What fleets think about investing in alternative fuel technologies while pump prices stay low, according to Worthington Industries

Worthington Industries CNG tankFor Worthington Industries, displaying at 2015 ACT Expo was a smart move for announcing new product technologies to fleet operators interested in natural gas and propane autogas vehicles. Wayne Powers, alternative fuels general manager at Worthington Industries, talked to Green Auto Market about what fleets are thinking about alternative fuel vehicles during a time when gasoline and diesel prices stay down; and the experience Worthington Industries has in storage and transporting of compressed natural gas, propane autogas, LNG, and hydrogen, plus lightweight materials used in passenger and commercial vehicles.

At ACT Expo, the company introduced its largest-diameter compressed natural gas fuel cylinder – a 26.2-inch-diameter Type III carbon fiber-on-aluminum tank. Its inner aluminum liner dissipates heat during fast-filling allowing for an additional 15% to 25% more fuel storage compared to Type IV cylinders of similar size, Worthington Industries said. Fleet operators of Class 8 heavy-duty and refuse trucks were very interested in the cylinder, which is expected to reach final certification in late June, Powers said.

Worthington Industries staff also connected with fleets interested in propane autogas vehicles during ACT Expo. Last year, Worthington won approval by American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) of its propane autogas fuel tank designed to avoid wasting cargo space; the steel tanks are at the forefront of leak prevention, Powers said, and Worthington Industries is the only North American company to offer the toroidal tanks that have been popular throughout Europe. Worthington saw the need for the convenient tire-sized tanks in the U.S., and faced the stringent ASME propane autogas fuel tank regulations head-on to earn approval, the company said.

Pump prices for gasoline and diesel have dropped dramatically in the past year. During ACT Expo, Worthington Industries saw both sides of the issue from fleet operators, Power said. Fleets deploying CNG and propane-powered vehicles continue maintaining their interest in vehicle acquisitions, albeit at lower demand than a year ago. Fleets and transit bus operators will continue acquiring the vehicles, tanks, and infrastructures. However, fleets that are new to the technologies say they’ll continue to stay “on the sidelines” for now, Powers said.

Stationary storage and fuel transport delivery also have been strong markets for Worthington in the US and overseas, and that includes hydrogen. Bulk gas transport to industrial gas producers and fueling sites have seen strong demand in the hydrogen market, he said. Powers says it’s been helpful for the company to remain “fuel neutral” and make its storage technologies available for users of hydrogen and other alternative fuels. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is seeing a lot of interest in the market, especially for LNG transport trailers.

The “lightweighting” trend in vehicle manufacturing, tied to US Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy and emissions mandates, has also paid off for Worthington Industries. The company has been known for several years as a maker of composite cylinders using a wide variety of metals. All of the OEMs have alternative fuel programs; Worthington cylinders reduce overall weight in fuel systems and provide the right tanks for OEMs to meet emissions and safety standards, Powers said.

Natural gas vehicles may be hurt in California by CARB decision on Low Carbon Fuel Standard

NGV fueling stationAs the NGVAmerica North American NGV Conference and Expo starts up today in Kansas City, Mo., one issue is inevitably going to be mentioned by speakers and at luncheon tables. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) just-released proposed changes to adopting the state’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard would give natural gas vehicles lower clean fuel ratings as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. That would likely mean less funds will be available for grants, incentives, and through participation in California’s cap-and-trade credit market.

NGVAmerica is challenging CARB to refrain from adopting its proposed GREET 2.0 model that puts natural gas lower on the scale due to emissions of unburned methane escaping from a natural gas vehicle’s tailpipe. “We respectfully urge CARB to refrain from making changes in the California GREET model at this time,” NGVAmerica’s Jeffrey Clarke, director of regulatory affairs and general counsel, wrote in a letter to CARB. Similar letters have been filed by Clean Energy Fuels Corp, Westport Innovations, the California NGV Coalition, Southern California Gas Co., and others. They’re making the point that the methodology CARB used in its proposed policy drew from obsolete data; and it was released in October with only nine days to respond.

