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Out of the Blu(LNG): Gas Recapture System Is Born

Utah-based natural gas vehicle (NGV) fueling station developer/operator BluLNG has launched a gas recapture system for its compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) stations at an existing facility in Nampa, ID.

Offering both CNG and LNG fueling, often at the same station, Blu said it has a way to capture the boil-off gas from LNG storage tanks and return the captured gas to the local utility distribution system. At the Nampa site Blu's distribution system partner is Intermountain Gas Co. This is part of the ongoing "tinkering" nationwide with NGV technologies seeking more efficiency and cost advantages.

"Blu continues to lead the nation with innovative LNG fueling solutions," CEO Merritt Norton said. "By returning excess gas to the [utility] gas distribution system, we are increasing efficiency, saving money, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions."

The Salt Lake City-based company said the recapture system requires a "minimum investment" up front and is estimated to pay for itself within a year.

The new recapture system in Nampa is the first example of what Blu is touting as a longer-term initiative "to make LNG the preferred alternative fuel source" through implementing a series of efficiency improvements in its NGV fueling systems at other Idaho stations -- Jerome and Idaho Falls -- and eventually all of the company stations that have access to nearby utility distribution pipelines and cooperative local utility agreements.

Blu's announcement came at a time when several other innovations centered on CNG fueling tanks were surfacing including proposals for a non-cylindrical CNG fueling tank by materials customizing specialist REL Inc. The Michigan-based company, which has done work for the NASA Space Shuttle program, is developing a square fueling tank that costs one-third of today’s typical carbon fiber tanks.

Basically, REL is developing materials compatible with CNG fueling that ideally will be able to be formed in a variety of customized shapes. It envisions a tank along the lines of today's gasoline vehicular tanks that can be placed outside of a vehicle’s normal storage space.

REL officials anticipate that the new tanks "will revolutionize storage of CNG in vehicles." An internal foam core is reported to be key to the new design, and will "enable higher storage capacity than current carbon fiber tanks at one-third the cost."

The potential new equipment is part of a $3 million grant that REL won in 2012 from the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) advanced research projects agency. "Unlike normal hollow pressure vessels that are cylindrical, this internal foam design will allow tanks to be formed into any shape," according to DOE.

Separately, another entrepreneur announced earlier in August that he is seeking funds to develop a concept for putting CNG tanks on the roofs of bi-fuel passenger NGVs. Richard Wallace, a long-time NGV advocate, is trying to raise $25,000 on crowd-funding Internet website Kickstarter.com by Sept. 12.

Wallace told Fleets & Fuels newsletter that the $25,000 will allow him to obtain a pending $35,000 grant from the state of Pennsylvania. His goal is to develop a rooftop tank with an eight gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) capacity for CNG in a bifuel vehicle.

With dimensions of no more than a foot high, weighing about 200 pounds and being weather and accident-tight, Wallace said once he has the funding he hopes to design and produce a rapid-prototype in a matter of months.

In the more traditional CNG tank arena, Utah-based Optimum Composite Technology said it has the exclusive CNG fuel tank supply agreement with another Utah-based company, AGA Systems, which makes U.S. EPA-certified CNG-gasoline bi-fuel systems for the Chevrolet Equinox and GMC Terrain compact SUVs.

Optimum produces 6.8 GGE and 8.3 GGE capacity tanks that fit in the cargo areas of the smaller SUVs, according to Optimum's Chad Morgan, customer relations manager. AGA Systems' officials said they expect more than 500 of these GM vehicles to be converted next year.

Elsewhere, California-based Quantum Fuel Systems has announced a deal with Ryder Systems Inc. to supply it rail-mounted CNG tank systems for 80 Ryder trucks used in its leasing/rental fleets. Ryder will install the systems onto some of its CNG vehicles using its own network of certified installation facilities.

"...Ryder is creating opportunities to speed the adoption of NGVs in commercial fleets," said Quantum CEO Brian Olson. "Ryder's leasing and rental business model and expertise in NGV maintenance enables more businesses to experience the benefits of this new technology with minimal risk and maximum return on investment," Olson said.

Ryder's CEO has long touted natural gas as a "long-term, sustainable solution" for fueling commercial trucking fleets with or without federal incentives (see Daily GPI, May 21, 2012).

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