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Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.- based Patriot CNG has broken ground on a new fast-fill compressed natural gas (CNG) station for Florida City Gas, a wholly owned subsidiary of Atlanta-based AGL Resources.

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by Scott Levine, The Motley Fool Dec 11th 2013 3:22PM

It's not uncommon to see eyes roll at the mention of alternative fuel vehicles. Perhaps, it's because people relegate these vehicles to a distant future with images of silent highways populated by whizzing electric cars. The reality, however, is that alternative fuel vehicles are becoming increasingly popular among car buyers. For some, it's the financial benefit, for others it's the environmental, and for a small number it's the convenience. But, in the end, it may be the last reason, which is the tipping point in the widespread adoption of, specifically, natural gas powered vehicles.

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Ed Pompey, a 24-year-old Johnson College student, grew up in the heart of the Marcellus Shale boom in Susquehanna County.

Mr. Pompey is studying at Johnson College in Scranton to be a diesel mechanic. He thinks compressed natural gas, or CNG, will be the transportation fuel of the future.

"It's a great opportunity if I take advantage of it," he said.

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Dallas Area Rapid Transit expects to cut its fuel bills by 60% or even 65% through 2020 via a combination of hundreds of new CNG vehicles and an eight-year natural gas supply contract with the state.

The Texas contract for natural gas will take the agency's average fuel cost down to about $1 per gallon, says DART VP Mike Hubbell.

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Bills could deliver sizable subsidies over a decade
November 3, 2013 11:29 PM

By Marc Levy / Associated Press
HARRISBURG -- The discovery five years ago that the Marcellus Shale, the nation's largest natural gas reservoir, could spew big profits and cheap, homegrown energy has -- in turn -- spurred gas-friendly state officials to run up a growing taxpayer-funded tab to encourage the use of the hydrocarbonsBills pending in the Republican-controlled Legislature could deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies over a decade -- possibly approaching $1 billion -- and that's in addition to the expanding number of checks being written by Gov. Tom Corbett.

With the assent of lawmakers, Mr. Corbett, a Republican who says the industry has the potential to reindustrialize Pennsylvania, has tapped four pots of money for more than $30 million for natural gas projects.

That includes money for a processing project by plastics maker Braskem SA of Brazil, pipeline construction to link facilities of French drugmaker Sanofi SA, scores of compressed natural gas vehicles and about a dozen fueling stations. About one-fifth of that money is drawn from a $200 million-a-year drilling fee on the industry.

On top of that, lawmakers last year approved what could become the state's biggest taxpayer-paid economic development incentive ever -- possibly in excess of $1 billion over 25 years -- to entice the construction of a multibillion-dollar petrochemical refinery to convert natural gas liquids into ethylene for the plastics and chemicals industries. Netherlands-based oil and gas giant Royal Dutch Shell PLC is considering it.

Patrick Henderson, a deputy chief of staff for Mr. Corbett who spearheads the administration's energy policy, couldn't say how much money the administration ultimately would be willing to spend to encourage natural gas use.

Some of the subsidies were drawn from economic development incentive money that is designed to spur hiring, and it was coincidental that natural gas was a key aspect of the project, Mr. Henderson said.

Otherwise, Mr. Henderson said, the state so far has made a "relatively modest investment of dollars" for compressed natural gas vehicles and fueling stations, primarily to convert diesel-powered bus and truck fleets.

The argument for Pennsylvania's rising natural gas vehicle subsidies is that the money boosts the local economy by favoring a domestic industry and diversifies the nation's fuel sources by displacing oil that is more expensive and often from abroad. Supporters also tout natural gas as a cleaner energy source, but researchers at the Engine Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions at West Virginia University say there is very little difference in pollution from a new diesel engine and a natural gas engine.

The Corbett administration wants to strategically plant vehicles and fueling stations to encourage public- and private-sector fleet managers to invest their own money in the enterprise, Mr. Henderson said.

"If we can get one or two into your fleet and show you it works, you're more inclined to buy going forward," Mr. Henderson said. "That's really the goal, to have mini-demonstration success stories in a host of fleets. Our goal is not to buy 20 vehicles for the guy who has 20 in his fleet."

Other states also offer an array of subsidies that encourage natural gas use, but a comprehensive tally does not seem to exist.

Of the bills pending in the Pennsylvania Legislature, up to $60 million a year in a wide-ranging transportation funding bill passed overwhelmingly by the Senate in June would be available to help the state's mass transit agencies convert their fleets to "an alternative energy source, including compressed natural gas."

Mr. Henderson was noncommittal toward several other House bills that, combined, would devote an additional $360 million over a decade to natural gas vehicles and fueling stations.

"It is a lot of money," Mr. Henderson said. "We do have to be mindful of that."

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By Anya Litvak / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A spate of new compressed natural gas stations is in the works in southwestern Pennsylvania at a pace that could double the number of places available in the region to fill up CNG-powered vehicles within two years.

