NGVConnection Newsletter - April 2017

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CNG Fueling Station Safety Evaluations Are Critical

By Leo Thomason, Executive Director, NGVi

CNG fueling stations are carefully engineered and designed to deliver a specific quantity of fuel over a specific time period. They are composed of dryers, compressors, high-pressure tubing, storage systems, dispensers and electronic control systems—all of which must work in conjunction with each other under a variety of sometimes severe weather and operating conditions. 

Routine maintenance is critical to keep CNG fueling stations operating at their designed performance levels. But what about safety?  How do CNG fueling station operators ensure that stations are safe? The answer lies in the routine CNG fueling station safety evaluation.

The reasons for and benefits of CNG fueling station safety evaluations would seem obvious. First, CNG fueling station operators want to ensure safety of both their employees and customers.  To ensure that safe working environment, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, otherwise known as OSHA, requires that employers maintain a safe working environment for all employees. This OSHA requirement applies to CNG fueling stations in the same manner as it applies to manufacturing plants and office buildings. And the only way to ensure a safe environment for employees (and customers) at a CNG fueling station is to perform a periodic safety evaluation.

 

 

Join Us for a Live One-Hour
Tech Talk Training Session


When, Why and How to Conduct
a CNG Fueling Station
Safety Evaluation


Date: Thursday, April 6, 2017
Time: 11:30 a.m. PT/2:30 p.m. ET

In this 60-minute Tech Talk, NGVi's co-founder and CNG fueling expert Leo Thomason will discuss when, why and how to conduct a CNG fueling station safety evaluation that will ensure safe fueling at your facility.

This Tech Talk will include information taken from NGVi's two-day CNG Fueling Station Operation & Maintenance Training course, which is the only formalized training available in the United States on all aspects of CNG fueling station operation and maintenance.

 

 

REGISTRATION CLOSES
APRIL 5th

Secondly, CNG fueling stations store and dispense fuel at very high pressures—4,200 to 4,500 psi. These pressures require more than casual treatment of the equipment and systems that make up the station. In addition, natural gas is also flammable, so specific safety systems at the CNG station are required that should be tested periodically to ensure operability. 

Lastly, CNG fueling station safety evaluations provide an additional check on required equipment maintenance. For example, if a safety evaluation reveals worn dispenser hoses, the station operator has an opportunity to replace them before they cause a dispenser outage—or worse, a catastrophic failure that might lead to injury. In this way, a CNG fueling station evaluation gives the station operator an extra layer of assurance that the station will perform reliably day in and day out. 

I am often asked whether CNG fueling station safety evaluations are required by code, and the short answer is no, not specifically.  However, there is no way to be able to ensure safety of the CNG fueling station, or to document the safe working environment required by OSHA, without conducting periodic safety evaluations. 

 

Since there is no specific code governing CNG fueling station evaluations, the frequency of evaluations is left up to each station operator. However, industry best practice recommends that CNG fueling station evaluations be conducted at least every six months. 

As a side note, beginning in 2016, NFPA-52 requires that every CNG fueling station (existing or newly planned) have an active, documented maintenance plan—which should include the specifications and frequency of safety evaluations.

So what should be included in the CNG fueling station safety evaluation? In total, there are dozens of items that must be inspected to complete a through safety evaluation. The key elements of a safety evaluation involve the major safety systems designed into every CNG fueling station. These include inspection and/or testing of fueling nozzles, dispenser hoses and breakaways, quarter-turn valves on each side of dispenser, emergency shut-down devices (ESDs), pressure relief valves, fire extinguishers, safety signs, methane detection systems, grounding systems, cathodic protection, x-purged enclosures and checking for fugitive leaks. Each of these items should be inspected for damage or need for repair, and many of them must be tested and possibly calibrated to ensure operability. Others, like pressure relief valves (PRVs), must be checked to verify they have been re-certified by a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) recognized certification lab within the specified time period for that component.

It is important that the technician or other person responsible for the evaluation use a form—hard copy or electronic—that is specified in the CNG fueling station maintenance plan so that all the necessary data is captured. The form should include the name of each component inspected, and should provide the ability to record any repairs that need to be made, the name or job title of the person responsible to make the repairs, and the actual date the repairs are made. This type of record keeping ensures that, in the case of any incident, there are historical records to document that the CNG fueling station operator took the necessary steps to ensure safety at the station.

It quickly becomes obvious that the technician or other person conducting the CNG fueling station safety evaluation must completely understand how the station is designed, be able to identify the components of the station and thoroughly understand their function. Otherwise, critical information may be misinterpreted, or evaluation may be omitted altogether.

