Natural Gas

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Natural Gas Quick Facts

  • Natural gas is an odorless, nontoxic gas comprised of a mixture of hydrocarbons, primarily methane (CH4). This alternative fuel supplies approximately a quarter of the energy used in the United States.
  • About one third of natural gas consumed in the United States is for residential and commercial use, while only one-tenth of 1% of natural gas is used for transportation fuel.
  • Natural gas can be produced from gas wells or as a result of crude oil production. Because of the gaseous nature of natural gas, it must be stored on-board a vehicle in either a compressed gaseous state (CNG) or a in a liquefied state (LNG).
  • Natural gas is considered to be the cleanest burning fossil fuel due to the reduced production of greenhouse gases and smog-producing pollutants.
  • WATCH: Natural Gas 101
  • To learn more about how natural gas can be used in fleet vehicles,  click here

Natural Gas Fuels

There are two different forms of natural gas that can be used as a fuel for vehicles. These two fuel types are:

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)

  • LNG fuel systems are best suited for medium and heavy duty applications. This fuel is produced by super-cooling purified natural gas to -260°F in order to turn it into a liquid. This liquid must be maintained at a very cold temperature so it is stored in double-walled, vacuum-insulated pressure vessels. LNG vehicles are more suited for long range travel than CNG vehicles.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG)

  • CNG is typically used in light, medium and heavy duty applications. These vehicles have about the same fuel economy as a traditional gasoline vehicle but the range for most dedicated CNG vehicles is less than most gasoline or diesel vehicles. CNG is stored in cylinders with a pressure of 3,000 to 3,600 pounds per square inch.

Natural Gas Stations

Use the Alternative Fuels Data Center’s Station Locator to find public natural gas stations in Virginia.

Locations are subject to change, so we recommend calling the stations to verify location, hours of operation, and access.

Natural gas vehicles can easily be fueled at public stations or on-site refueling can be built. Individual home compressors use a slow-fill system for overnight refueling. A small compressor would usually be located in a home’s garage area and would be connected directly to the natural gas supply in the house. In heavy-duty applications, the cost of a high capacity fast-fill private or public station ranges from $200,000 to as much as $3 million.

The future holds great potential for natural gas because it can potentially be used in fuel cell vehicles to make hydrogen. Researchers have found that fuel cell vehicles using hydrogen produced from natural gas could present an attractive solution for cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

CNG Fast-fill Stations

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Fast fill stations are used ideally for retail situations where light-duty vehicles can fill up quickly at random intervals. The required infrastructure for this station only takes up as much space as a parking space. Fuel for this station is provided by a local utility line at a low pressure and the compressor on site creates a high pressure gas that can be used in these vehicles. Drivers filling up at a fast fill station experience similar fill times to gasoline fueling stations—less than 5 minutes for a 20 gallon equivalent tank. Drivers use a dispenser to transfer CNG into the tank. The dispenser uses sensors to calculate pressure and measure the number of GGEs delivered to the tank, taking temperature into account.

CNG Time-fill Stations

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Time fill stations are used mainly for fleets and work well for vehicles with larger tanks that refuel at a central location every night. Unlike fast-fill stations, vehicles at time-fill stations are generally filled directly from the compressor, not from fuel stored in tanks. The size of the compressor needed depends on the size of the fleet. Although there is a small buffer storage tank, its purpose is not to fill vehicles, but to keep the compressor from turning off and on unnecessarily—wasting electricity and causing undue wear and tear on the compressor. The storage tanks are sometimes used to “top off” vehicle tanks during the day. Fuel times depend on the number of vehicles, compressor size and the amount of buffer storage. This process can take minutes to hours depending on these factors and the need of the consumers.

Use this interactive animation to learn more about how the outside temperature and fill speeds affect the final fill volume in compressed natural gas vehicle tanks. Learn more about filling CNG vehicle tanks.

The Benefits of Using Natural Gas

    • The use of natural gas reduces petroleum consumption: Compressed natural gas vehicles use 90% less petroleum as compared to gasoline engines.
    • Natural gas is better for the environment: Natural gas vehicles typically emit 6-11% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than comparable gasoline and diesel vehicles throughout the vehicle’s lifecycle. Significant reductions in carbon monoxide and evaporative volatile organic compound emissions are seen in comparison to the emissions of a traditional gasoline vehicle.
    • Natural gas is domestically produced: Most of the natural gas consumed in the United States is produced internally. This allows for increased energy security as well as the creation of jobs
    • Natural gas is less expensive than traditional gasoline. In order to see the difference in fuel costs, try using the cost calculator below.

What Vehicles Can Use Natural Gas and How Do They Perform?