A joint venture between Washington, Pa.-based Shale Hotels Inc. and Coolspring, Pa.-based "O" Ring CNG Fuel Systems LP, which builds stations, is planning a facility in Bentleyville, Washington County, just down the street from the Best Western and Holiday Inn Express hotels where odd-hour breakfasts and boot-washers service the rig crowd. Many companies in the Marcellus Shale industry are converting their fleets to run on CNG.

Shale Hotels manages a group of hotels owned by Kam Gosai and a group of other doctor investors. Tejas Gosai, owner and president of the hotel company and Dr. Gosai's son, said from now on, when he builds a new hotel, he'd like to throw in a CNG station.

There's potential for two to four more such stations through his partnership with "O" Ring, Mr. Gosai said. He'd like the next one to be at Southpointe, but finding land there has been difficult.

Other potential sites would be north and south of Southpointe on I-79, and somewhere near New Stanton.

Mr. Gosai, for one, is going all in on the American fuel independence promise.

He has swapped his Honda for a Dodge, which he plans to convert to CNG. In the meantime, he's working on getting his family's stainless steel DeLorean (think "Back to the Future") running and converted to compressed natural gas. Mr. Gosai already has registered the domain

There are five public CNG stations in southwestern Pennsylvania: EQT's Strip District facility, Giant Eagle's Crafton and Cranberry locations, American Natural's Station Square station, and Waste Management's Clean-n-Green station in Washington.

Another six stations to the north and east of the city are within an hour and a half drive, including four public stations owned by "O" Ring.

At least three other CNG stations are planned in the region.

IGS Energy, an Ohio-based energy marketing company, is looking to build a station in Mount Morris, Greene County, according to Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities.

Beemac Trucking is finishing up construction of a station in Ambridge that is scheduled to open before the end of the year. Beemac is converting its fleet of trucks to run on natural gas.

Giant Eagle is doing the same. In the past several years, the O'Hara-based grocer has received more than $2 million in grants from the state's Department of Environmental Protection for alternative fuel vehicles and infrastructure. It has partnered with Volvo to increase the size of the CNG engine in certain trucks and has committed to buying them.

"O" Ring president Bob Beatty has seen the CNG business grow at his own stations, where business doubles weekly, he said. His company also has helped to install 17 other CNG stations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland over the past six years.

Another eight are on order, Mr. Beatty said, including those in the joint venture.

The average cost is about $2 million per station.

"Seven or eight years ago, it was an idea," he said. "Six years ago, we hadn't built our first station yet. Now we have eight public stations under contract.

"We're providing the chicken, so lots of eggs are being laid."

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The idea of powering vehicles with natural gas isn't new. Since the 1920s, there have been trucks and other vehicles fueled by natural gas. But, with advances in technology and the low price of natural gas relative to other fuels, truck companies are increasingly looking at options that include CNG or compressed natural gas and LNG or liquefied natural gas.

At stake: millions of dollars in savings for truck and transportation companies. "There's big money on the table," Jim Arthurs said.

Arthurs is the president of Cummins Westport, a joint venture between Cummins Inc and Westport Innovations Inc. Between them, Cummins Westport and Westport are responsible for nearly every naturalgas engine in medium-and heavy-duty trucks installed in new vehicles in North America today. Both companies are Vancouver-based.

"Fuel is more than 80 per cent of the operating cost, sometimes 90," Arthurs said.

On average, a truck might run more than 1.2 million km throughout its lifetime and use 160,000 gallons of diesel fuel. If savings are $1.50 a gallon - an amount that varies, Arthurs notes - fuel savings can be in the $200,000 to $240,000 range for engine where gas is injected under high pressure.

Conventional gas engines have slightly lower fuel economy, but savings could still be in the $160,000 to $200,000 range, Arthurs says.

A major issue for trucks is storing enough gas, which takes far more room than conventional diesel.


Natural gas fuel comes in two forms, liquefied and compressed. Natural gas has to be compressed into either form to make it economical for on-theroad use because four times as much natural gas is required to get an equivalent amount of energy as from diesel fuel.

Storage for CNG, which is stored in pressurized tanks, "needs to be four times bigger to get the same range out of your truck," Arthurs said.

This is fine in a transit bus or garbage truck (both transit and waste management companies have been early adopters) which are operated close to their depots and refuelling.

But for a bigger truck that might require more range, further compression is required. That's where liquefied natural gas comes in. Liquefying natural gas requires super-cooling the gas to -160 C. "The fuel tanks are basically like big Thermos bottles," Arthurs said. "They're a dualwall vacuum-insulated tank. You put it (LNG) in the tank and keep it cold."

The equivalent energy of one cubic foot of diesel fuel takes about 1.8 cubic feet in LNG form.

"You've got a lot more range for the same amount of space on the vehicle," Arthurs said. "It's still not as good as diesel or gasoline, but much, much closer than what you get from CNG."

To use LNG, it is run through a heat exchanger and is warmed back up to a gas.

