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Adsorbent Natural Gas Tank Applied to First NGV Fleet Van

One of two technology advances for the use of adsorbent natural gas (ANG) fuel tanks in natural gas vehicles (NGV) has been installed in a commercial fleet van by California-based Cenergy Solutions.

A fleet customer sent a 2001 Dodge Ram B2500 van with a 5.2-liter V-8 engine to Cenergy for modification to use the ANG fueling tank system, according to Fremont, CA-based Cenergy COO Gary Fanger, who said the vehicle was originally made by Chrysler to run on compressed natural gas (CNG).

Cenergy technicians added an ANG tank, then tested the van to gauge performance and gas flow to the engine. ANG has been around for the last two decades, but several technological challenges have kept it from potential commercialization until now, according to Cenergy and others in the industry.

"Adsorbed natural gas simply makes the physical storage and performance of the fuel delivery work better on board the vehicle," Chris Galati, an engineer with one of Cenergy's research partners, Portland, OR-based NW Natural, told NGI earlier this year. "It allows more CH4 molecules in the gas to readily adhere to the surface of tanks, and the more surface area you can create, the more molecules you can contain in a tank."

Fanger told the heavy-duty trucking magazine Truckinginfo earlier this month that Cenergy has been getting "great results" from the van under a variety of conditions, including steep grades in the mountains near the company's facilities in Northern California. "You couldn't tell the difference" whether fuel was taken from the ANG tank or stock CNG tanks.

A California state-approved test of a vehicle is ongoing by Cenergy, and other tests are coming with its partners (see Daily GPIApril 17).

Coined by a German physicist in the late 19th century, "adsorption" is a surface-based process, compared to the more common "absorption" in which a whole fluid permeates or is dissolved by a liquid or solid.

Boasting a patent-pending technology, Cenergy's ANG system promises greater single-fill fueling ranges with compressed natural gas (CNG) tanks based on lower pressure requirements, according to Cenergy.

Another approach to wringing more CNG out of an NGV's tank system was noted in November when University of California, Berkeley chemists who have developed a "metal-organic framework" (MOF) offered it as a possible method to simplify and increase the range of NGVs when they published their findings online in advance of a report appearing in the journal Nature  (see Daily GPINov. 4).

MOF, a porous and flexible material developed by a team led by chemistry professor Jeffrey Long, may allow CNG fueling system manufacturers to pack more methane into tanks at lower pressures and temperatures, allowing for longer driving ranges and less hassle at the pump, which is the goal Cenergy is also pursuing.

Separately, the first of the previously announced 2016 Ford F-150 V8 pickup trucks capable of running on CNG or propane rolled off the production line in Kansas City recently as announced last spring (see Daily GPIMay 4).

Ford officials are promoting the new versions of the F-150 as being able to run on gasoline, gaseous fuels (CNG or propane) or both. The range is 750 miles with the bi-fuel gasoline-CNG or gasoline-propane engine packages, according to Jon Coleman, Ford fleet sustainability and technology manager.

Meanwhile, the use of biomethane received added support in the West and the South as the city of San Mateo, CA, broke ground for a new CNG station that will use biomethane and major alternative fuel fleet operator United Parcel Service (UPS) decided to use biomethane in 140 heavy duty trucks operating out of Memphis, TN, and Jackson, MS.

UPS senior executives told the Fleets & Fuels newsletter that renewable natural gas, which includes biomethane, is "a critical part" of UPS's strategy to expand its fuel sources and minimize the environmental impact associated with growing customer demand. "We are using methane that otherwise would be released into the atmosphere," said Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president.

San Mateo's new station is set to be located adjacent to the San Francisco International Airport, providing new CNG fueling to the city municipal fleet. The biomethane will come from the city's wastewater treatment plant.

Unison Solutions is providing BioCNG purification equipment to upgrade the treatment plant biogas to biomethane, along with supplying ANGI Energy's equipment for compression and dispensing of the CNG.

In the bus sector, which is a growing market for NGV fueling, Canada's New Flyer Industries said last Friday it is acquiring Motor Coach Industries International (MCI) for U.S. $455 million. New Flyer officials said they will be adding North America's leading motor coach provider. MCI's J4500 model has been the industry’s best selling intercity coach for 11 consecutive years.

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