Saturday, September 13, 2014

Filling Up the Tank of a CNG Vehicle

From the Clean Cities Blog:
When pulling up to a compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station, you may see some distinct similarities to a traditional gasoline station—a nozzle, a dispenser, and maybe even a nearby convenience store selling snacks. At first glance, the act of pumping gas into a natural gas tank is quite similar to that of filling a conventional vehicle with gasoline.

However, there is one very big difference when it comes to the fuel—CNG is a gas, while gasoline is a liquid. This difference means that your tank will fill differently with CNG than it does with gasoline.

For example, when you fill up an empty 20-gallon gasoline tank, you drive away with 20 gallons of liquid fuel no matter what time of year it is or how quickly the pump dispensed your fuel. This is not the case when fueling natural gas vehicles. In contrast, the amount of CNG that ends up in the tank when the dispenser shuts off will vary depending on the outside temperature and the speed at which fuel goes into the tank, among other variables. Lower outside, or ambient, temperatures at the time of fueling combined with a slower fill rate, for example, will result in a higher volume of natural gas in the tank when compared with higher temperatures or a faster fill rate.

It is easy to be confused by the final fill volume in a natural gas tank, because what is happening inside the tank can't be seen and vehicle operators tend to think in terms of the behavior of a liquid fuel. To demonstrate this phenomenon and help drivers and fuel providers understand what is happening, the Alternative Fuel Data Center (AFDC) website has just launched an interactive animation that demonstrates at what temperature and fill speed a driver can safely get the "fullest" fill of compressed natural gas.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Responding to the Wall Street Journal

NGVAmerica writes:

On Monday, August 25, 2014, the Wall Street Journal ran a story titled "Slow Going for Natural-Gas Powered Trucks." We are in the process of coordinating 300 word responses to the Journal with a couple of our companies. In the meantime, we have prepared for your information and use with local media and customers a more detailed response, which is below. You may also want to send a Letter-to-the Editor to the Wall Street Journal.