The Low Carbon Fuel Standard and the cap-and-trade market came from the passage of AB 32 in California with targets to reduce greenhouse gases to 1990 levels by 2020. Credits being traded by oil companies, refineries, utilities, and other carbon producers through cap-and-trade have brought more funds to the state with a sizable chunk of it now being available for clean transportation projects. There will be an important meeting by CARB coming up in February on adopting changes to the Low Carbon Fuel Standard that will affect the future of natural gas vehicles in the state.

Renewable natural gas (such as Clean Energy Fuel Corp.’s Redeem fuel) has made financial gains through California’s carbon credits. Whether biomethane will be included in CARB’s natural gas vehicle cutback is yet to be seen.

Another significant development coming up in 2015 is transportation fuels being added to the cap-and-trade system. Starting in January, oil companies and refineries will begin adding fuel that ends up in gas stations to the credit allowances that they buy that make up for the excessive greenhouse gases that they’re releasing at their refineries. In 2015, they’ll have to buy extra allowance credits to pay for the emissions coming from gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel sold in the state. One major oil company is sending a loud warning to the legislature and residents of California: this will cause a big spike in gasoline prices.Chevron Corp., based in San Ramon, Calif., has been warning that gasoline prices will spike up because of AB 32 implementation adding fuels to its cap-and-trade list next year. State officials and economists don’t see this happening, but it has been an effective argument for Chevron and its oil industry colleagues to make. Gasoline prices aren’t expected to go up next year, but their analysts warn that adding transportation fuel to the carbon credit market could jack up credit prices, which will make its way back to gasoline and diesel going up as much as 50 cents a gallon at gas pumps.

CARB chairman Mary Nichols says that it will take a few years for transportation fuel to see the effect of cap-and-trade. Compliance starts on January 1, but it’s phased in over time. Transportation fuel was added to the cap-and-trade process later than other energy sources to make adoption of the rules more viable, she said. Transportation fuel is the single largest source of carbon pollution in the state and bringing it in after credits being used by electric utility companies and other industries has expanded the number of allowances in the system and makes the whole program much more liquid, she said. 

Making the case for natural gas vehicles

NGV fueling stationIt was interesting to read a Houston Chronicle reporter’s account of the Natural Gas Vehicle USA conference, which just took place in that city. Ryan Holeywell’s conclusion in “The road ahead still isn’t clear for natural gas trucks,” is that companies are quite skeptical about investing in natural gas vehicle (NGV) conversions.

Holeywell cites some impressive sources; UPS can’t get a return on investment in natural gas-fueled tractors unless they travel 500 miles a day, according to Jeff Yapp, UPS vice president for global automotive engineering and operations. Dennis Beal, vice president of global vehicles at FedEx Express, said that trucks that run on natural gas cost much more than their gasoline and diesel counterparts.

I would say there are a few points about the alternative fuel missing from that article………

Fuel cost savings:  Compressed natural gas has been costing users about $2.25 recently in gasoline-gallon equivalent (GGE) pricing compared to diesel, which has been in the $3.90 range recently; gasoline has been about $3.65 in the national average price. Diesel and gasoline prices are likely to go up in the wake of the conflict being experienced in Iraq and instability within other key suppliers of oil to the US market. Energy analysts expect natural gas pricing to remain stable in the US over the next 10 years due to the abundant supply. Several fleets are in the process of making or reinstating contractual agreements with CNG suppliers to lock in the fuel price over a period of time. While alternative fuel tax credits expired at the end of 2013, businesses would be able to take another $0.50 to $0.75 GGE off that price if the tax credits come back; that could bring the cost of CNG down to as low as $1 GGE in some locations, said John Coleman, fleet sustainability and technology manager at Ford Motor Co.