There are three types of natural gas vehicles:

  • Dedicated: These vehicles run only on natural gas.
  • Bi-Fuel: These vehicles run on either natural gas or gasoline through the use of two separate fueling systems.
  • Dual-Fuel: These vehicles have fuel systems that run on natural gas but use diesel fuel for ignition assistance. These vehicles are typically only available for heavy duty application.

One of the major benefits of using natural gas vehicles is that users experience no differences in horsepower, acceleration, or cruise speed in comparison to a traditional gasoline powered vehicle.

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The image shows how natural gas vehicles that use CNG work. First, CNG enters the car through the natural gas fill valve (A). The gas entered high-pressure cylinders (B) and as natural gas is needed to power the vehicle, it travels through the master manual shut-off valve (C). This valve connects to the high-pressure fuel line (D) and enters the engine compartment. The pressure of the gas is then decreased as it enters the regulator (E) and passes through the solenoid valve (F). The solenoid valve shuts off when the engine is no longer running. Finally, the gas flows through the carburetor or fuel-injection system (G) and enters combustion chambers where it can be burned to produce power, like regular gasoline.

 

State and Federal Laws and Incentives

To learn more about available incentives and laws relating to the use of natural gas vehicles, click here.

Clean Cities Natural Gas Working Group

Virginia Clean Cities conducts bi-monthly working group webinar calls with interested fleets, fuel providers, and other groups from around Virginia to discuss natural gas. If you are interested in joining the CNG Working Group, please contact us! Below is the presentation from the last working group call:

Hank Brown, TFC Recycling (PowerPoint by Stephe Yborra, NGVAmerica)

Past Presentations

Jim Norris, Clean Energy

Steve Bernstein, Jones and Frank

Alleyn Harned, Virginia Clean Cities

Peter Grace, Clean Energy

Larry Bowling, MAERSK Line, Limited

Bill Boyce, Cummins Westport

Sunny Dewakar, NGV Motori

Natural Gas Toolkit

Virginia Clean Cities worked with the East Tennessee Clean Cities Coalition to create the Natural Gas Toolkit http://www.ngtoolkit.net. This toolkit allows you to find and utilize two primary numbers, the fuel price difference and your vehicle cost difference, to calculate a simple payback period. Perhaps more importantly, it helps you get basic pieces of information in one place to prepare for potential funding opportunities in the future. What you need to know is that this is just a starting point for looking at natural gas for your fleet. Clean Cities coalitions, NGVAmerica, and other resources are out there to help you find the other numbers you need, so use the resources page to find those as you need them.

Thomas Built Propane

CMAQ Incentive Program

The Alternative Fuels Program Government Fleet Vehicle Incentive

State agencies and local governments in specific air quality non-attainment, ozone attainment and/or maintenance areas may be reimbursed for incremental costs to transition to alternative fuels such as natural gas or propane autogas.  Reimbursements are up to an average of $10,000 for the incremental cost of new vehicles or reasonable aftermarket conversions.  Allowable vehicles for this Program do have limits, and must be:

2013 Ford E-450 with a V-10 converted dedicated Natural Gas fueled engine - GRTC Transit

2013 Ford E-450 with a V-10 converted dedicated Natural Gas fueled engine – GRTC Transit

  • ‘Buy America’ compliant or have a waiver from the Federal Highway Administration for inclusion in the Program; and
  • Garaged in program areas of air quality, as recognized by the federal CMAQ program (see FHWA site for more information).

This Program is administered through the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME), in collaboration with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

Fleets that are interested in utilizing this Program for the purchase or conversion to new alternative fuel vehicles should first contact Alleyn Harned (540-568-8896) or Matt Wade (540-568-4051) with Virginia Clean Cities.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of this Program?

  • The Program is intended to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gases associated with government fleet vehicles.

Who is eligible for this Program?

  • Local government and state agency fleets located in Air Quality Non-Attainment areas.  Click here to download a map of CMAQ areas in Virginia. A Non-Attainment area is area of the country where air pollution levels persistently exceed the national ambient air quality standards.
  • Purchases or conversions to qualifying alternative fuel vehicles after July 28, 2014 are eligible for reimbursement.

How much funding is available?

  • Total Program funding is approximately $1.3 million per year.
  • The Program provides a reimbursement of up to an average of $10,000 for the incremental cost of a new vehicle or aftermarket conversion.
  • Incremental costs are defined as:
    • the entire cost of a certified conversion of an existing vehicle to use at least one alternative fuel
    • or the additional cost of purchasing a new vehicle equipped to operate on at least one alternative fuel, over the normal cost of a similar new vehicle equipped to operate on a conventional fuel (gasoline or diesel).

What alternative fuels replacements and conversions can be purchased?

