On a national basis, compressed natural gas (CNG) as an alternative transportation fuel continued to make progress in mid-August, with developments including new conversion standards in California to hip SUV fleets on the Las Vegas Strip.

There also had been some reports that President Obama's swing Thursday and Friday through upstate New York and northeastern Pennsylvania might include a CNG station stop, but that could not be confirmed. Natural gas as a transportation alternative has been bolstered by the exploration/production companies operating in the nearby Marcellus Shale.

In the West, the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which offers the coveted certification for natural gas vehicle (NGV) conversion kits along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), earlier in August offered a preview of its proposed changes in its certification process. CARB's board will review the proposed changes at a meeting in late September.

Washington, DC-based NGVAmerica expressed support for the move in California, calling the current requirements "cumbersome and antiquated." The CARB standards have been in place since 1995. Some of the proposed changes include:

  • Allowing NGV conversion systems approved for new vehicles to be sold for used and in-use vehicles;
  • Cutting down on the numbers and types of demonstrations required, but continuing to require demonstrations of a vehicle's catalyst and fuel systems, along with its emissions controls; and
  • Waiving evaporative emission testing for sealed fuel systems.

 

Most of the proposed changes would only be in place for an interim period covering the normal automobile model years of 2014-2017, according to NGVAmerica.

In Las Vegas, MGM resorts, the large multi-casino/hotel operator, said it was converting six Cadillac Escalades to run on CNG and gasoline with World CNG performing the conversions for the gaming resort operator's fleet, which already has 26 CNG-dedicated stretch limos.

The Escalades each have GM 6.2-liter V-8 engines with natural gas fuel equipment from Utah-based AGA Systems. The stretch limousines each have three CNG tanks that collectively provide 15 gasoline gallon equivalents of fuel.

In a new twist, Seattle metropolitan area's Pierce Transit is operating all of its 143 CNG buses on renewable natural gas (RNG) from the local King County Cedar Hills Landfill. The RNG from the landfill is converted to CNG.

The bus operator is now eligible for renewable energy credits verified by the Western Washington Clean Cities Coalition (WWCCC). Pierce is supposedly the first transit agency in the nation to switch all of its CNG buses to use RNG.

 "It sends a very important signal to other fleets that are using CNG," said WWCCC's Stephanie Meyn.