UPS and FedEx are supporters: UPS does see natural gas as the “big game changer,” according to Scott Wicker, the company’s chief sustainability officer. The transport company can save 40% in fuel costs running its long-haul semi-tractor fleet on natural gas instead of gasoline or diesel. Reducing gasoline and diesel is part of the company’s mission to cut emissions and operate more efficiently, Wicker said. FedEx is testing out CNG and liquefied natural gas (LNG) vehicles in its fleet; Frederick Smith, chairman and CEO of FedEx Corp., expects 5% to 30% of all US long-distance trucks to be fueled by CNG or LNG over the next 10 years – as the cost of the trucks come down and fueling stations become more common.

Incentives: While federal tax credits expired at the end of 2013 on the fuel, there are several state programs out there that can reduce the cost of vehicle conversions and fueling. If you look at the US Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center, there’s a map of the US by states to click on. In Texas, when the new fiscal year begins in September, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will administer its next NGV Grant Program. Qualifying vehicles must be on-road vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 8,500 pounds and must be certified to current federal emissions standards. TCEQ can also award grants through the Clean Transportation Triangle Program, which supports the development of a network of natural gas fueling stations along the interstate highways connecting Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, and Forth Worth.

Fueling infrastructure: Besides privately held CNG and LNG fueling stations, publicly accessible stations are starting to see the light of day. The US Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center reports there are now 713 CNG stations and 53 LNG stations in the US. These numbers tend to increase each month and are expected to provide a refueling infrastructure alongside the nation’s highways in the near future.

Emissions reductions: As panelists talked about at the Natural Gas Vehicle USA conference, the challenges and costs to deploy NGVs can be pervasive. Building NGV refueling stations can be up there in cost, and conversions can be in the $8,000 to $18,000 range depending on the vehicle’s weight and other factors. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions by about 25% compared to diesel and gasoline engines does help make the case. Waco-Texas based Central Freight Lines has 114 CNG vehicles in its 1,600 unit fleet; driving range has fallen short of that needed for fleet operations that were estimated when installing 75-gallon CNG tanks into its trucks. All that being said, the company remains committed to the technology and has 50 more NGVs on order. “We’ll continue to invest in CNG because we’re committed that it’s the right thing to do and the right way to go,” said Mari Borowski, director of business development for Central Freight Lines.

ACT Expo 2014 sees strong attendance and a broad platform for alternative fuels and technologies

ACT Expo 2014Alternative, clean transportation appears to be gaining support – as evidenced last week during ACT Expo 2014 at the Long Beach, Calif., convention center. Now in its fourth year since inception, the conference’s attendance was up – perhaps as many as 4,000 attendees, making it the largest event of its type in the US and perhaps the world. ACT Expo keynote speakers, workshops, ride and drive, and an expanded exhibit hall, featured the latest in alternative fuel vehicle technology, the regulatory environment, and cost-benefit analysis by fleets.

ACT Expo has become something of a broad platform for fuels, vehicles, and technologies of all types to be well represented, and for stakeholders in these industries to network. The American Trucking Associations worked with organizers of the event for the first time this year; NAFA Fleet Management Association also played a key organizing role along with the US Dept. of Energy’s Clean Cities, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the EPA’s SmartWay Transport Partnership.

Another innovation launched this year was co-located events. Propane Education & Research Council was one of the leading sponsors of the event and held its “Lead the Way” propane autogas summit; NGV Global held its annual conference in tandem with ACT Expo and led a Technical Forum; California Hydrogen Business Council held its spring summit there; “Alternative Fuel Toolkit for Local Governments, Fleet Managers, and Employers Workshop” was presented by another leading sponsor, South Coast Air Quality Management District; and “Women in Alternative Clean Transportation Summit” was organized by ACT Expo management firm Gladstein, Neandross & Associates. There were a few field trip events coordinated with ACT Expo as well, including a heavy-duty natural gas tour with site visits to the Clean Energy station at Port of Long Beach and the Waste Management Carson station featuring LNG and CNG fueling.

