Natural Gas Vehicle Technology Forum 2015 Meeting Summary

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The 2015 Natural Gas Technology Forum (NGVTF) meeting was held on Oct. 20 and 21, 2015, in San Francisco, California. Following is a summary of the meeting.

Day One: October 20, 2015

Opening Remarks and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Update

Dennis Smith, DOE

Smith reiterated the importance of the NGVTF and how critical it is for the group to understand that the meeting is not a prep rally for compressed natural gas (CNG). Instead, the meeting is meant to discuss the issues in the industry, warts and all. The meeting also provides a forum to discuss technical issues with the primary focus being on nearer-term goals, field issues, and lessons learned, instead of long-term research.

CEC Natural Gas Vehicle Research Roadmap

Alex Schroeder, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Schroeder discussed the overall objectives of the California Energy Commission's (CEC) NGV roadmap and its objectives, with the primary objective being to inform stakeholders of natural gas vehicle R&D investment decisions made by CEC and to promote increased ratepayer benefits. This roadmap is updated from the previous roadmap developed in 2009 and details the issues currently being faced in the industry with recommendations for R&D priorities moving forward. This is a critical research document for the CEC and the group was highly encouraged to discuss or submit comments that could help provide for the most complete and comprehensive roadmap moving forward.

South Coast AQMD Low NOx .02

Adewale Oshinuga, South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD)

California’s South Coast Air Basin has seen substantial air quality progress over the years, but serious health impacts still exist. The Basin is considered the nation’s largest containerized freight gateway with more than 261,000 diesel vehicles and more than 11 million gasoline vehicles on the road today. Ozone levels are trending downward but still remain above those of the federal standards; additional measures need to be implemented to meet current and future ozone standards. The main focus of the South Coast Air Quality Management District is to go beyond their use of current technologies and incorporate technologies that will greater reduce their emissions in the future. Various emissions criteria pollutants will need to be reduced in order to reach AQMD's current and upcoming ozone targets with the goal of having a minimal energy economic penalty, equivalent performance as diesel, and a durable and robust system. AQMD, along with CEC and the Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas), are working with natural gas engine providers to help develop technologies that will help accomplish these goals. Engines will range from multiple displacements with a Cummins engine, Cummins Westport, and Power Solutions Incorporated. This partnership is designed to take these engines from the development stage all the way through the commercialization phase of development. There will be different stages of deployment with the goal of a commercial product being ready for some these applications in late 2016.

CARB Policies (Sustainable Freight Programs)

Bill Robertson, California Air Resources Board (CARB)

Transportation and its effects on ambient air quality are key areas of concern in California. Other areas of concern include greenhouse gas emissions and the reduction of petroleum. CARB has produced recent documents illustrating and discussing their planning efforts to address these and many additional issues. Assessing current and emerging technologies and fuels that have the ability to reduce criteria pollutants, toxic air contaminants, and greenhouse gases, are among the top priorities for CARB. There are many opportunities for other organizations to participate and potential funding is available. An ongoing opportunity that is available is a project aimed at reducing the amount of NOx in natural gas engines. A new low-NOx engine that was produced in development with South Coast AQMD, Cummins Westport, CEC, and SoCalGas has now been completed. It is expected to be released in the second quarter of 2016. CARB is considering offering future funding to other manufacturers who are interested in working towards this optional engine standard of 0.01 g (FTP) of NOx.

Tim Olsen, CEC

Olsen discussed the CEC NGV trends and funding opportunities that include biomethane projects. These projects are designed to reduce California’s diesel demand and there are currently incentives available to buy down the delta cost between a diesel and a natural gas truck. CEC's plan for diesel displacement projects through 2025 also includes renewable natural gas playing an increasing role. There are currently two business models for biomethane being reviewed: injecting it directly into the pipeline or direct use from the source.

CNG Pathways Forward Panel Discussion

Rey Gonzalez (CEC) and Dennis Smith (DOE)

Gonzalez and Smith discussed how many people are focusing on GHG in discussions today and it is equally important to discuss the other criteria emissions and how we should continue to find ways to reduce those also. In this discussion, the two speakers also encouraged the group to begin sharing more stories about tailpipe reductions. On-board CNG storage continues to be a driving cost of the overall fuel system and is an area of focus that is critical to reducing the overall vehicle cost. Gonzales and Smith emphasized the need to continue the development of infrastructure. Infrastructure limitations mean there is a need for increased vehicle storage, thus increasing the vehicle cost. More expansive infrastructure could help reduce the cost.

