NGVConnection Newsletter - August 2013


 


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How Not to Get Stuck in NGV Training Hell

By Annalloyd Thomason, Vice President/General Manager, NGVi

Picture this common scenario.

You’re a fleet manager scheduled to take delivery of your first 50 compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks in about six weeks. As you plan for their arrival, you realize your technicians don’t know the first thing about CNG and will need training. The manufacturer provides some training, but it’s limited to your engines and trucks. Your technicians need broader training. At a minimum, they will need general technician safety training and CNG fuel system inspector training to ensure compliance with NHTSA requirements for CNG vehicles.

The search for training begins on the internet or by calling a fleet management or industry colleague.  You quickly learn there is a variety of training providers and it’s going to be difficult to determine which one to select. 

Looking deeper, you find that some training providers are former technicians who recently have hung out their training “shingle.”  Others sell and install vehicle conversion systems and provide “training.”  A few are community colleges or private training institutions.  The rest are industry generalists, contractors or consultants who want to expand their potential revenue streams.

As you ponder how to tackle the challenge of procuring high-quality training for your technicians, you realize the health and safety of your company employees, customers and the general public are at stake. Your decision is critical. How do you evaluate and choose the right organization?

We are often asked to help customers discern what is important about CNG or LNG training providers and we believe there are at least ten major questions that should be asked and answered.

Is the training provider entity accredited by any legitimate organization? 

Many technicians have taken and passed National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) tests certifying job related skills. While ASE testing is an excellent qualification for a working technician, it has nothing to do with their ability to train. 

In a separate program, ASE offers accreditation for training providers.  This program—called ASE Continuing Automotive Service Education or CASE Accreditation—is one of the very best ways to ensure you are hiring a quality training organization. This widely recognized program is a rigorous accreditation process for training entities that provide continuing education to working automotive technicians. It provides recognition that the training organization has been reviewed against industry established and endorsed standards and approved by peers. 

ASE-accredited training providers are reviewed based on training technique, student assessment methods, validity of the training material, instructor qualifications, and administrative processes. This gets to the core of what fleet managers should look for in a training provider.

What is the training provider’s full-time mission?

Training—specifically CNG and/or LNG training—should be the primary mission of any provider. Organizations that are focused on training—who have the teaching qualifications and staff who are experts in instructor-led and online training—will be best prepared to train technicians on the day-to-day knowledge required to maintain NGVs. If the “training provider” sells a product, sometimes works as a contractor in another alternative fuel industry, or their major service is consulting- they’re probably not a qualified training provider. 

An easy way to screen for this factor is to look at the provider’s website. Is there a published schedule of training classes—and it is robust?  Are there a variety of CNG or LNG training courses available?  If so, it’s more likely training is their full-time focus.

How long has the organization been providing CNG or LNG training?

Not just any training—but CNG and LNG training.  With these fuels, there is no substitute for experience and longevity. Fleet managers need training providers who have been providing CNG and/or LNG training long enough to have a proven track record.  Anyone can put up a website and describe themselves as a CNG/LNG training provider.  Documentation of their experience will include how long they’ve been delivering that training.

What are the credentials and qualifications of the individual trainers?

Technicians have been trained to be highly skilled at maintaining and repairing vehicles, but they don’t necessarily make effective trainers. Professional speakers, industry contractors, consultants and others have skill sets too—but they aren’t usually educated and qualified to develop proven training curriculum or to deliver training.   

Effective trainers may be ASE-certified master technicians, but they also need to have a background and experience in education and training. One of a trainer’s main jobs is to understand individual learning styles and to motivate students. This is best accomplished by a training professional. 

How many students has the organization trained specifically on CNG and/or LNG?

This factor measures experience, and to some degree--customer satisfaction. The more students a CNG/LNG training provider has trained, the more classroom experience they have and the more likely their students have had an effective learning experience. 

Who are the company’s current and previous customers?