The kickoff keynote speaker during Tuesday’s luncheon was Dennis Slagle, executive vice president group truck sales & marketing Americas, Volvo Group. The truck manufacturer aims to be the world leader in sustainable transportation through its Volvo, Mack, UD, Prevost, Novobus, and other heavy duty truck and bus brands. Volvo operates a comprehensive green vehicle portfolio in transport with natural gas, clean diesel, dimethyl ether (DME), and bi-fuel vehicles. Volvo is working with Cummins on bringing in a 13 liter LNG engine next year. Slagle called for a common sense regulatory approach in Washington, and asked for renewal of expired tax incentives.

Erik Neandross, CEO of event organizer Gladstein, Neandross & Associates, led a panel right after Slagle’s presentation featuring prominent leaders in the industry. Clean Energy Fuels president and CEO Andrew Littlefair gave some interesting statistics including heavy duty trucks using 25 billion gallons of natural gas last year, taking the lead, by far, as a user category. There are 19 million natural gas vehicles in operation globally today, but only 142,000 are in the US. There is a lot happening out there, and Littlefair made reference to supermarket giant Kroger’s announcement that day on how it replaced 40 diesel trucks with that same amount of LNG trucks in Oregon.

Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) president and CEO Roy Willis said that in addition to light and medium duty trucks, propane is being widely used in material handling, generators, irrigation, and landscaping (such as mowers). There are about 600,000 propane-powered forklifts in operation in the US. There are about 140,000 propane-powered passenger and commercial vehicles on US roads; as for sales, there were about 14,000 units sold in the US last year (about half OEM and half conversion);  75% are light duty (mostly pickups and police cars) and 25% are medium duty including school buses. PERC forecasts that there will about 18,500 propane autogas vehicles sold in the US this year and about 25,000 in 2015. In a separate interview, Willis said there’s a strong sense of momentum being experienced in propane autogas, even with expiration of the fuel tax credit at the end of 2013. Direct injection engines are holding a lot of promise; Willis talked about the PERC project with Southwest Research Institute, Ford, General Motors, and Hyundai on direct injection.

National Biodiesel Board CEO Joe Jobe talked about the ongoing battle in Washington – and how oil industry spokespeople are lobbying with misinformation about the Renewable Fuel Standard (with examples being shown in video segments) while also covering up their abundant federal subsidies. States are opening up to biodiesel such as Minnesota mandating that 10% of its diesel will soon be biodiesel. Via Motors chairman of the board Bob Lutz championed the breakthroughs electric vehicles are on the cusp of experiencing. He said that next-gen, lithium-sulfur batteries will have five times as much energy density as lithium-ion batteries.

Alex Freitag, director of diesel systems engineering at Robert Bosch, led a panel on light-duty diesel as a growing alternative. The 20% to 30% of fuel efficiency gains, along with huge reductions in NOx, hydrocarbons and particulate matter, have made diesel-powered vehicles much more viable for fleets and for consumers in the US. Mike McGarry, fleet product planning manager and green fleet support at General Motors, and William Craven, general manager of regulatory affairs at Daimler AG/Mercedes-Benz, discussed investments OEMs are making in clean diesel options. Advancements are being made in diesel technology, Freitag said, including thermodynamic optimization, turbochargers, idle reduction, and stop-start systems. As for biodiesel, OEMs are supportive of the alternative fuel but need to feel confident in the quality of the fuel before they embrace it, McGarry and Craven said.

ACT Expo 2014 hosted a ride and drive on Wednesday afternoon last week. Vehicles included an EVI medium-duty electric truck and a VIA Motors eRev extended range van; a propane-powered Ford E-Series van; fuel cell vehicles such as the Mercedes F-Cell and Honda FCX Clarity; natural gas vehicles such as the Honda Civic Natural Gas and Volvo VNL CNG tractor; and two clean diesel vehicles – the Chevrolet Cruze Turbo Diesel and Chrysler Jeep Grand Cherokee with EcoDiesel.

