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CNG Goes On Pre-Easter Roll

Led by the recent announcement that Portland, OR-based NW Natural and a Seattle-based storage tank manufacturer are partnering on an effort to allow more compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles on the road, the Easter week provided a number of advancements in the CNG part of the natural gas vehicle (NGV) space. Some of the others were centered on advances for CNG in trucking.

EnerG2, a Seattle-based developer and manufacturer of "next-generation" storage tanks, and NW Natural are joining forces to improve NGV fuel storage for onboard tanks used for CNG. EnerG2 and the Oregon-based gas utility are going to develop a new "adsorbed" NGV technology, the two companies said.

The companies said they intend to complete a series of bench tests and vehicle road tests in the second quarter, expecting to confirm the long-term viability of the technology and help shape development of the products. EnerG2 holds a patented carbon technology applicable to lower the costs of the tanks.

"Our carbon adsorbent material for natural gas enables tremendous design efficiency and no wasted space because a low-pressure tank can be shaped more like a traditional gasoline tank to fit in a space onboard a vehicle that is about half the size of a high-pressure cylinder," said Aaron Feaver, chief technology officer and a co-founder of EnerG2." Feaver called the NW Natural partnership a demonstration project.

EnerG2's adsorbent technology (a solid substance that adsorbs another substance) is intent on changing the way natural gas tanks on vehicles are designed and function. The partners are hoping to increase the number of NGVs on the road since tanks have been the most costly part of using CNG in cars and trucks.

They also allow similar volumes of gas to be stored at lower pressure levels of 500-800 psi, compared with the standard CNG pressure levels of 3,000-3,500 psi, according to EnerG2.

NW Natural's Chris Galati, CNG program manager, said the adsorbent material packs inside an existing CNG tank and increases the energy density of the natural gas at a given pressure, allowing vehicles to travel farther. A CNG tank with adsorbent material could contain 20% more energy at certain pressures and extend the vehicle range proportionally.

Another firm, Utah-based dHybrid Systems, said earlier in April it plans to unveil a back-of-the cab truck-mounted CNG cylinder assembly at the ACT (Alternative Clean Transportation) Expo next month in Long Beach, CA.

"It eliminates 1,000 pounds and the need for side-rails [in back of the truck cab]," said Trevor Milton, dHybrid's vice president for technologies and sales. Weighing 2,800 pounds empty and including mounting hardware, Milton claims it will be the "lightest in the industry."

The company is hoping that its new tank configuration will eliminate "many of the hurdles that the natural gas fuel system industry has encountered" during the past few years, including issues of weight, range, chassis clearance, and the length of time for installations.

Separately, US Oil's Gain Clean Fuel announced five more CNG truck fueling stations in Wisconsin: three with Time Transport and two with J Rayl Transport, including one at its Ohio headquarters, which has been acquired by US Oil.

Gain GM Bill Renz said his company now operates 11 CNG stations, has another 12 under construction and plans to build 100 nationwide in the next three years. "We're on track to add at least 30 new stations per year," Renz said.

Elsewhere, other CNG stations opened. Atlanta Gas Light and its partners, Premier Transportation, last Monday opened a new CNG facility at Forest Park, GA, and in Ohio IGS CNG Services and Speedway brought a new station online in Findley, OH, south of Toledo.

Following the fueling station expansions, various fleet operators announced plans to add vehicles. High Plains Bioenergy in Oklahoma ordered 103 Kenworth CNG T800 tractor trucks for its business distributing products such as clean diesel and the fats used to make it.

A Seaboard Foods subsidiary, High Plains will have two more fueling stations from TruStar Energy, which is planning its first station in Oklahoma.

Nearby in Lincoln, NE, refuse trucks and buses are being switched to CNG. Black Hills' Nebraska utility is teaming with Lincoln-based Uribe Refuse to eventually operate 17 dedicated natural gas-powered trucks during the next few years. The refuse trucks will be using fueling tanks provided by Lincoln-based Hexagon.

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