Friday, January 27, 2017

How is the propane industry improving the customer fueling experience through new technology?

Question of the Month: How is the propane industry improving the customer fueling experience through new technology?

As propane vehicle technology becomes more advanced, propane dispensing infrastructure has evolved along with it. In particular, the propane industry is focusing much of its attention on enhancing the customer fueling experience by installing propane dispensers that are dedicated for vehicle fueling, and by upgrading the propane nozzle technology. The increasingly popular European-style, quick-connect nozzle simplifies the customer fueling experience by connecting to the fuel tank through a snap or quick-connect attachment, rather than a conventional threaded connection. Only after the nozzle is safely connected to the fuel tank will it begin to dispense fuel. This attachment eliminates the threading connection necessary with the conventional Acme nozzle, making propane fueling as easy as conventional gasoline fueling.

With the new nozzle, fueling can be completed using only one hand and without wearing protective goggles and gloves. The quick-connect attachment also results in lower emissions, as it more effectively prevents the release of fuel vapor and fumes. Additionally, the nozzle's design minimizes the amount of fuel that escapes when the vehicle is done fueling and the connector is detached from the vehicle.

There are many affordable quick-connect nozzle options available on the United States market that meet UL 125 certification requirements. Manufacturers of these UL-certified nozzles include Stäubli and ELAFLEX. These European-style connectors are priced around $1,200, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The cost of the connection adapters, or fill valves, required for current fueling infrastructure to be compatible with the European-style nozzle, ranges from $50 to $60. Note that the installation of a new fueling nozzle should always be performed by a qualified technician in order to ensure that it is completed properly.

Many propane retailers are optimistic about the European-style, quick-connect nozzle. In fact, the Propane Education Research Council (PERC) highlights its benefits and encourages the use of this connector through its Quick-Connect Nozzle Incentive Program. Moving forward, the quick-connect nozzle is a significant step towards streamlining and improving the propane fueling experience.

For more information about propane and related fueling infrastructure, see the following resources:

Clean Cities Technical Response Service Team

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Understanding NGV methane emissions

From US Gas Vehicles:

A newly published scientific study, led by researchers with West Virginia University at the Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions, measured methane emissions from heavy-duty natural gas-powered vehicles and refueling stations, and is greatly expanding what we know about emissions from natural gas-fueled vehicles. The study is the first project in Environmental Defense Fund’s coordinated methane research series to analyze where and by how much methane emissions occur during natural gas end uses.

The WVU study found that emissions from the vehicle tailpipe and engine crankcase were the highest methane sources, representing roughly 30 and 39% (respectively) of total pump to wheels (PTW) emissions. Fortunately, engines with closed crankcases have recently been certified by EPA, avoiding the single largest source of methane emissions from these vehicles.

Fueling station methane emissions were reported to be relatively low, representing about 12% of total PTW emissions. WVU researchers based the fueling station emission estimates on the assumption that liquefied natural gas (LNG) stations have sufficient sales volume to effectively manage boil off gases, or the fuel lost as vapors when the LNG heats above its boiling point. Without alternative methods to manage boil off gas, low sales volume risks large methane releases.

Eleven industry groups participated in the WVU study – The American Gas Association, Chart, Clean Energy, Cummins, Cummins Westport, International Council on Clean Transportation, PepsiCo, Shell, Volvo Group, Waste Management, and Westport Innovations – and provided researchers with important insights. Their active involvement and determination to go where the science led them in reducing truck methane emissions greatly strengthened the study.

Measurements from the WVU study are helping to further our understanding of the climate impact of natural gas vehicles. This paper, along with other analyses, provides both industry and policymakers new insights to target technology improvements, and identify best practices for minimizing emissions. But pairing vehicle data with lifecycle emissions of methane across the entire supply chain remains essential to fully assess how natural gas trucks perform, from a climate perspective, relative to diesel trucks.

While only about 3 percent of heavy duty trucks run on natural gas today, some analysts suggest their market share could reach as high as 50 percent over the next two decades if high oil and diesel prices return. Meanwhile, investments in natural gas-powered utility vehicles and transit buses are growing, with 11 percent of such vehicles already running on natural gas.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Ideas Are Scary

From Greg Roche, Vice President at Clean Energy Fuels:
GE runs a great commercial about how ideas are scary; frightening because they threaten what is known; and are the natural born enemy of the way things are. You can watch the commercial here (with thanks to GE). What does this have to do with renewable natural gas trucks? Everything. Imagine switching all 12,000 to 16,000 trucks that operate in the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach from diesel to renewable natural gas (RNG). Would that be scary to some? Sure. Would that threaten what is known? Yes. Would that replace the way things are? Absolutely. But the upside is what makes this idea beautiful: achieving cost-effective and immediate health and sustainability benefits. In fact, natural gas trucks with Near Zero emissions technology and powered by renewable natural gas reduce harmful air pollutants by over 90% and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 70% compared to diesel, making renewable natural gas trucks as clean as a battery electric truck on a complete well-to-wheels comparison. Ideas may be scary, but scary shouldn't be allowed to stop the idea.