Penske working with customers on hitting sustainability targets in EPA SmartWay and through state programs

Penske CNGPenske led a panel discussion last week at ACT Expo 2014 on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) SmartWay Transport Partnership. Drew Cullen, Penske vice president of fuels and environmental affairs, moderated the panel that included EPA SmartWay’s Tracie Jackson-Hall and Joe Ringhoffer, director global sourcing at Penske Logistics.

In April, Penske Truck Leasing repeated its win as one of 10 companies named in the EPA SmartWay Affiliate Challenge Award; Penske was also cited for its strong marketing efforts. The EPA acknowledged Penkse for doing an exceptional job in promoting the partnership’s freight sustainability goals. Penske Truck Leasing has been assisting its customers in implementing SmartWay objectives including establishing fuel economy and emissions benchmarking; and has been educating customers on implementing SmartWay strategies into their own operations. “It is in our company DNA to not only be good environmental stewards ourselves, but to also aid customers in identifying, quantifying and implementing sustainable transportation solutions,” Cullen said.

Last October, Penske Logistics was a recipient of the 2013 SmartWay Excellence Award for being an industry leader in freight supply chain performance energy and efficiency. Penske earned this award in part for reducing its annual carbon dioxide emissions by 25%, nitrous oxide emissions by 40%, and particulate matter emissions by over 50%.

Penske works with customers using the SmartWay tools to improve environmental performance and quantify emissions calculations. Onboard technologies and alternative fuels are explored to improve fuel economy and improve the fleet’s efficiency. One of the workshop panelists, Chip Dorger, general manager at Letica Resources, explained how integrating the SmartWay program has meant less miles traveled, less fuel used, and CO2 reduction in total tons transported per year. Along with C02 reductions, SmartWay tools assist fleets in reducing NOx and particulate matter.

Offering customers compressed natural gas Freightliner Cascadia semi-tractors has been part of Penske’s sustainability initiatives, Cullen said. Penske Truck Rental has 85 compressed natural gas (CNG) Freightliner Cascadia semi-tractors available for commercial rental use in select markets. Penske works with customers to explore the environmental and economic benefits of going with CNG-powered trucks. There are challenges of going with these trucks – CNG trucks have less range than diesel-powered trucks and the tanks do take extra space; Penske works with customers to see when it makes sense to go with CNG. There is the potential to break even or to save two-to-three cents per mile; there’s been a lot of interest in these alternative fuel vehicles by food service, linen, and dry cleaning fleets, Cullen said.

During ACT Expo, Penske Truck Leasing also announced that it has been awarded grants totaling $525,000 through the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee (MSRC) in Diamond Bar, Calif. Seven Penske facilities in Southern California have been awarded $75,000 grants to modify the facilities to provide maintenance services on trucks with natural gas-powered engines. “These facility retrofits will enable us to better serve our truck and fleet customers in the region and support their sustainability goals now and in the future,” said Jennifer Sockel, senior vice president of administration and facilities for Penske Truck Leasing.

These California grants are assisting Penske in working with customers on reaching their sustainability goals, Sockel said. CNG retrofits can become expensive; Penske works with customers on implementing options such as aggregate use and consolidating facilities, or trial use with a small percentage of the fleet. Staff training is also offered by Penske for maintenance of these engines, and for working safely on the vehicles. Working on CNG trucks is quite different than the diesel trucks they’re used to servicing, so training is needed by maintenance staff.

Penske has also received a grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection for the purchase of 23 CNG vehicles. The Natural Gas Vehicle Program in Penske’s home state of Pennsylvania is helping to support development of a new CNG fueling infrastructure, Cullen said. Penske is working with customers on exploring options in CNG trucks and fueling, such as analyzing dynamic roadway routes. Pennsylvania is encouraging fleets to deploy CNG trucks in counties with poor air quality. Customers are now looking at when it makes sense to go with CNG, Cullen said.