Fleet managers need to know that companies and organizations similar to theirs have trusted and had a good experience with the training provider.  A list of current and previous customers will help the fleet manager quickly assess the quality of training provided and provide a source of references if desired.

Is the organization authorized to provide Continuing Education Units (CEUs)?

CEUs are important to many fleet managers, and demonstrate training legitimacy. ASE-accredited training organizations are among those authorized to provide CEUs.

Does the training provider have a standard methodology for testing learning outcomes? 

Training is only effective when knowledge is transferred and technicians leave the courses with the ability to perform the new skills learned. Serious training providers administer exams for all students that have been rigorously reviewed for predictability and require a minimum score for successful completion. They also provide graded exams back to each student and use those exams to help direct students to curriculum areas they may need to review. 

Does the training organization maintain individual training records for all its students?

Fleet managers want to work with a training provider that keeps adequate records—especially if potential future litigation could be involved. Documentation of the training that technicians have completed is essential to maintain adequate background information and to prove that a company has taken necessary safety precautions in the form of employee training. 

Is the cost equal to or greater than the VALUE of the training?

There is cost and there is value. This question may sound blunt, but how much money is the life or a limb of just one NGV technician worth?  When put in that perspective, fleet managers want to make sure they get the very highest quality training for their training dollars. The least expensive training may be the lowest price, but in the long run, it could cost lives if the training provider is not experienced or qualified and technicians ultimately don’t have the necessary skills to handle
high-pressure fuels.

Getting answers to these ten questions will help fleet managers quickly identify qualified, experienced and reputable CNG and/or LNG training providers. It takes time to interview the prospective providers, but in the long run it will definitely save you from what we call “NGV Training Hell”: the place you’re stuck in when you’ve hired an unqualified training organization and you’re faced with the need to retrain—at your own expense.


Perspectives with Naresh Patel, Micro-Design, Inc.
By Kasia McBride, Marketing Manager, NGVi

NGVi recently met with Naresh Patel, president of Micro-Design, Inc. (MDi).

MDi - an NGVi sponsor- manufactures a variety of state-of-the-art controls for compressor skids, oil pumps and gas wells, and priority/sequential valve panels. They are a qualified GE Gemini and Bauer compressor packager, as well as distributors for GE parts and Bauer CNG packages.

Before giving us an insider’s look at this exciting market, please tell us more about your company. What are your primary target markets?

MDi consists of three divisions: Oil & Gas, Asset Monitoring & Tracking, and Engineering & Instrumentation Services for Water & Waste Water Industries. CNG is part of our Oil & Gas division.

MDi manufactures all types of state-of-the-art controls for compressor skids, oil pumps and gas wells, and priority/sequential valve panels.

For the last 15 years, MDi has been involved in manufacturing complete CNG compressor skids. MDi is a qualified GE Gemini compressor and Bauer compressor packager, in addition to being a Bauer CNG package and GE parts and service distributor.

MDi’s LevelCon brand of products monitors and controls equipment worldwide. Currently we have offices/representatives in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Brazil, Columbia, Egypt and India. Backup generators and fuel levels at 90% of the cellular sites are currently monitored by MDi’s LevelCon equipment in the United States, South America and Caribbean.

MDi also controls the entire water distribution system in Eastern Puerto Rico and the islands of Vieques and Culebra using the high-tech, web-based SCADA system and LevelCon.


Can you specifically tell us about CNG-related products and services your company offers and what sets your products, services and company apart from your competitors?

MDi offers a complete line of CNG compressor skids with controls and all necessary external equipment for building a CNG station. This includes gas dryers, storage vessels, valve panels, single and dual hose slow-fill (time-fill) posts, dual-hose dispensers with card lock systems, priority/sequential controls. All MDi skids include a web-based remote monitoring system operating on the cellular network, with one year of service fees included in the original cost.

MDi’s CNG solutions are simple and cost effective. We strongly believe in safety and efficiency, so our designs incorporate all fill controls into the valve panels where the emergency shut-off valves are located (going to the dispensing areas).

