Commentary: Anatomy of a Compressed Natural Gas Statio

Not all Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling stations are created equal.  While the basic components are similar among stations, there is a wide variety of configurations depending on vehicle type and fueling rate desired.  A small convenience store with a single compressor may be fine for a CNG car, but will likely not be able to physically accommodate your tractor-trailer.  Even if it does, the fill rate of a smaller compressor may take too long to fill your tanks.   

Extensive due diligence is required to ensure success of a CNG station project. For example, without adequate gas and power supply, the project could be in trouble before a single shovel hits the dirt. Other critical aspects include zoning, permitting, as well as environmental and geotechnical studies. Problems in any of these areas could be a deal breaker.

CNG equipment selection is also very important, and is largely based on your intended application.  Most natural gas has some moisture that must be removed before compression. Therefore, a natural gas dryer is required just downstream of the gas meter in most applications. Next comes the most costly and complex of the components; the CNG compressors that compress the dry pipeline gas up to 4,500 psi.  Most stations will have at least two compressors for redundancy, and to achieve the desired fill rate. Compressors come in a large variety of sizes, types, and prices. For most Heavy Duty Vehicles (HDV) a diesel-like fill rate is preferred (at least 8-10 gpm) which calls for compressors that are at least several hundred horsepower.  Following compression, the CNG sent through a panel with series of valves to direct it to either the dispenser (a large variety exist) and/or to CNG storage vessels.  The valve panel is custom-configured for each application. From the valve panel, the CNG is directed to either the dispenser or storage, and ultimately into the vehicle tanks which are filled to a pressure of up to 3,600 psi. All of these components are controlled by a PLC control system with many features to ensure a safe and reliable fueling experience. There are many other components including electric switchgear, but for the purpose of this discussion, only the major components are included.  The most important aspect of building the station is to choose a developer with extensive experience in successfully building dozens of stations of the size and type desired.

Now comes the hard part to swallow; the cost of a CNG station. The cost of a CNG station can vary greatly based on your desired fill rate, vehicle types, property costs, utility extensions, design/engineering, CNG equipment, construction costs, maintenance, etc. For the purpose of this discussion, we will concentrate on a mid-size retail CNG station that accommodates Class 8 trucks. A parcel for our scenario needs to be between 1 – 2 acres in size. Property costs are variable, depending on location, but plan on at least several hundred thousand dollars. Next is the design and engineering which carries a cost range of $30,000 - $50,000.  Most projects will require a substantial civil development (i.e., grading, storm water management, etc.) that can range from $250,000 - $500,000 for a green field location. The biggest cost is the CNG station equipment and installation. A mid-size retail station will require a minimum of two CNG compressors, a large dryer, 2 dispensers, point of sale system, valve panel, storage vessels, a PLC control system, canopy, and all of the components and expertise to tie them together. A system of this size will usually cost well over $1.5 million! Do the math and you can easily see that a CNG station installation can be cost prohibitive for fleets that don’t have enough scale to make the investment pencil out.   In addition, CNG station building and operation is not something a typical carrier has experience with, and doing this on a one-off basis will require a very steep learning curve. Fortunately, there are highly experienced developers that will be able aggregate demand from multiple fleets and build the station on with their own capital in a way that provides a cost effective fueling solution for your fleet. 

Natural Gas Vehicle News

How the Transportation Sector Is Moving Away from Petroleum

The transportation sector is moving away from oil slowly but surely. Driven by growth in the use of biofuels and natural gas, non-petroleum energy now makes up the highest percentage of total fuel consumption for transport since 1954, according to a new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Anheuser-Busch recognized as Green Fleet of the Year

 Anheuser-Busch was recognized for a corporate-wide program that includes converting significant portions of its trucking operations to natural gas, as well as instituting operational changes to improve fleet productivity.

Freightliner, Ryder Supply CNG Units to Several Fleets

Ryder System Inc. and Freightliner Trucks said they have supplied new compressed natural gas-fueled trucks to several companies and fleets including Indian River Transport, Alpha Packaging Inc. and Boyd Metals Transportation.

More Colorado AFV Infrastructure Money

The Colorado Energy Office said Monday that it will release its third round Request for Applications through the ALT Fuels Colorado grant program on Tuesday, June 2.  The funding covers compressed natural gas fueling station equipment costs of up to $500,000, capped at 80% of total.

City of Tucson, an Early CNG Adopter, Planning Upgrades

The City of Tucson, Ariz., is refurbishing its existing compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station in order to modernize the facility and to accommodate the continued expansion of the city's CNG vehicle flee

Non-Petroleum Transportation Fuels at 50-Year High

While petroleum remains far and away the most-consumed transportation fuel, other fuels are now at their highest level of use since the mid-1950s, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).  In 2014, transportation use of natural gas also reached a historic high of 946 trillion Btu, representing 3.5% of all natural gas used in the United States. 

Ryder Providing CNG Trucks to Two Arkansas Fleets

Alpha Packaging Inc., a corrugated box manufacturer, has signed a full-service lease agreement for seven compressed natural gas (CNG) tractors. To support its new natural gas fleet, Alpha is building an on-site CNG fueling station at its location.

Republic Services goes green

Republic Services has invested $23 million since 2009 to start replacing its fleet of diesel trucks, to the more environmentally friendly compressed natural gas — or CNG — trucks going into service in Meridian, Mississippi. The station that services Meridian has 151 trucks that call it home, and 85 of those trucks are CNG powered.

California freight facilities could be required to reduce harmful emissions            

Marine terminal operators, warehouses and truck facilities in California could be called upon to manage harmful emissions under the California Air Resources Board’s proposed Sustainable Freight Plan, according to a shipping industry representative

TA TravelCenters for NGV Truck Service

TravelCenters of America has completed upfits at eight  A Truck Service and Petro:Lube facilities to provide maintenance and repair for both compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas-fueled truck

Class 8 truck orders reach 17-month low

Final Class 8 net orders for April totaled 22,400 units, reaching a 17-month low, according to data from ACT Research.  Classes 5-7 truck net orders came in at 17,700 units, also down.

Fuel Price News

As U.S. Inventories Fall, Crude Prices Rise

Crude oil prices bounced back on Wednesday from steep falls in the previous session as government data showed that U.S. crude stocks fell last week for the third straight week.

Consensus of Supply Disruptions Boosts Crude Oil Prices

NYMEX-traded July WTI (West Texas Intermediate) crude oil futures rose by 2.95% and settled at $60.72 per barrel on May 21, 2015. Oil prices surged due the consensus of supply disruption and inventory draw-downs.

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