Global Issue in Fleet Fueling is a Potential “Win-Win” for Heavy Vehicles Sector

Substantial HC Reductions to be Gained in the Capture of “Fugitive Transfer Emissions”

by Chris Hollerback

TCFS powerpoint slideHeavy duty vehicles have seen major transformations in hydrocarbon emission reduction in recent years. This is based on engine manufacturers’ massive investments in new technology and the mandates of Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel, along with SCR/Urea after-treatments. The industry has transformed diesel from the worst pollutant into one of the cleanest and most economic fuels available.

Truck engines and diesel fuel are two of several emissions sources that must be reduced to hit strict, ambitious federal standards to reduce greenhouse gas. So the big question is: “Where will the next significant reduction come from?” It is my belief that considerable gains can be realized through advances in fuel dispensing equipment. “Fugitive Transfer Emissions,” along with vapor purge, happens during the transfer of liquid and compressed gas refueling.

If the goal is to reduce hydrocarbons, wouldn’t it be prudent to capture as much of these emissions as well? With the exception of vapor recovery and on-board refueling vapor recovery (ORVR) in gasoline, this issue is currently “not on the radar” of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Consider that fugitive loss is a global occurrence and one that can be substantially corrected with significant benefits to the environment, the transportation industry, and the consuming public.

Diesel has secured the environmental future in the EPA’s focus of exhaust emissions.  In spite of these major advances, future reductions of hydrocarbon emissions are still being demanded by the EPA for the heavy duty vehicles market.

The EPA’s focus for hydrocarbon reduction in transportation is currently limited to “exhaust” emissions, which by definition is the measurement of “unburned” fuel. Fugitive transfer emissions (FTEs) are the vapors or purge containing concentrated levels of raw fuel, in suspension, that “vent” in order to displace liquid or compressed gas into a fuel vessel. Venting is a necessary function with all dispensing equipment.

Venting occurs somewhere near the refueling point and always after the fuel meter. The concept of the proposed solution is a common sense plumbing adjustment that effectively moves the vent point back to the supply source capturing vapor, and overfills, in a closed loop. With that said, how significant are these losses, and what gains can be made through total containment?

I am singling out diesel refueling as a starting point to illustrate how significant FTE reduction can be. Diesel refueling raised my awareness of the issue and inspired the proposed solution.

Fifteen years ago I was introduced to the non-public side of fleet transportation through refueling operations at a major metropolitan bus facility. Facility hygiene conditions were, and still remain, appalling.

As an outsider, my first impressions were of how grimy the fuel barn was with puddles of fuel that were obvious slip hazards. Everything was coated with fuel throughout the property. The pungent odor of diesel was inescapable, even in the office areas. My initial questions were “How can people work under these conditions” and “Why isn’t someone doing something to correct it?”

Pressure cleanings were a weekly event with spot cleanings performed daily.  “The nature of the fuel just gets on everything, you get used to it after a while.” This is the one comment that is consistently repeated and sums up the acceptance of the conditions industry wide. So what is the root cause of this rapid recurrence as a need for constant clean-up, and more importantly, can a solution be found to permanently correct it?

From a logistics stand point, the hectic activity to process 500 buses for the next day was fascinating. The buses all come in at once at days end, and stretch around the facility in an endless line.

“Hostlers” drive these vehicles into the fueling area, quickly connect a “high speed” fuel nozzle to a mating connection. Fuel is dispensed at an impressive 40 gallons per minute (GPM). The Hostler jumps back into the bus to sweep out trash and debris. (I still can’t shake the pungent smell of fuel.)