MDi also offers “dumb” dispensers. These are simple, with no complicated sequential valving or electronics. All dispensing logic takes place in the back using sophisticated fill sequences such as GRI’s Accufil system. In addition, all MDi CNG skids include sophisticated start/stop sequences. They monitor temperature and pressures at all stages, including oil pressure and the control of air pressure.

Could you discuss the Gemini product line? 

Sure


Does the electric motor driving the compressor have a variable speed drive? 

With most CNG applications, a variable speed drive is not necessary to run the motor. A good solid-state motor starter works well. MDi has implemented capacity control in the past without using a variable frequency drive for the motor. Instead, controlling the flow using ratio valves suffices. Of course, we can always include a variable speed drive if the customer specifically requests it.

What is the SCFM flow range of the compressor?

MDi offers Bauer compressor packages for requirements < 150 SCFM and GE Gemini for 150-1,200 SCFM.

What is the compressor suction gas pressure range (highest and lowest)?

MDi has packages using Bauer compressors that range from 0-5 psi inlet pressure while others range from 0-60 psi.

 

For GE Gemini compressor packages, the typical inlet pressure ranges from 30 to 170 psi. However, we have built packages with our proprietary interstage control sequences allowing pressures from 150 psi to 3,600 psi. This is typical in applications where a virtual pipeline exists between a “mother-daughter” station.

 

What is the compressor discharge pressure range?

Standard range is 3,000 to 5,000 psi. Most compressor control pressures are set to turn on at 3,200 psi and shut off at temperature-compensated pressures typically up to 4,500 psi.

 

Is there a dryer inside the compressor enclosure? If there is, is it a suction-side dryer (before the compressor)? If so, how does it regenerate? 

MDi does not supply a built-in dryer. We assist the customer with identifying the correct size based on their particular needs: gas flow capacity and gas composition details. We then recommend a supplier and give the customer a choice to purchase it either directly from them or from us.

What is the maximum amount of high-pressure storage with the standard package?

We do not have any standard maximum as such, but for 3,600 psi fills at 70°F nominal, we recommend storage banks rated at 5,500 psi.

Whose dispenser do you offer with your package?

In the past, MDi has supplied dispensers manufactured by Kraus. MDi is now supplying dispenser and card lock systems manufactured by Virdis. Both companies are out of Canada.

Please tell us your vision of the future of natural gas vehicles in the United States?

In the United States, I believe it is dependent on federal and state subsidies, tax credits, grants and other types of incentives. The gas availability infrastructure is still weak although it is improving every day. There are huge advantages for large entities such as transit systems, city vehicles and large company fleets to operate on CNG, and we are seeing more and more of this.

However, I feel there is still “a hill to climb” for small fleet operators, such as airport taxis, electrical and plumbing companies, delivery companies, etc. These have limited capital, and the price differentials between gasoline/diesel/natural gas do not seem to be significant enough to motivate them on a large scale. In addition, station infrastructure is still an issue, especially in small and medium sized cities. Overall, I firmly believe that CNG is the transportation fuel of the future, and I see a bright future in the coming years!


Tell us about the increasing demand for CNG fueling stations in North America and how your company is responding to it.

The CNG industry is still relatively small in North America, with plenty of room to grow. In order to see significant growth in our industry, financial institutions must become convinced of its advantages. Most importantly, gas utilities need to participate more actively. Thinking long term, each project must be based purely on economics and not on federal, state or private incentives since they will not continue indefinitely.

Can you talk about some of the changes you have seen in the last decade in the CNG industry?

 

CNG did well for a while with California and the Northeastern states taking the lead. Then, it went bust and many cities like Austin, TX reverted back to operating on diesel fuel. However, I have seen tremendous activity and great potential for growth in the last few years.

 

Large transit facilities and companies like AT&T, Frito-Lay and others are converting their fleets, which builds confidence in the industry. There also has been good growth in the large transport sector using both LNG and CNG. Hopefully these patterns will continue.