CNG Facilities and Modifications

Chip Wertz, Waste Management

Wertz discussed the facility upgrades that took place at Waste Management's 81 natural gas facilities across North America. The company owns more than 4,200 natural gas refuse trucks, with the number continually increasing, so upgrading their facilities has become paramount. Wertz said the first step in the process was to determine if each facility would require a minor or a major repair. Next, Waste Management considered if the facility was located in a warmer or a colder climate, as this could affect the facility upgrade cost considerably. He stated there were potential solutions on the horizon for some of these market barriers. Some of these potential solutions included defueling the vehicle before it is brought into the shop. Wertz said it is critical to determine if there is any fuel left in the vehicle.

Vehicle Incidents/Lessons Learned

Rob Adams (Marathon Technical Services) and John Gonzales (NREL)

Refer to the presentation given at the meeting. Many lessons learned as the industry continues to grow.

Advanced Technologies – Onboard Adsorbed Storage

Doug Kirkpatrick, BlackPak

BlackPak focuses on adsorbed natural gas (ANG) storage systems in order to reduce the overall cost of the light-duty natural gas fuel system. It was discussed that only a complete solution will be able to make this possible. When combined, low pressure storage and low pressure compression can increase the market penetration of natural gas vehicles at a substantially lower-cost delta. These would be designed for vehicles that are driving less than 70 miles per day and would be able to fill at home. The ANG storage systems would provide a more economical option for these applications of their smaller storage container size and reduced storage weight. The ANG storage systems would cost less than the CNG counterparts because the fuel tanks themselves do not need to be built to hold the higher pressure of the CNG systems. The entire cost of the fuel system will also be less. BlackPak is also looking into co-fueling, or duel fueling, to utilize the onboard storage while increasing the overall vehicle range.

End-of-Life Tank Safety

Mike Scarpino, U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)

Scarpino discussed the current program that DOE and DOT are working on to encourage CNG fuel tank safety and how to address these fuel tanks when they reach their end of life, including how to de-fuel, decommission, and ultimately destroy them. Scarpino expressed concerns about expired fuel tanks in the secondary markets along with operators dealing with vehicles that are now reaching their end of life.

Fuel Tank Full-Fill Considerations

Ted Barnes, Gas Technology Institute

Fuel tank and full fill considerations include defining the fill pressure as 3600 psi at 70°F (settled temperature). The heat of compression and dispenser control strategies that determine this end fill pressure is very important for safety and maximizing the vehicles driving range. Under many conditions the fill does not reach full density. The most common fill is around 20-30% of the optimal fill range. Fills are getting faster and it is essential to the industry that this is being done safely. Significate under filling has a considerable effect on the vehicle's range and the driver's perception and satisfaction.

Day Two: October 21, 2015

NGVs and Utility Engagement

Ned Biehl, Pacific Gas and Electric Company

PG&E is currently operating 384 NGVs, peaking in the 2000s with their NGVs totaling more than 1,500 vehicles. The utility's primary barriers to natural gas deployment are infrastructure, limited range, significant capital premium, lack of qualified technicians, and parts availability. They currently own 33 CNG fueling sites. A major issue for them is if a station does go down, by being located such a big service territory, the vehicle may have to go 20-30 miles out of their way to fuel. Because PG&E is an electric utility as well, they are investing heavily in electric vehicles. They are looking at CNG/LNG for their medium-duty vehicles and are strongly considering electric vehicles for their light-duty fleet.

Engine Development 6.7L and 11.9L

Stephen Ptucha, Cummins Westport

Ptucha provided an update on the new Cummins Westport ISB6.7G engine due to be released in the second quarter of 2016. This is the first engine the company has offered in this class since the discontinuation of the CWI 5.9L LBSI natural gas engine in 2009. The engine will have many similarities with the ISLG and the ISX12 G engines such as stoichiometric fueling, cooled EGR, coil on plug and 4V head design. Initial launch will be in the Thomas Built bus C2 on CNG. They are also working with other OEMs on other integration opportunities. It will range from 200 to 260 horsepower depending upon application. It was also discussed that the ISX12 G was the most successful launch to date for CWI. The company has reported that customer feedback and testimonials have been very positive. They were able to certify to both CARB and EPA in October of 2015 at 0.01 NOx FTP. The standard is 0.02 utilizing the ISLG8.9L engine, along with adding closed crankcase ventilation system to the engine. This low NOx engine is planned for an April 2016 production date.