A “whistling” noise pierces the air during fueling; this is a safety indicator that the fuel tank is “pressurized” signaling the fuel nozzle is not to be removed until the whistling stops. This “safety whistle” is cleverly activated by pressure from within the tank, sort of like an industrial tea kettle. This whistle, combined with another pressure relief valve, is designed to dissipate tank pressure and a likely source for aerosol fuel releases. (All fuel tanks must relieve pressure or risk rupture. The trucking industry uses a standard nozzle and an over-sized filler neck that allows venting around the inserted nozzle.)

To confirm the theory in “MacGyver” fashion, I wrapped a handkerchief over the two suspect vent points, producing two oily damp spots. One source of contamination identified, but how significant is the output?

Despite the manufactures warnings, at this location, the fuel hose was repeatedly removed from each bus with the whistle still sounding to get to the next bus. This practice resulted in a back-pressure fuel spill, partially captured by a sludge pit.

As the hostler kicks the fuel door shut with his foot, fuel trails down the side of the bus and is tracked onto the tarmac out to the parking area. This tracking of fuel makes its way to storm drains with wash downs, rain, and snow melt run off.

Two sources of fuel release identified – what’s the volume for each and would there be a significant payback if these conditions could be corrected? The back-pressure spills were the most obvious, so I asked the obvious question “Why would they disconnect before the whistle stops if they know it will result in such a large fuel loss?” The answer was the fuel loss was acceptable as an offset for the extra minutes saved on each bus to reduce labor expense and time.

The fuel “spilled” was less than 1% of total fuel purchased and fuel was not “lost” as it was captured in the sludge pit and sold to “re-processers.”

The calculation for back-pressure spills rounded to .09% equated to 169,000 gallons annually based on this total fleet’s volume. The collected fuel is contaminated and not suitable for reuse and is sold for less than purchase.

Most facilities avoid overfills by properly waiting for tank pressure to dissipate; However, the “atomization” that occurs remains unavoidable due to dispenser design. Overfills, back-pressure spray, and atomized fuel losses all occur after the fuel meter, so for the most part, have gone unnoticed, and more importantly, unaccounted for.

What about the atomized fugitive loss? Is this a big deal? Specific measurement will be calculated with (yet to be determined) university collaboration, but viewed under an infrared camera, the visible “cloud” is significant. A little digging produced a citable reference regarding “fugitive transfer emissions” in an early study of vapor recovery. This was a collaborative effort which included the EPA and American Petroleum Institute (API).

The collaborative calculation states the fugitive transfer loss to be 8.4 lbs of liquid for every 1,000 gallons dispensed. (Conversion is approximate to 1.5 gallons of liquid fuel.)

This specific reference was performed with gasoline which admittedly has very different properties from diesel, but as a liquid transfer, this serves as a reference point for the theory. Gasoline is dispensed at 10 GPM whereas diesel fuel is commonly dispensed at 30 GPM at a travel plaza, and 40 GPM or better, through the pressurized system utilized by 98% of mass transit groups.

The transit group referenced dispenses 18 million gallons of diesel fuel in a year with a total fleet of 1,300 buses. The atomized loss at 1.5 gallons per 1,000 gallons dispensed would equal a 27,000 gallon loss which contaminates the site and places employees at unnecessary occupational risks. This volume in fugitive loss, if captured, would obviously better serve the fleet as usable fuel and provide a cleaner and healthier work environment for the total labor force.

Multiple regulatory programs seek reductions of contamination sources such as: The Air Pollution Act, Water Pollution Act, Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC), Environmental Justice Act, SmartWays Partnership, Map 21, and OSHA’s Permissible Exposure Limits (PEL) guidelines.

Every commercially available fuel dispenser has a measurable degree of fugitive transfer loss. Diesel fuel does not evaporate as gasoline, but shares some of the same toxins such as benzene. Consequently, vapor recovery has not been required for use in diesel fuel dispensing. Due to the fact that it does not evaporate is reason for capture.

