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Safety, Efficiency Drive NGV Fueling Innovations

Suppliers of fueling equipment to the burgeoning natural gas vehicle (NGV) sector have introduced several innovations aimed at safety, efficiency and cost effectiveness, including what one company is promoting as a "boost" for the use of compressed natural gas (CNG).

Cicero, IL-based Broadwind Energy, a compressor manufacturer for CNG, has developed a hydraulic compression technology, "CNG Boost," that it is marketing as an effective way to add capacity at existing CNG fueling installations. The hydraulic compressors can operate with a wide range of suction pressure without a regulator, the company said.

Partnering with a unit of Italy's Landi Renzo called Safe, Broadwind's add-on boost can maximize storage capacity up to 90%, while increasing fuel delivery by up to 19 gasoline-gallon-equivalents (GGE)/minute, according to the company. It also boosts efficiency by reducing the main compressor's starts and stops.

The two-cylinder, liquid-cooled compact design for the boost equipment allows installation in confined space, and can lower maintenance costs, according to Broadwind officials, who claim "zero maintenance" for the equipment due to its operating speed and oil-free design.

In regard to the CNG fueling cylinders, which reportedly have been subject to a number of rupture incidents, Columbus, OH-based Worthington Industries, a steelmaker that manufactures CNG tanks among a wide variety of products, contends that safety standards for the fueling tanks need to be elevated.

"Worthington believes NGV fleet operators, vehicle manufacturers, NGV upfitters and cylinder manufacturers invite significant product liability risk if they choose to follow current NGV cylinder standards," according to a recent report in Fleets & Fuels, an alternative transportation newsletter. There is much concern expressed about pending litigation and the allegedly checkered history of the CNG cylinders.

Worthington officials tout the fact that their fuel cylinders are built to higher gas transport standards that apply to aircraft, watercraft and railcars, as opposed to meeting CNG industry standards.

According to the fleet sector newsletter, citing Worthington's approach to its fueling cylinders, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulations for cylinders and the industry standard allow "a much lower design burst safety factor [2.25 times service pressure] than gas transport standards [at least 3 times service pressure]."

In addition, the NGV cylinder standards don't require demonstrations of impact tolerance in what is considered the critical cylinder sidewall region where the pressure stresses are at their maximum. The industry trade group NGVAmerica was contacted, but its chief, Matt Godlewski, wasn't able to comment at this time.

NGVAmerica President Matt Godlewski said the industry safety record for the fueling tanks has been good and that there is a committee of experts that looks at the standards and recommends changes in them on an ongoing basis.

In another part of the fueling mix, San Diego-based Clean Air Power (CAP) has inked a 12-month deal beginning June 15 to supply $374,000 worth of high-pressure coalescing filters to a major southwestern Volvo and Mack truck dealership network, Bruckner Truck Sales, a supplier of CNG fuel storage systems.

The supplier of various NGV dual-fuel system components, such as injectors, injector blocks, pressure regulators and hydraulic valves, CAP now has a distribution partnership for its Genesis-Edge dual fuel system with Bruckner. CAP touts the Genesis-Edge system as the only one in the United States with both U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California Air Resources Board (CARB) certifications.

Elsewhere, in the liquefied natural gas (LNG) part of the NGV sector, a new mobile fueling unit was unveiled by Linde's BOC during a commercial vehicle show earlier this month in Birmingham, England. For now the new fueling system is aimed at the alternative fuel markets in England and Ireland.

Noting that it can work with existing LNG transportation fueling systems, BOC's new mobile unit has mass-flow metering for more precise dispensing and will work with the existing fuel management systems in place to track fleet usage and trip data, the company said.

"The new unit eliminates LNG methane losses, saving money and emissions and delivering a quicker, consistent refueling time," according to BOC.

In the fueling station sector, Chicago-based amp Trillium, a joint venture of ampCNG and Trillium CNG, said last Tuesday it began construction of the first CNG station in Dalton, GA, and the new fueling facility near an interstate highway exit (326 off I-75) will open this summer.

The Dalton station will service all CNG vehicles, including class-8 trucks on a 24/7 basis. It will be ampCNG's second fueling station in Georgia. A year ago the company opened a station in Perry, GA, to serve Frito-Lay's fleet. The Georgia stations are part of 19 that ampCNG owns and operates nationwide.

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