In his Aug. 25, 2014, Wall Street Journal article, "Slow Going for Natural-Gas Powered Trucks," Bob Tita states that North American sales of natural-gas-powered trucks "are just crawling along." Then in the next paragraph, he reports that the market is expected to grow by 20 percent in 2014. That's hardly crawling. In fact, it is extraordinary in a market where change generally comes slowly and the vehicles have a long service life. Some analysts did forecast even faster growth, but their exuberance shouldn't detract from the real, solid expansion of natural gas trucking. It also is important to note that many of those more optimistic forecasts were done two or more years ago, at which time the natural gas engine that represents the vast majority of the heavy-duty market in 2014 (the Cummins Westport ISX12 G 11.9 liter engine) was expected to be introduced in 2012. In fact, trucks with the bigger version of that engine did not begin entering the market until the fall of 2013—less than one year ago.
  • The author's math also is confusing. He states, "A big roadblock remains the premium for a heavy-duty gas truck—$50,000 more than the about $150,000 for a new diesel-powered truck. In theory, the payback for that higher price is recovered from fuel savings of between $1.60 and $1.70 for the gas equivalent of a gallon of diesel. Paybacks can average four years considering the average truck travels 125,000 miles a year." Using seven miles per gallon (which is generous for heavy-duty trucks) and 125,000 miles a year, a truck would use roughly 17,800 gallons of fuel each year. At $1.60 savings per gallon, that's a savings of almost $28,500 per year, or a payback of the $50,000 added cost in less than two years. Truck duty-cycles vary, and not every truck will see this fast a payback, but where they do apply, natural gas vehicle market penetration is expanding rapidly. For example, about 55 percent of all trash trucks purchased in the U.S. last year were natural gas powered, and this year that number is expected to grow to 60 or 65 percent. Similarly, 25 to 30 percent of all public transportation buses on order today are natural gas powered.
  • The author also uses some questionable facts to make his case. For example, he says that natural gas trucks make up only 2 percent of UPS' 100,000 truck fleet. That 100,000 vehicles represents their worldwide fleet of all trucks. In the U.S., UPS has only 17,000 heavy-duty trucks (the focus of this article), of which 1,000 will be natural gas powered by the end of the year. That will be almost 6 percent of its fleet in 2014 – an extraordinary penetration in a few short years.
  • The author also states, "Mileage from a natural-gas-powered truck is about 20% less per energy equivalent than a diesel truck …" Spark-ignition natural gas trucks do experience efficiency losses compared to compression-ignition diesel trucks, but, from all reports we have seen, the efficiency loss is between 5 and 15 percent depending on a truck's duty cycle. In some heavy-duty applications, such as refuse, performance is on par with diesel. It also is important to remember that advances in natural gas engine technology lags slightly behind advances in diesel technology. As diesel engine advances are incorporated into natural gas engines, the efficiency gap will narrow.
  • The article closes with a quote from Freightliner: "Long-haul, over-the-road trucking is not going to adopt natural gas for a long time." Unless you are in the business, this statement is deceptive. "Long-haul, over-the-road trucking" does not mean all interstate, over-the-road trucks. The Freightliner representative was referring to those interstate sleeper trucks where the same driver may travel to a different city from one day to the next—even across the country. These vehicles, which may represent 50 percent of the heavy-duty interstate truck market, would need a national interstate highway natural gas fueling network to be comfortable shifting to natural gas. This network is currently being built by companies such as Blu., Clean Energy, Kwik Trip, Love's, Shell, TrilliumUSA, TruStar and others announcing new truck stations weekly. In the meantime, the natural gas vehicle industry is seeing significant interest from heavy-duty regional, super-regional and the other truck fleets representing the other half of the heavy-duty truck market.
The author states that 10,480 new heavy-duty natural-gas-powered trucks are expected to enter the U.S. market this year. Assuming each truck will use 15,000 diesel gallon equivalents of natural gas per year, this would represent over 157 million diesel gallon equivalents per year—for heavy-duty trucks alone. When you also consider the growing market for natural gas in medium- and light-duty trucks, light-duty vans, SUVs and cars, and now heavy-duty off-road equipment, rail, and marine applications, it may be more accurate to refer to the natural gas vehicle market as "galloping along."

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Fuel-specific Information On The AFDC Station Locator Website

Question of the Month: What fuel-specific information is available through the Alternative Fuels Data Center's (AFDC) Station Locator website?

Answer: Most Clean Cities coordinators and stakeholders are familiar with the AFDC Station Locator website and the general station information listed there, such as the address, phone number, hours of operation, payments accepted, and who can access the station. You may not be aware of the fuel-specific information available. Below is a complete list.

  • Blends available: The blends of biodiesel available at the station, including whether different blends are available seasonally and whether customers may select customized blends. Note that the Station Locator only lists stations that carry blends of B20 (20% biodiesel, 80% petroleum diesel) and higher.

  • Mid-level blends: Whether or not the station carries mid-level blends (e.g., 30% ethanol blend, or E30) of ethanol via a blender pump or otherwise. Note that stations that carry mid-level blends, but not E85, are not included in the Station Locator.

Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment (EVSE)
  • Electric charging network: The relevant charging network, if applicable. Examples of charging networks include ChargePoint, Blink, and SemaConnect.
  • Port level and count: A list of the number of each level of EVSE charging equipment available. Levels include Level 1, Level 2, or DC Fast Charge.
  • Connector types: The type of connector available, including:
    • Level 1: NEMA 5-15, NEMA 5-20, NEMA 14-50, and J1772
    • Level 2: J1772
    • DC Fast Charge: CHAdeMO, SAE J1772 Combo, and Tesla
  • Legacy chargers: The number and type of legacy chargers available.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) also collects information on the EVSE manufacturer, power sources, pricing, and whether the equipment provides wireless charging. This data will be available in the Station Locator in the future. NREL is also coordinating with EVSE networks to provide real-time status availability in the Station Locator.