 

What challenges do you foresee in response to the increasing demand for CNG fueling stations?

Anytime the demand increases, so will the price. As long as the fuel price differential is high between gasoline/diesel fuel and CNG/LNG, there is incentive; growth will continue. Once the large LNG export facilities are operational, such as the one being built by Cheniere Energy, and Exxon is granted a license to build, I feel confident the natural gas price per GGE will edge upwards. However, we can be optimistic that the price will remain enticing to justify converting vehicles to CNG.



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Fire Marshals and Code Officials: What They Need to Know

By Kasia McBride, Marketing Manager, NGVi

With the increasing number of companies implementing natural gas vehicles in their fleets, it has become essential for fire marshals and other code officials to have a greater familiarity with the national codes and regulations that affect vehicles, fueling stations and maintenance facilities.   

Fire marshals are likely to be familiar with the fire codes and safety requirements for liquid fuels like gasoline and diesel.  The liquid and the vapors for these fuels are both heavier than air and pool on the ground when leaked.  On the other hand, natural gas is lighter than air and rises if leaked. Whether in compressed (CNG) or liquid (LNG) form, natural  gas requires special safety procedures.

The unique characteristics of natural gas demand adherence to a number of codes and safety standards which differ significantly from those governing liquid fuels. To protect public health and safety, fire marshals and other code officials can benefit from detailed knowledge of these differences and the specific codes and regulations that apply to natural gas.

These regulations relate to:

  • the design, operation, and maintenance of CNG fueling stations
  • vehicle maintenance facilities and parking structures where natural gas vehicles are repaired, maintained or stored
  • high-pressure CNG fuel systems onboard vehicles

CNG Fueling Stations

Because CNG fueling stations deal with high-pressure gas, specific knowledge is required to properly size, design and construct them.  Those who build gasoline and diesel fueling stations utilize different design and construction practices, including entirely different building materials. In addition, CNG stations must be designed and built based on specific codes, standards and industry best practices.

Since the fire marshal is the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) for permitting and approval of the construction and operation of CNG fueling stations, their knowledge of the safety requirements and specific codes governing these stations is critical.

CNG fueling stations must meet numerous fire, mechanical, electrical and building codes.  Among the most important is National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 52. This standard covers CNG compression, storage and dispensing systems. It also pertains to siting and setback issues, establishes electrical rating requirements of many components and defines boundaries of hazardous areas.

Vehicle Maintenance Facilities for CNG Vehicles

A major priority for fire marshals and code officials is to ensure that vehicle maintenance and repair facilities meet the code and safety requirements for natural gas vehicles.

Because natural gas is lighter than air and rises when leaked, the ceiling of maintenance facilities—as opposed to the floor areas in gasoline and diesel facilities-- is of particular concern.  The classified area in natural gas maintenance and repair facilities is from the ceiling down 18 inches. Potential ignition sources in this area must be eliminated--including lighting fixtures, electric motors, conduits, heaters, etc., and modifications or replacements may be required to ensure code compliance.

Fire marshals are responsible to help ensure all NGV maintenance and repair facilities are safe.  Even if routine maintenance is performed on NGVs - such as an oil change or tire rotation - the facility must have the proper ventilation to safely accommodate the lighter-than-air fuel onboard the vehicle.

There are eight major codes and regulations governing vehicle maintenance facility safety and not all of them are fire codes.  In combination, these codes address the lighting, heating systems, ventilation and internal building structure of vehicle maintenance and repair facilities. Application of specific codes may vary by location due to unique building conditions and the preferences of the local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ), who is typically the fire marshal.

Vehicular CNG Cylinders and the Onboard Fuel System

Unlike CNG fueling stations and vehicle maintenance facilities, vehicular CNG fuel systems do not require special permits from fire marshals or code officials. However, these agency representatives--as well as municipal emergency responders such as fire fighters and police--should be aware of codes and regulations governing pressurized CNG fuel systems, as well as the industry best practices when dealing with natural gas vehicles.