Next Generation Spark-Ignited CNG Engines

Brad Douville, Westport

The focus of this presentation was on light-duty vehicles and the opportunities that still exist there for the natural gas industry. Advanced powertrains that fully exploit the ultra-high octane of natural gas have not been explored and this is a significant missed opportunity. Conformable tank and low pressure storage would be key to moving this market segment forward. New natural gas light-duty engines need to take advantage of the new technologies like gasoline direct injection and turbocharging. CNG downsizing provides for challenges with great potential. Douville spoke about considering the possibility of utilizing a combination of natural gas and gasoline to increase efficiency and/or range.

Heavy-Duty Dual Fuel

Dennis Smith, DOE

Smith spoke about making sense of dual fuel engines and the options available in heavy-duty trucks. He emphasized the importance of understanding the complexity of operating two fuel systems and the emissions components that would be required for both. Smith said something to consider would be what the optimal substitution rates are and why there is so much confusion on this subject. He said there are other viable applications besides on-road applications that currently exist in marine and rail. There are three areas of certification that can take place for these applications; confusion has been a consistent issue when these different certifications or approvals have been issued. The majority of these conversion approvals have not resulted in a single order. It has been found that exuberant sales people may tend to exaggerate or embellish things that refer to this technology.

CNG and Electric Hybridization

James Burns, TransPower

Burns spoke about TransPower's heavy-duty electric solutions that include hybrids with a focus on Class 8 trucks. The company focuses primarily in the off-road and drayage markets. Battery variations offer different range opportunities along with the ability to be coupled with the Eaton transmission.

Direct Injection CNG Combustion Research in Heavy-Duty Optical Engines

Mark Musculus, Sandia National Laboratory

Musculus spoke about Sandia National Laboratory's research on direct injection CNG combustion research in a heavy-duty optical engine. During the research, in-cylinder strategies were used to improve diesel emissions and efficiency was guided by optical diagnostics. The thought is that this could help with heavy duty natural gas engines. The Cummins 2007 diesel engine was designed entirely on the computer and then tested after the fact to verify the models. Natural gas studies would need different optical tools since diesel combusts at a lower temperature than natural gas. Considerable work is being done in this field. Multiple different processes are being considered with results that could see significant changes in the current natural gas engines that are available.

Heavy- and Light-Duty Natural Gas Emergency Response Considerations

Quon Kwan, DOT

Kwan spoke about the differences between light-duty and heavy-duty vehicles fueled by natural gas and what needs to be considered for emergency response. There was a generic 4-page brochure developed in 1996 that has not been updated since; there is a current need for a separate emergency response guide. This will be important especially for incidents involving heavy-duty vehicles. The first transportation fatality from an incident occurred in 2015 when a box truck was carrying a forklift improperly. The forklift punctured an onboard CNG tank that resulted in the death of the driver. Kwan said the DOT is seeing an increase in heavy-duty natural gas vehicles and a slight decrease in light-duty natural gas vehicles in the marketplace. Emergency responders face different hazards when responding to natural gas vehicle incidents like a CNG blast hazard or LNG cryogenic burn hazards. Equipment locations continue to change for fuel tanks, fuel lines, and pressure relief devices, which make it harder for emergency responders to do their job.

CSA 6.1 Failure Modes & Effect Analysis/ NGVAmerica Technology & Development Committee Introduction

Dan Bowerson, NGV America

The NGV industry, along with CSA, is currently working on NGV 6.1, a document that outlines recommended practices for CNG fuel systems. Bowerson said they are also working on items that were presented from the Clean Vehicle Education Foundation critical issue meetings that need to be addressed that deals with both the vehicle and the fueling station.

PRD Development and Industry Issues

Erick Girouard, Emcara

Girouard spoke about natural gas-related incidents with the focus being on pressure relief device-related (PRD) issues. He said the industry needed to consider how to address the placement of PRDs to ensure that they operate properly and there are no effects on the fuel system if they do not activate when they are intended to.