  • Station status: A website link for detailed information regarding the status of the station.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquefied Natural Gas
  • Fill type (CNG only): Whether the station has fast- or time-fill capabilities, or both.
  • Compression (CNG only): The compression pressure in pounds per square inch (psi). The compression can be 2400, 3000, or 3600 psi.
  • Vehicle accessibility: The vehicle sizes that can physically access the fueling station.

NREL also collects information on the total compression and compressor types (CNG only), gas provider, and whether the station has a generator to operate equipment during a power outage. Some of this data will be available in the Station Locator in the future.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Propane)
  • Services: The type of propane services available. Each propane station is designated as a "primary" or "secondary" service type. Both types are able to fuel vehicles, but locations with a "primary" designation offer fuel priced specifically for use in vehicles.

Using the AFDC Station Locator Data Download feature, users can obtain a detailed spreadsheet with the above fuel-specific station information for stations currently in the database. We encourage you to stay tuned as NREL is working to add new fuel-specific data and search options to the Station Locator database in the near future.

Clean Cities Technical Response Service Team

"Air, Climate, Energy, Water & Security Well-to-Wheels Report"

Download California Fuel Cell Partnership' new well-to-wheels report which summarizes the environmental effects of the most common vehicle/fuel pathways in California using Argonne National Lab's newest GREET model.

"What is the energy efficiency of a fuel cell electric vehicle?"
"How much water does it take to make hydrogen?"
"Do FCEVs reduce greenhouse gases?"

CaFCP often hears these questions at events and through our online channels. The answers are in Argonne National Lab's GREET model, which uses 120 fuel pathways and 85 vehicle/fuel combinations to assess the impact of fuel from well to wheels. This week, we published our new well-to-wheels report which summarizes the most common vehicle/fuel pathways in California using ANL's newest GREET model, developed with support from U.S. Department of Energy's EERE program. We also used data from U.S. EPA, Embarq, MotorTrend and the National Academies to report on transit buses, energy security and cost of ownership for FCEVs.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Potentially A Huge Advance In Nuclear Power

No, it's not another one of those cold fusion rumors. What would you think of fission power that was so clean it could be used to clean up the waste created by our current fission power systems...and what if it was also so efficient that it could provide 100% of the world's power through 2083 simply by burning the existing stockpiles of nuclear waste?

Leslie Dewan and Mark Massie who are nuclear engineering PhD students at MIT started working on their idea in 2010 and have formed Transatomic Power with an impressive team of scientists, investors, and entrepreneurs.

The product is an advanced molten salt reactor that consumes spent nuclear fuel cleanly and completely. Research on molten salt reactors goes back nearly to the beginning of the Nuclear Age, and Transatomic Power's designs use what was learned in that earlier research. "The main differences between Transatomic Power's molten salt reactor and previous molten salt reactors are our metal hydride moderator and LiF-(Heavy metal)F4 fuel salt. These features allow us to make the reactor more compact and generate electricity at lower cost than other designs." The Transatomic Power reactor can use "fresh fuel enriched to a minimum of 1.8% U-235, or light water reactor waste." An earlier design tested by Oak Ridge used uranium enriched to 33% U-235.

In addition to using a safer fuel, the reactor is far more efficient than reactors in use today. "Conventional nuclear reactors can utilize only about 3% - 5% of the potential fission energy in a given amount of uranium before it has to be removed from the reactor. Our design captures 96% of this remaining energy." As a result, the waste from a Transatomic reactor will be reactive for only a few centuries which is a solvable problem, as opposed to several millennia for waste from conventional reactors.

You can read their technical white paper here.
Transatomic Power's design also enables extremely high burnups – up to 96% – over long time periods. The reactor can therefore run for decades and slowly consume both the actinide waste in its initial fuel load and the actinides that are continuously generated from power operation. Furthermore, our neutron spectrum remains primarily in the thermal range used by existing commercial reactors. We therefore avoid the more severe radiation damage effects faced by fast reactors, as thermal neutrons do comparatively less damage to structural materials.