Looking beyond just exhaust emissions will further environmental and health efficiencies. Challenging antiquated dispensing processes provides opportunity to further reduce heavy duty vehicle emissions to improve environmental and occupational health. A closed loop containment dispensing assures that fuel consuming fleets are actually getting all the energy they are purchasing. That’s a “Win-Win” and reasons to consider the change.

Chris Hollerback has a 30 year background in facilities management and process improvement. He is the designer and utility patent holder of the Total Containment Fueling System (TCFS). The patent awards 43 claims of innovations above the state of the art in dispensing. A proof of concept prototype has been developed to validate a solution for fleet application as a logistics tool. Hollberback’s LinkedIn page offers a summary of the TCFS.

Expired federal tax credit raises natural gas prices and its challenges

Ford CNG F-150For those in the natural gas vehicle business, a new challenge took hold on January 1, 2014 – a federal tax credit expired, which has been adding 50 cents on each gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) of natural gas sold at a lot of fueling stations. That’s been a 30% cost increase at some fuel stations, and it’s a cause for concern for compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle owners and for those providing the vehicles and infrastructure. Prices are varying in the US – around $1.65 to $2.50 per gallon equivalent around the country (according to CNGPrices.com on January 20). Gasoline prices were about $3.28 and diesel is around $3.85 nationwide according to AAA. Taking an estimated average of $2.10 for natural gas GGE in the US, that makes it about 64% the cost of gasoline and 54% the cost of diesel. Not long ago, natural gas was costing well under half the price of gasoline and only about one third the cost of diesel.

It is being felt in Oklahoma, which has more CNG fueling stations per capita than any other state. It apparently hasn’t caused uproar yet, since Oklahoma has been seeing cheaper price per gallon – still under $2.00 per gallon equivalent in parts of the state, but it is being noticed. Operators of fueling stations have some decisions to make in that market and around the country about how the pricing will go. Natural gas producers had been passing the credit on to consumers. Time will tell who will be paying that increase, but based on scanning the news and talking to someone in the business, natural gas prices are starting to rise for consumers now that the credit has gone away.

For example, natural gas producer Apache has passed on a 50 cent increase to its 19 fueling stations in Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. Apache had seen an 88% increase in CNG sales at its stations in 2013 due to the low prices for natural gas.

All things considered, here a few points to follow:

• The tax credit might come back in Washington; it was part of the “fiscal cliff” fight over a year ago, and could return as a tax credit or another incentive from the federal government. NGV advocates like T. Boone Pickens have been knocking on doors in Washington and lobbying for it. NGVAmerica reported that Sen.  Max Baucus (D-MT) had drafted a bill to modify all energy taxes including the CNG fuel credit in a tax extender bill. His proposal, if adopted, would extend the fuel credit for three years (until 2016) and modifies them with a clean fuel credit based on BTU and emission factors. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has introduced a senate bill that includes an extension of related credits until 2014, and other elected officials have been supportive in the talks. It’s a wait-and-see situation, according to NGVAmerica.

• The benefits of going with natural gas are still there; the fuel is expected to remain very cost competitive for years to come in the US due to its abundant supply. The reduced emissions with CNG and LNG is very appealing to fleets directed by carbon and smog emissions targets.

• The vehicle offerings are getting better. There are a lot of EPA and CARB-certified commercial vehicles and pickup trucks out there. Consumers like the Honda Civic Natural Gas and Ford F-150 – it appears to be slowly growing in interest from consumers who might have bought a hybrid or clean diesel vehicle before. The price is higher for NGVs due to gasoline and diesel comparable vehicles – usually around $10,000 for a conversion (sometimes cheaper); so it takes about a year and a half to break even and loss of the tax incentive will add a few months to that calculation.

• The infrastructure has a long way to go, but it is getting better each year. Navigant Research predicts that 40% of the stations to that will be opened in the next two years will be in North America. Growth in the fueling station networks will help take away some of the hesitation.