NGV fuel systems are installed according to National Fire Protection Association regulations. These cover the types of onboard fuel storage cylinders that can be installed on the vehicle as well as the safety factors required for all of the tubing and components that make up the high- and low-pressure portions of the fuel system. 

According to NFPA 52 (2013), vehicle manufacturers and/or installers of CNG fuel systems must provide a defueling or venting system to allow the high-pressure portion of the CNG fuel system to be vented for service. All vehicles procured after December 17, 2012 must have the ability to be vented or defueled, including the installation of a venting or defueling connection. For vehicles falling under this regulation, safety is improved because technicians do not have to break a fitting under pressure to vent or defuel any part of the high-pressure fuel system.

Onboard CNG fuel storage cylinders manufactured on or after March 27, 1995, must be produced and certified in accordance with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 304. NHTSA requires that each CNG cylinder must receive a detailed visual inspection every 36 months or 36,000 miles (whichever comes first), and following any vehicle accident or fire.

Whether dealing with fueling stations, vehicle maintenance facilities, or vehicles, it is imperative that fire marshals, building code officials, first responders and others are properly trained on appropriate code requirements that help not only maintain safe operation of the NGV fleet and support facilities, but also protect overall public safety. These officials recognize that although natural gas has an excellent safety record, training is important. As the number of NGV fleets increases, knowledge of specific regulations concerning vehicles, fueling stations and maintenance facilities will become even more crucial.

NGVi offers CNG/LNG Codes and Standards Training for Fire Marshals and Code Officials.  For more information, visit our website at www.ngvi.com or contact us at 800-510-6484.


CNG Fuel Price Report
From Clean Cities Alternative Fuel Price Report published by Argonne National Laboratory for DOE's Clean Cities Program

Overall Average Fuel Prices (as of April 2013)

 

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)

$3.59

$3.29

$0.30

per gallon

Diesel

$3.99

$3.96

$0.03

per gallon

CNG

$2.10

$2.10

$0.00

per GGE


NGVs and CNG in the News

CNG Kits Approved For New Police Vehicles--TheCabin.net

New Encana CNG Station Opens in Parachute--Krextv.com

Kwik Trip Takes on Natural Gas--NACSonline.com

City uses Compressed Natural Gas--DemingHeadlight.com

 

To read more, click here.


Upcoming Training from NGVi

NGV Technician and Fleet Operations Safety Training 

September 24, 2013 | Philadelphia, PA
October 1, 2013 | Little Rock, AR

One-day session that teaches you the elements involved in the safe maintenance practices, fueling procedures, and operation of NGVs.

REGISTER>>>

CNG Fuel System Inspector Training

September 25-26, 2013 |
Philadelphia, PA
October 2-3, 2013 | Little Rock, AR


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


REGISTER>>>

 



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April 10-11, 2017
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Level 2: CNG Fuel System
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April 12-13, 2017
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CNG Fueling Station Operation
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April 26-27, 2017
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May 9, 2017
Denver, CO

Level 2: CNG Fuel System
Inspector Training

March 10-11, 2017
Denver, CO

 

 

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About NGVi

Natural Gas Vehicle Institute is North America’s leading provider of training and consulting on natural gas as a transportation fuel.

Our services address the full range of natural gas vehicle and fueling issues, including:

Technical consulting services – Sizing and designing compressed natural gas fueling stations, vehicle assessments and technical assistance for fleets, CNG fueling station troubleshooting, natural gas vehicle maintenance facilities upgrades, liquefied natural gas fleet and fueling management.

Technical training – NGV Essentials and Safety Practices, CNG Fuel System Inspector Training, Heavy-Duty NGV Maintenance and Diagnostics Training, Light-Duty NGV Maintenance and Diagnostics Training, CNG Fueling Station Operation and Maintenance Training, CNG Fueling Station Design Training and CNG/LNG Codes and Standards Training for Fire Marshals and Code Officials.

 

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