance totals were not available at the time of this publication, it was apparent that attendance was high.

The expo occurs every three years in conjunction with APTA’s annual meeting, and according to their website, the EXPO is “public transit's premier showcase of technology, products and services”.  NGVi’s booth was nestled inside the NGV Zone, organized by NGVAmerica for APTA attendees to have a single place to view and discuss all the natural gas vehicle related products and services available to transit agencies. 

APTA Expo 2011 proved to be a unique opportunity to talk with thousands of previous, current, and potential customers, as well as to meet with vendors, and talk in-depth about their products and services.

NGVi’s  work focuses primarily upon helping clients safely integrate natural gas as a transportation fuel into their fleets.  Although NGVi does not manufacture hardware, helping clients put their own natural gas-based fleet solutions together is our primary goal.  Achieving this goal is done primarily through two channels: consulting and training.   NGVi provides these services not only to public transportation authorities, but also to OEMs, small-volume manufacturers and suppliers, and of course to fleet owners.

Here is a brief round-up of the sorts of information exchange, and product demonstrations that were occurring at nearly every turn:

Marc Hurt, Director of AFV at SSP Fittings Corporation, displayed some of the many solutions his company has developed for fueling CNG vehicles, such as a double-ferrule tube fitting – which is leak-proof –and stainless steel bent-to-order tubing (for use in fueling systems).  SSP’s high-pressure tube-bending capabilities are to the point that if you can conceive of it, they can probably manufacture it for you.   After showing me some of the wide variety of products they provide, Hurt proceeded to demonstrate some of these assemblies, quickly putting together an array of real-world configurations, using parts from his hardware-covered booth.

Hurt then asked a neighboring vendor if he could borrow a piece of hardware from his display table to demonstrate the interoperability between products.

The vendor, Andreas Willfort, CEO of WEH Technologies, Inc., immediately agreed.  Once Marc had completed his assembly, Mr. Willfort proceeded to demonstrate and showcase his compressed natural gas fueling nozzle – which looks similar to the conventional fueling “gun” used at gasoline stations. His hardware is unique among CNG fueling system accessories.  According to Willfort, “the WEH nozzle is deceptively simple, and to a gasoline customer, it is an intuitive nozzle to use.”  But the engineering that went into this high-pressure nozzle is anything but simple. Willfort pointed out that the built-in filter at the end of the nozzle is self-cleaning.  When the coupler is released after fueling a vehicle, the depressurization of the connection actually cleans the filter – protecting the owner’s investment, and assuring that no particles or grit enter the fueling system during normal use.

Across the aisle from Willfort’s booth,  Joseph Shinn, EV Department Manager, at Clean Fuels Connection (CFC), showcased his NanoBox.  Shinn said the NanoBox is the smallest version of CFC’s “fueling-station-in-a-box” series.  Crane-deliverable, self-contained, and rapidly deployable, these units are manufactured by Argentina based Galileo, but are exclusively distributed by CFC in North America.  Efforts are underway to bring a manufacturing division to the United States, to provide a fully “US-made” solution.  According to Shinn, the Nanobox, and its higher capacity brother, the MicroBox, could revolutionize the industry if deployments go as planned.

The new NGV technologies displayed at APTA are indeed exciting, and give natural gas vehicle customers a wide array of high quality products to choose from.  They are also just another of many factors influencing the high degree of success NGVs are having in the transit market.


Who Won the Kindle?

While attending 2011 APTA EXPO in New Orleans, NGVi held a drawing to win a free Kindle plus a $50 Amazon gift card.  We are delighted to report that Mr. Rodney Middleton of Central Arkansas Transit Authority was the winner.  This turns out to be a great fit for him, because he is an avid reader.

Rodney was kind enough to take a few moments and answer several questions to be included in our announcement.