Because of the safety systems required by code, CNG fueling stations can be extremely safe. However, as discussed above, CNG fueling station safety evaluations are a crucial step. They require knowledge and skill to perform, but they ultimately help meet the goal of providing CNG fueling that is not only reliable but safe. 

________________________

In April, NGVi is offering two opportunities to learn more about CNG fueling station safety evaluations. 

Join us April 6 at 11:30 a.m. for a one-hour Tech Talk titled When, Why and How to Conduct a CNG Fueling Station Safety Evaluation.

Or register for our comprehensive two-day CNG Fueling Station Operation and Maintenance Training, April 26-27 in Las Vegas, NV 


Four Point Safety Plan Can Improve Outcomes of CNG Refuse Truck Incidents
By Annalloyd Thomason, Vice President/General Manager, NGVi

Refuse fleets are perhaps the largest market for CNG trucks. Their operating patterns of regular routes, return-to-base fueling and high fuel use make them ideal candidates to take advantage of the operating cost advantages of CNG.

There’s another operating characteristic, however, that requires special attention for CNG refuse fleets, and that is the frequency and type of vehicle fires. In addition to the more common electrical or engine fires that occur in other fleets, refuse fleets also deal with load fires—fires that begin in the box where trash is collected to move it to a transfer station or landfill.

Load fires are relatively common in the refuse industry, and there are standard protocols drivers are instructed to deploy when a load fire occurs. These may include either packing the load to deprive the fire of oxygen or, when possible, ejecting the load onto a flat, paved surface.

Any refuse truck fire that occurs near the high-pressure CNG fuel system components, however—especially the CNG fuel storage cylinders—requires special attention due to the high pressures involved. In fact, several CNG refuse truck fires over the last eighteen months, including those in Indianapolis and New Jersey, have resulted in poor outcomes, including ruptured cylinders, injured firefighters and damaged property.

While CNG is an inherently safe vehicle fuel, these recent incidents are causing refuse companies to look closely at their CNG safety protocols and training requirements, and make changes that will improve the outcomes of fires. Recently, NGVi was contracted by a major refuse company to conduct a safety evaluation of its entire CNG operation, and to identify practical, specific steps the organization could take to improve overall safety.

As a result of this client project, we identified a four-point plan that every refuse company can deploy to minimize the risk from any CNG refuse truck fire. The four points include Driver Training, Driver Pre- and Post-Trip Inspection, Technician Training and Firefighter/First Responder Training. Let’s explore each of these further.

Implement Specialized CNG Refuse Truck Driver Training
Most refuse companies already provide training for drivers that includes what to do in case of a load fire in a standard diesel truck. However, because of the unique components of a CNG refuse truck’s fuel system, and because of the high pressures at which CNG is stored onboard these vehicles, CNG refuse truck drivers require a special training course. Without specialized training, drivers involved in vehicle accidents or fires are often automatically afraid of the high-pressure storage and tend to abandon their trucks without taking proper precautions when it is still possible to ensure their safety or the safety of the surrounding community.

CNG refuse truck drivers need to understand the properties of natural gas and how it differs from diesel, the basic safety components of CNG trucks and what their role is in accessing them, and how to safely fuel their trucks. Drivers also require special instruction in emergency action plans, including what to do in the event of gas detection inside a truck (if their trucks are equipped with gas detection systems), vehicle accidents, load fires, engine fires, a fueling station accident or a fueling station fire, and how to conduct the federally required pre- and post-trip inspection specifically on a CNG refuse truck (more about that subject later in this article.)

One of NGVi’s major refuse clients uses driver e-learning, customized by NGVi specifically for their company, to accomplish this training for drivers. NGVi’s refuse truck driver training curriculum includes an initial course for new drivers that lasts about 45 minutes, and an abbreviated refresher course for existing drivers that lasts about 20 minutes. Best practice requires that drivers complete this training once annually, and it can be taken individually or in groups during a regular safety meeting.

Modify the Pre- and Post-Trip Inspection to Include Visible CNG Fuel System Components
Companies that operate heavy-duty trucks are required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to conduct pre- and post-trip vehicle inspections, but many refuse companies have not modified their inspection process and documentation to include the CNG components.

Driver inspection processes for CNG refuse trucks should include pre- and post-trip inspections of the methane detection systems, if installed, to ensure the system is working and that there is no gas detected. Drivers also should inspect the fuel system for physical damage or signs of fuel leaks, in addition to the fuel receptacle dust cover and the fuel receptacle itself for any damage. Drivers also should verify the O-rings are present and in good condition.