However, with LNG and CNG, there's not enough heat to create combustion in a regular diesel engine. To combust, the gas requires either a spark-ignited natural-gas engine (LNG and CNG) or high-pressure direct injection (LNG).

It is the technology for the high pressure direct injection method, which uses a small amount of diesel to ignite the natural gas, that was developed at UBC in the early 1990s, Arthurs says.

"Originally, the company was targeting the heavy-duty truck engine base with the new technology," Arthurs said.

Joint venture

This technology gave rise to Westport Innovations, which has continued to develop and commercialize engines using high pressure direct injection.

In addition, Westport formed a joint venture with Cummins in 2001 to develop and commercialize natural gas engines using spark ignited technology.

Both companies make new engines. Retrofitting existing diesel engines is uncommon, though there are some companies that retrofit truck engines to a mix of CNG and diesel, Arthurs says. Most are in the U.S. and "limited to doing older trucks because they don't meet current U.S. EPA emissions standards, but the EPA does allow older trucks - 400,000 miles old - to be modified with a CNG system. It's not a big business yet."

Companies that retrofit trucks are "competition in one way, but ... not in another," Arthurs said.

As yet there is no LNG infrastructure, so the more wheels on the ground using the fuel makes it better for everyone.

"A truck fleet never goes out and buys all new trucks," he said. "You tend to replace 10 trucks a year. We've got customers where they say, in order to get natural gas, I need to get some fuelling capability where I'm operating."

Lack of stations

There are close to 1,300 stations offering CNG in North America, Arthurs says. In Vancouver there are seven stations with CNG. But there are only 80 LNG stations in North America, with a similar number in development. They are generally found on large highways. Solutions including convincing gas stations to provide LNG or CNG in their location, but it's often not worth it for the amount of traffic it will bring.

Another solution is fuelling up at home, so to speak. That's what a number of Vedder Transport trucks do.

In 2011, the Abbotsford-based company replaced 55 diesel tractors with 50 LNG vehicles and, in conjunction with FortisBC, opened its own fuelling station.

The company was looking for an alternative fuel source for two reasons, says Vedder president Fred Zweep.

"Vedder is predominantly food-grade application, and our clients were challenging us on an ongoing basis to reduce our carbon footprint," he said. "So we were looking at different ways of trying to reduce that carbon footprint."

Greenhouse gas emissions are down from those produced by the diesel fleet, he says.

"We feel we're emitting between 25 and 30 per cent less greenhouse gas emissions by operating that natural gas technology," he said. "We're seeing that in our oil samples. They're far cleaner in a natural gas environment than a diesel environment. We think we're going to see a longer life to the equipment as well."

Reducing emissions

Before 2010, natural gas engines were much cleaner than diesel engines, Cummins Westport's Arthurs says. But the U.S. EPA tightened emissions requirements in 2010. "Since then, diesel engine emissions levels have been reduced by over 90 per cent and natural gas and diesel engines now have fairly similar environmental profiles," he said.

Vedder was also looking for a more durable technology.

"Nobody in North America pulls the type of weight that we pull with that natural gas equipment," Zweep said. "Now, two years into operating those 50 vehicles, we are pushing in excess of 400,000 kilometres on some of that equipment, and in excess of 5,500 hours. You're getting some good utilization on that equipment that you can use to determine whether or not you're getting the durability out of it. And we certainly are."

Arthurs says the cost-benefit of operating the trucks "is still under review."

Other fleet owners are wary of the new technology, Zweep says. But that's starting to change.

"Now that we've been leaders in adopting the technology, and people are starting to see the results, there are other fleets now that will be bringing on LNG," he said. He estimates between 50 and 60 additional Class 8 (over 33,000 lbs.) LNG vehicles will be on the road in the next year.

And when there are more natural-gas-fuelled vehicles on the road, Vedder will be ready.

"One day, when people become more engaged with the technology, we would like to convert our fuelling station to a retail operation," he said, "so that it will be accessible to anyone transitioning to either a CNG or LNG technology."

© Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun

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WASHINGTON -- General Motors said it will sell a version of the Chevrolet Impala sedan with the ability to switch between gasoline and natural gas, part of the automaker's plan for taking advantage of a U.S. drilling boom that has made natural gas a more viable fuel for cars.


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Rising fuel costs has forced those in law enforcement to think outside the box. CNG power vehicles are becoming the future of the Wagoner County Sheriff's Department. A black F-150 XL and the first truck they have equipped for compressed natural gas.


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Ford announces that the 2014 F-150 will be available this fall. The half-ton pickup features a 3.7-liter V6 engine and can operate on either natural gas or gasoline through separate fuel systems.

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Florida Governor Rick Scott has signed HB 579 into law, which replaces the state's alternative fuel annual decal fee program with a new tax structure for compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, and propane auto gas, and establishes a rebate program for natural gas fleet vehicles. The vehicle rebates will cover up to 50% of the incremental cost of the natural gas or propane vehicles, limited to $25,000 per.

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