  • How did you hear about NGVi?  There was an email sent to me prior to attending APTA informing me that you were technical consultants on NGVs and your booth number.  The information in the email showed that you were a good source of information for people who might be headed in the CNG direction.
  • What is your role at your company? I am currently the Director of Maintenance for the Authority.  I maintain the buses, para-transit vehicles and our electric streetcars. 
  • Are you associated in some way with the natural gas industry?  We are currently looking to purchase buses for 2013.  The board will have to decide if we are going to get diesel or CNG vehicles. 
  • What was your reaction to the news that you had won the Kindle? I was thrilled and I let the whole office know about it. They know my love for reading.

 

  • What is your favorite genre of book to read? My favorite genre of book to read is science fiction.

Well congratulations to you, Rodney!  Enjoy some good books through the coming winter!


LNG: Receiving Renewed Attention
By Kasia McBride, NGVi Staff

In the past few years in both the U.S. and globally, there has been growing interest in Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) as a transportation fuel, to meet growing demand and to provide supply flexibility to an increasingly competitive natural gas and energy marketplace.  With its relatively low cost per diesel gallon equivalent (DGE), and with it being the cleanest burning fuel readily available, LNG offers a favorable solution for fleet managers.

 

According to the International Association of Natural Gas Vehicles, there are more than 12 million natural gas vehicles worldwide, including those powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) and LNG. The number of both CNG and LNG fueling stations is increasing. This growth in LNG fueling infrastructure is, of course, key to the increased purchase and use of LNG-powered vehicles.

 

“Significant recent developments have redefined the natural gas playing field,” said Leo Thomason, Executive Director of Natural Gas Vehicle Institute. “From port regulations that focus the spotlight on LNG, to diesel fuel prices that can be at least $1.60 per gallon more than compressed or liquid natural gas, the marketplace has aligned to draw renewed attention to this clean burning fuel.”

 

Some major LNG developments have been implemented due to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which was signed into law by President Obama on February 17, 2009.  The goals were to improve the U.S. LNG infrastructure and increase energy independence.

 

ARRA projects, some of which are already completed or being implemented, include:

 

  • The Ontario-Las Vegas LNG Corridor Expansion Project: project planned to complete a regional LNG fueling corridor across the southwestern U.S., making the final connection between the existing public access LNG fuel infrastructure in Southern California and the LNG fuel stations being developed in Utah.
  • South Coast Air Quality Management District's Heavy-Duty Natural Gas Drayage Truck Replacement Initiative: project planned to replace 180 diesel drayage trucks at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach with LNG trucks.
  • San Bernardino Associated Governments' J.B. Hunt LNG Truck Project: project planned to deploy 262 heavy-duty LNG trucks in Southern California and construct two LNG refueling stations in San Bernardino and South Gate (South Los Angeles) to support J.B. Hunt's initial LNG truck operations, and will allow the fleet to add additional LNG vehicles in the future.
  • Greater New Haven Clean Cities Coalition, Inc.'s Connecticut Clean Cities Future Fuels Project: This project was planned to deploy 163 CNG high-mileage taxis and 18 heavy-duty LNG refuse trucks. Infrastructure to be deployed includes three CNG stations and one LNG/CNG station along with infrastructure for other alternative fuels. DOE estimates that the initiative will help displace 1.4 million gallons of petroleum annually.

Other developments towards LNG deployment include:

 

  • United Parcel Service has bought 48 heavy tractor trucks equipped to run on liquefied natural gas, bringing its long-haul LNG fleet to 59.
  • The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA run about 1,000 LNG trucks.
  • Almost half of Santa Monica’s bus fleet runs on LNG. 
  • The City of Sacramento, CA, has recently purchased 53 more LNG refuse trucks for its fleet.

 

In addition to growing role inside U.S., there is also growing demand for North American LNG worldwide driven by increased supply capacity and low cost of the fuel.

 

As a result of this high demand, BG Group and Cheniere Energy Partners, L.P., have recently signed an agreement for the purchase of 3.5 million tons per annum (mtpa) of LNG over a 20-year term from a terminal located in Louisiana.