All CNG cylinder shields and/or cylinders should be inspected for damage. Damage to shields may indicate cylinder damage. Drivers also should look for loose or missing parts such as bolts, latches, hinges, valve handles, etc.

Train Every Technician to Appropriate Skill Levels for Their Jobs
Every time a CNG refuse truck is in the shop for any type of maintenance—preventative or otherwise—it is an opportunity to perform a quick safety check. Therefore, every refuse fleet vehicle maintenance technician should be capable of identifying the basic components of a CNG fuel system, understand its function and determine whether it is in good working order.

More advanced technicians are usually assigned the task of conducting the required CNG fuel system inspections. These technicians not only must be able to identify the CNG fuel system components and determine their condition, but must be familiar with fuel system installation code requirements and must be trained to identify and assess damaged components, including various damage levels to CNG cylinders.

Due to the importance of their jobs in terms of mitigating serious company risk, industry best practice also calls for independent certification of CNG fuel system inspectors to ensure they possess the knowledge and skills required to conduct thorough inspections according to codes and standards that change fairly frequently.

Provide Specific CNG Refuse Truck Firefighter Training
Partly as a result of the serious incidents involving CNG refuse trucks in recent months, leading refuse companies are realizing they have a role in educating and training firefighters and first responders about the unique aspects of the fuel and the vehicles. While there are generic first responder training courses for alternative fuels, industry best practice suggests training specifically targeted to refuse truck fires and how to respond to them.

When firefighters don’t understand the properties of natural gas or the components of the CNG fuel system and how they operate, they assume they need to fight the fire in the same manner as they would fight a gasoline or diesel fire. This assumption can be dangerous to firefighters and the community in which a fire occurs.

Firefighters need to understand the differences between natural gas and gasoline/diesel and how that affects their firefighting approach. They also need to be able to identify and understand the function of the major components of the CNG function, as well as identify the various types of CNG fuel storage cylinders. In addition, firefighters must know the proper fire response to CNG refuse truck fires and how those might differ from other types of CNG vehicles.

In response to the needs of our refuse clients, NGVi now offers a one-day Firefighter and First Responder training course specifically targeting refuse trucks. Firefighter training hosted by refuse companies gives them an opportunity to interact with first responders in their community and build good will. It also demonstrates the willingness of the refuse company to take the lead in ensuring that CNG safety training, including training for firefighters, is provided in their area.

As with all vehicle fuels, there are hazards with CNG.The hazards are no greater than gasoline or diesel—just different. As more CNG trucks are deployed around the country, it is important that refuse fleets be proactive in mitigating risks by examining their safety practices and implementing programs and protocols that protect employees, customers and the general public. The four points we’ve outlined are a great start at that proactive effort.


_________________________________
NGVi offers a complimentary basic safety evaluation for CNG refuse fleets based on a 30-minute telephone interview with key fleet, operations and risk management staff. For more information, contact Sabrina Dodd at sdodd@ngvi.com or 702-712-6748.

Changes to NFPA-52 Affect CNG Station Construction and Maintenance

By Leo Thomason, Executive Director, NGVi

Last April, a new version of NFPA-52 was published that affects both new and existing CNG stations. Completely rewritten, the 2016 version differs significantly from 2013 and all prior versions of NFPA-52.

While there were organizational changes to NFPA-52, and even a slight renaming of the code, this article highlights the major revisions and how they affect future station designs, as well as existing CNG stations. 


Fuel Quality Specifications Have Changed

NFPA-52 (2016) modified the requirements for CNG fuel quality, addressing both the fuel that comes to the station as well as the fuel that is dispensed into vehicles. For example, the new version of the code includes minimum hydrogen content in natural gas used as a vehicle fuel. It also specifies the water content in natural gas vehicle fuel differently than previous versions of the code. This change will affect the inlet natural gas dryer by requiring it to meet a lower temperature threshold.

A CNG Station Maintenance Plan is Now Required for All Existing and New Stations

From the standpoint of CNG fueling station maintenance, the new code requires each CNG fueling station to have an active and documented maintenance program. The plan should address every CNG fueling station component and specify the maintenance procedures and intervals required to keep the equipment safe and operable.

This NFPA-52 modification is retroactive, which means it applies to every existing station currently operating, as well as every new station to be constructed.  Regarding CNG stations maintained by a third-party, the station owner still is required to ensure this plan is in place.

