Fuel tanks, which are considered the most costly part of the compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle fueling system, are seeing technology breakthroughs in the United States.

Southern California-based fueling system manufacturer Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide Inc. has patented a storage system for CNG vehicles. In addition, Minnesota-based 3M Corp. has gained natural gas vehicle (NGV) certification for its first CNG tank, which it is touting as lighter and more cost effective.

3M officials last week said they have combined improvements in both geometries and their proprietary 3M Matrix Resin, featuring “nanosilica technology to deliver a solution that is lighter, offers greater capacity and is more cost effective than similar tanks.” It is part of a collaboration between 3M and Chesapeake Energy Corp. announced last year (see NGI, Feb. 27, 2012).

3M’s Mike Roman, vice president in the company’s industrial adhesive and tapes division, said 3M is “enthusiastic” about the future of NGVs and thinks the tanks may help expand the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel. Initially the tanks will be available through five NGV upfitters around the country.

Quantum received a patent on its lighter fueling/storage system for CNG vehicles, adding to the company’s portfolio of NGV fuel storage and system technologies, alternative fuel vehicles and advanced vehicle propulsion systems.

Late last year Quantum officials said the company would expand products to make assemblies for the tanks as well, promising “a dramatic weight reduction and increased storage capacity.” Quantum since has received a patent for the system.

The product, a bi-directional fuel system, is made up of a fuel storage tank, a regulator and a check valve between the storage and the fill line. The check valve is configured to allow flow into the storage tank; a distal pressure delayer has an inlet connected to the fill line and an outlet is connected to the tank valve.

“The innovative pressure delayer provides important safety features to protect the various components during rapid natural gas refueling and consumption conditions,” Quantum said. The system uses “Q-Lite” storage tanks that the company said are “ultra-lightweight.”

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