In a molten salt reactor, a radioactive fuel such as uranium or thorium is dissolved into fluoride or chloride salts to form a solution that we call a "fuel salt." The fuel salt is normally an immobile solid material, but when heated above approximately 500°C, it becomes a liquid that flows. Thus it is the liquid fuel salt, rather than water, that carries the heat out of the reactor. The plant can operate near atmospheric pressure with a coolant that returns to a solid form at ambient temperatures. This feature simplifies the plant and enables safety systems that do not require external electric power to safely shutdown, thereby assuring greater safety for the public.

Molten salt reactors are quite different from sodium fast reactors, even though many people think of sodium when they hear of salt. The sodium metals used by those reactors can release a hydrogen byproduct that is combustible in the presence of air or water. Our fluoride salts remove this fire risk, while further simplifying and increasing the safety of the plant design.

What about thorium? A version of our reactor can also operate using thorium fuel. Thorium has special merit as a nuclear fuel because of its generally shorter-lived waste and higher potential burn-up. The TAP reactor can also achieve the same benefits from uranium, which has an existing industrial base. Using uranium also lets us create a reactor that can slowly consume the world's existing stockpiles of spent nuclear fuel thereby providing a great benefit to society.

"When running on fresh fuel, the TAP reactor is able to generate up to about 75 times more electricity than a light water reactor per kilogram of natural uranium ore."

On their website they have a long list of news articles in various media

Here's a TEDx talk where the the young inventors explain the whole concept.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

CNG One Part Of Energy Solution

An editorial in the Southwest Times Record:
The American love affair with big, powerful, gasoline-powered vehicles has kept interest in cars powered by compressed natural gas tamped down, but there is evidence that we are changing.

Worldwide, there are tens of millions of CNG vehicles, but estimates place the number in the United States at just 185,000, we learned in a business report in Sunday’s edition. Of those 185,000, no more than 1,000 are in Arkansas with just 180 in the greater Fort Smith region, according to Tom Atchley, excise tax administrator for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration, which tracks the number of CNG vehicles.

Despite the low numbers, or maybe because of them, Barry Rowton recently opened Falcon CNG, a natural gas vehicle conversion shop, on Wheeler Avenue in Fort Smith. Mr. Rowton believes that as CNG fuel becomes more readily available, people will be interested in making the switch. In Fort Smith, AOG operates a station at its office on Waldron Road, and it is building a high-flow capacity CNG station near the airport. It also supplies the OnCue station in Arkoma. Falcon CNG is the only conversion outlet in the northwest quadrant of the state.

Why the interest? CNG sells for about $1.63 to $1.99 per gallon equivalent. That’s a nice reduction from the $3.30 to $3.40 per gallon that gasoline vehicle users are seeing. The conversion isn’t cheap: $7,000 plus a $2,000 to $4,000 conversion kit. Arkansas expects to have a rebate program available in the next fiscal year that will refund about half the cost of conversion with EPA-certified kits. Oklahoma’s 50 percent refund will be available whether or not the kits are EPA-certified.

Gasoline engines that go through the conversion can run on just gas, just CNG or a combination. Usually the default is to run on CNG and switch automatically to gas if CNG runs out. Converted diesel motors run on a mixture of diesel and CNG.

Is CNG for you? Maybe not today unless you put 80,000 miles a year on your vehicles. But maybe someday.

It’s clear that there is no single answer to ending our dependence on foreign oil. More likely a combination of things — solar, wind, natural gas, tar sands oil, even coal — will provide the answers. We are going to need to find ways to make using all of these things cleaner, safer and more efficient. Right now, conversion to CNG power is one part of the answer, a part that’s being researched here in western Arkansas.

Ryder - Natural Gas Vehicles

You know natural gas is gaining traction as an alternative fuel. It makes sense. Natural gas is an abundant, domestic resource; it's cost effective; and it's better for the environment. But is it right for your company -- right now? Let the experts at Ryder analyze your specific situation to see if your fleet can benefit from the many advantages natural gas offers.