Since CNG station components must be maintained in accordance with specific manufacturers’ instructions, the maintenance plan cannot be generically applied, and must be directly applicable to a specific manufacturer’s equipment.

Non-Standard Fueling Station Design

NFPA-52 (2016) now includes special requirements for what it calls an “alternate station design” for any station that deviates from what the industry considers a “typical design for 3,600 psi service.”  It requires unique site distances, operating requirements and equipment locations for these stations. 

Station Signage

NFPA-52 (2016) also makes changes to the types of signage required at CNG fueling stations.  In addition to the “flammable gas, stop motor and no smoking signs,” the new version of the code requires an additional sign to be displayed at each fast- or time-fill CNG dispenser, including one that deals with verification of the temperature compensation system.   

Dispensers

In addition to the requirement from the previous versions of the code, NFPA-52 (2016) now also requires the dispenser system at CNG fueling stations to detect any malfunction that fills the vehicle fuel storage cylinder in excess of its specific limits or causes the safety relief valve to open. This new  requirement is significant and may require equipment changes inside CNG dispensers.

Outdoor Storage

NFPA-52 (2016) modifies the types of high-pressure storage vessels that can be used at CNG stations to include NGV2 cylinders as long as they meet certain pressure protection requirements.

It is imperative that anyone involved with building or operating a CNG fueling station be fully familiar with the code requirements governing CNG fueling stations, including the latest version of NFPA 52.  Existing CNG station operators especially must be familiar with the codes that now apply to those stations, such as the requirement for a CNG fueling station maintenance plan.

If you'd like to learn more about the full spectrum of code requirements and how you can ensure that stations you’re involved with are in compliance, check out NGVi’s two upcoming CNG fueling station courses to be delivered in Las Vegas, NV: CNG Fueling Station Design Training, April 24-25, and CNG Fueling Station Operation and Maintenance Training, April 26-27. 




CNG Fuel Price Report
From Clean Cities Alternative Fuel Price Report published by National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) for DOE's Clean Cities Program

Overall Average Fuel Prices (as of January 2017)

 

Nationwide Average Price for Fuel This Report

Nationwide Average Price for Fuel Last Report

Change in Price This Report vs. Last Report

Units of Measurement

Gasoline (Regular)

$2.32

$2.22

$0.10

per gallon

Diesel

$2.58

$2.48

$0.10

per gallon

CNG

$2.11

$2.06

$0.05

per GGE


NGVs and CNG in the News

News

New facility to extend life of CATA buses -- The Meadville Tribune

BC Transit Completes Kamloops Transition to 100% CNG Fleet
-- NGT News

Shipley Energy opens York County's first public CNG station -- Central Penn Business Journal

Port Trucking Companies Deploy Cummins’ Ultra-Low Emissions Engine
-- Environmental Leader



Upcoming Training from NGVi

NGV Essentials and Safety Practices CNG Fuel System Inspector Training
May 9, 2017 Denver, CO
June 13, 2017 Philadelphia, PA


With a focus on safety, this one-day course teaches technicians the fundamentals of natural gas, CNG and LNG fuel systems and maintenance practices for NGVs.

May 10-11, 2017 Denver, CO
June 14-15, 2017 Philadelphia, PA

Two-day session that provides you with the proper techniques for inspecting CNG fuel systems, including on-board compressed natural gas fuel storage cylinders.



CNG Fueling Station Design Training 

April 24-25, 2017 Spring Valley, NV

Two-day course that offers the detailed technical information needed to successfully size, design and specify a CNG fueling station.

CNG Fueling Station Operation and Maintenance Training

April 26-27, 2017 Spring Valley, NV


Two-day session that provides you with the proper techniques for operating and maintaining CNG fueling stations to help avoid oil carryover and water in the natural gas stream.




NGVi CNG Fueling Station Operation and Maintenance Training



Register Now

 


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Upcoming Training

 

CNG Fueling Station
Design Training

April 24-25, 2017
Spring Valley, NV

CNG Fueling Station Operation
and Maintenance Training

April 26-27, 2017
Spring Valley, NV

Level 1: NGV Essentials
and Safety Practices

May 9, 2017
Denver, CO

Level 2: CNG Fuel System
Inspector Training

March 10-11, 2017
Denver, CO

Level 1: NGV Essentials
and Safety Practices

June 13, 2017
Philadelphia, PA

Level 2: CNG Fuel System
Inspector Training

June 14-15, 2017
Philadelphia, PA

 

Register Now »



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