 

This is the first long-term LNG purchase agreement from a project on the US Gulf Coast, allowing BG Group to secure LNG volumes for export from the US to international gas markets. LNG exports are expected to commence as early as 2015. This is a big step toward the globalization of natural gas markets and will put the United States into direct competition with other LNG exports.

 

So what exactly is LNG?

LNG is composed mainly of methane. It is natural gas that has been cooled to the point that it condenses into a liquid. This condensation occurs at a temperature of approximately minus 259 degrees Fahrenheit. In this form it is a colorless, odorless, non-toxic fuel. In the transportation industry, LNG is especially popular among heavy-duty fleet operators because it allows for increased driving range when compared to CNG.

 

Why use LNG for your fleet?

LNG has many characteristics that distinguish it from other fuels. First, liquefaction reduces the volume of natural gas by 600 times, which makes it more economical to transport and easier to store. Second, natural gas is widely available and can be a renewable resource. Domestic natural gas reserves are estimated to be 237.726 trillion cubic feet, according to the Energy Information Administration. In the U.S., there are more than 113 active LNG facilities, found at marine terminals, storage facilities, and LNG vehicular fuel operations. Third, LNG vehicles produce fewer emissions compared to traditional and other alternative fuels. Fourth, because LNG transforms from its liquid state into a gaseous state readily before it is consumed in the engine, it is far more efficient, and because it does not contaminate the engine, it reduces wear and tear which adds to engine life. This, of course, is an additional economic benefit. Finally, LNG has an excellent safety record. There have been no reported burn accidents, loss of life, or other serious injuries related to the use of LNG as a vehicular fuel.

 

In conclusion, there is little doubt that the role of LNG is increasing both nationally and globally. Its low cost, physical properties and safety record make LNG a very favorable fueling choice for fleets. Nationally, several planned developments, such as the Ontario-Las Vegas LNG Corridor project, as well as the planned deployments of a vast number of heavy-duty LNG vehicles, make LNG one of the premier fuels for fleet managers. Projects such as these could serve not only the business interests of our region, but also promise to keep attention focused on alternative fuel technology like LNG for the foreseeable future.


Question of the Month  

Q: I’ve heard you can obtain home refueling for NGVs. How can I get it in my area?

A: Home refueling systems are also called Vehicle Refueling Appliances (VRA). There are at least two of products on the market for home refueling including the BRC FuelMaker’s Phill, distributed by IMPCO and NatGasCar’s Ecowise. A qualified dealer will be able to assess whether the VRA will meet your needs given your vehicle type, daily fuel needs, CNG tank size and pressure. Additionally there must be natural gas service to your home.

VRAs should only be installed by trained and certified personnel. Check with your local utility company for more information.



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 July 2011)

 

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)

$3.70

$3.69

$0.01

per gallon

Diesel

$3.95

$4.04

$0.09

per gallon

CNG

$2.07

$2.06

$0.01

per GGE


NGVs & CNG in the News
NGVi Sponsors

Daily News 11/2/11

US LNG Terminal Begins Operations, South Jersey Gas to Build CNG Station, New Northeast US Gas Line, Prototype CNG Engine Hits the Road

Daily News 11/1/11

CNG Initiatives in Virginia, Atlanta Gas Light Approved for Nat Gas Stations, Fleets Honored for Using Natural Gas Vehicles, Company Survives with Innovation

Daily News 10/31/11

GA PSC Regulators Consider Funding for CNG Stations, Companies Look to Sell Natural Gas for Carolinas’ Vehicles, Natural Gas Vehicles Option for City, Wyoming Legislators OK Funding for Minerals-to-Fuels Studies

 

To read more, click here.


Press Releases & Annoucements: Upcoming Training from NGVi

Lend Your Expertise for Standards Development of Alternative Fuel Vehicles and Fueling Stations


CNG Cylinders International Initiates Production of the World's Largest Diameter Type 3 CNG Cylinder

CNG Fuel System Inspector Training
November 15-16, 2011, Corona, CA

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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.

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