A heavy-duty truck fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG) caught fire, destroying the truck and blackening the side of a nearby home in Chesapeake, VA. No injuries were reported.

The incident did not involve the TFC Recycling refuse truck’s CNG fuel tanks, nor was there a collision. The truck caught fire when hydraulic fluid leaked onto the truck body and was ignited when it came in contact with the vehicle’s exhaust system, TFC Recycling Vice President Paul Stacharczyk told Fleets & Fuels newsletter.

TFC officials reported that the CNG tanks vented as they are designed to do when under exposure to external heat through built-in pressure relief valves. That vented gas, however, was ignited by the earlier hydraulic fluid-caused fire. This was the first natural gas vehicle (NGV) fire ever reported in Virginia, according to state Clean Cities program officials.

Stacharczyk told NGI that the investigation and discussions with TFC’s CNG equipment suppliers are ongoing, but the incident will not change the company’s plans to run more of its fleet on natural gas.

“We still have a high regard for the technology; this was just, for lack of a better term, a fluke accident,” he said. “I’m confident when the investigation is done we will be able to make the appropriate changes, so it is not going to change our approach at all.”

Late last month in Buffalo, NY, a CSX freight train rammed into a CNG-fueled tractor-trailer truck (see Daily GPI, June 26). An explosion and fire erupted when some of the truck’s CNG fueling tanks were reportedly punctured, resulting in burns to both the truck driver and train conductor.

Meanwhile, Sempra Energy’s Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) has joined forces with the California Trucking Association (CTA) to promote the benefits of NGVs to trucking fleet owner/operators.

SoCalGas is now an “Executive Circle Club Partner” in CTA, according to Shawn Yadon, the association president, who said CTA “recognizes the importance of natural gas to the continued success of the trucking industry.”

In its new partner role, SoCalGas Vice President Rodger Schwecke said the utility will host a series of natural gas trucking workshops in Los Angeles and San Diego in which fleet operators that have already switched to natural gas trucks will relate their first-hand experiences with the fuel. The workshops are set for July 14 in Banning, Sept. 15 in South San Diego, Oct. 14 at the SoCalGas Energy Resource Center in Downey, and Nov. 3 in Burbank.

The workshops will include presentations on an NGV business case and funding, natural gas fueling infrastructure, and the SoCalGas truck loan program.

Also in Southern California, the Orange County Transit Authority has gotten approval for two contracts to purchase 218 CNG Xcelsior New Flyer transit buses. The contract includes 202 New Flyer XN40 Xcelsior 40-foot buses and 16 XN60 60-foot articulated Xcelsior buses.

With the additional purchases, the transit authority will have 556 New Flyer NGV buses, according to the bus manufacturer.

In Canada, Montreal’s Gaz Metro Transport Solutions and General Electric’s GE Capital have inked a strategic agreement they think will help the Canadian trucking industry adopt natural gas as a fuel in eastern Canada.

Under the agreement, Gaz Metro will work with fleet operators to get natural gas supplies, and the GE unit will provide loans or leases for NGVs. And the partners are supplying fuel and financing for both CNG and liquefied natural gas (LNG) fleets.

Gaz Metro operates Blue Road LNG fueling stations in Canada, including public access stations in Levis and Sainte-Julie in Quebec and in Cornwall, Ontario. A fourth station is set to open in Riviere-du-Loup, Quebec, continuing along the main transportation route in eastern Canada.

In the hydrogen transportation space, Toyota has announced a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-estimated single-fill range of 312 miles for its hydrogen fuel cell-powered Mirai, with a combined fuel efficiency of 67 miles/gallon equivalent. Toyota said the car is already being sold in Japan and will be available in California later this year.