  • Allowable vehicles for this Program must be ‘Buy America’ compliant or have a waiver from the Federal Highway Administration for inclusion in the Program; waivers can be requested by contacting Virginia Clean Cities. These waivers can take up to 60 days to secure.
  • Garaged in areas of Air Quality Non-Attainment, Ozone Attainment, or Maintenance as recognized by the Federal CMAQ program.
  • Light duty and heavy duty dedicated and bi-fuel propane autogas vehicles. Light duty dedicated battery electric sedans.
  • Light duty and heavy duty dedicated and b-fuel compressed natural gas vehicles.

Thomas Built PropaneWhat vehicles are eligible under this incentive Program?

  • Van (including Wagon or Cutaway or Stripped Chassis) Dedicated LPG
  • Truck Dedicated LPG
  • School Bus Dedicated LPG
  • Van (including Wagon or Cutaway or Stripped Chassis) Bi-fuel LPG
  • Truck Bi-fuel LPG
  • Sedan Bi-fuel LPG
  • Van (including Wagon or Cutaway or Stripped Chassis) Dedicated CNG
  • Truck Bi-fuel CNG
  • Truck Dedicated CNG
  • Sedan Dedicated CNG
  • School Bus Dedicated CNG
  • Refuse Hauler Dedicated CNG
  • Sedan Dedicated Battery Electric
  • Please visit this list for Buy-America approved vehicles – Buy America 
    • This list will be updated quarterly.

Can I apply for funding for more than one vehicle?

  • Each vehicle must meet the eligibility requirements.
  • If you need space for additional vehicles on your application, attach additional sheets of paper and include the owner’s name on each sheet and attach to the application.

What are my reporting responsibilities after reimbursement?

  • Recipients of Program funding for alternative fuel vehicles must report quarterly mileage and usage to DMME. Recipients will have to report any disabled vehicles or discontinued use of alternative fuel for vehicles in the Program to DMME within first five (5) years of operation.
  • Within 90 days of conversion VCC will audit bi-fuel conversion vehicles by visual inspection and checklist on a resting and lifted vehicle.

What is the application process?

  • A local government or state agency that has purchased or converted a vehicle to operate on an alternative fuel after July 28, 2014 may submit an agency reimbursement form and supporting documentation to DMME.
  • DMME verifies purchase and non-attainment area details, and certifies that the proposer agency has complied with the Program requirements.
  • DMME forwards the agency request for reimbursement to VDOT. VDOT will process the request within 30 days.
  • DMME, on receipt of these funds, forwards this reimbursement to the Agency.
Honda Civic Natural Gas dedicated - The City of Richmond

Honda Civic Natural Gas dedicated – The City of Richmond

Complete and signed agency reimbursement forms must include the following:

  • Number of vehicles
  • Vehicle conversion or purchase date.
  • Vehicle and technology type (i.e., bi-fuel CNG, dedicated LPG, Battery electric, etc).
  • Vehicle VIN number.
  • Incremental cost of alternative fuel vehicle compared to traditional fuel vehicle.
  • Total amount of reimbursement requested.
  • Supporting documentation including copies of receipts, invoices, and cost comparisons of traditional vehicle versus alternative fuel vehicle.

How can I get an application?

How do I acquire the alternative fuel or build a fueling station?

Compressed Natural Gas: State and local government fleets can now access substantially reduced natural gas (CNG) fuel rates straight from the VA state contract.  The vendor, Clean Energy Fuels, continues to build out both public and private natural gas fueling stations throughout the Commonwealth.  Clean Energy Fuels is works closely with many state and local agency fleet managers  to help them implement their natural gas fueling programs.  This includes on-site private fueling stations, public-access, partnership revenue sharing stations, or a combination of these.

    Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG or Propane): Alliance AutoGas (AAG) (www.allianceautogas.com) is a network managed by its parent company Blossman Gas, Inc., providing a comprehensive propane autogas solution for medium and heavy-duty fleets. For approximately ten converted vehicles, Alliance Autogas can install an on-site refueling station at no cost to the fleet. Participating fleets can have access to a growing network of refueling locations across the state of Virginia.

    For eligible fleets interested in participating via the Alliance Autogas complete turnkey program, please contact one the Alliance Autogas representative below:

    • Jamison Walker
      Alliance Autogas in partnership with Virginia Governments outside of Hampton Roads
      (434) 808-3075
      JWalker@AllianceAutogas.com
    • John Phillips
      Alliance Autogas in partnership with Virginia Governments in Hampton Roads
      (804) 6954661
      jphillips@peifuels.com

    For more information on alternative fuels, please visit http://www.vacleancities.org/cleaner-transportation/.

     

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1 comment

  1. Jack Stepongzi says:

    Certified CNG Inspector, LLC is a private business offering services to support fleets and private owners running CNG vehicles. Finding an inspector for required inspections can be difficult sometimes. We are available for any fleets running CNG in Va, DC, Md, De, Pa and NJ.

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