||Natural Gas Conversion
“The business climate for moving away from petroleum to natural gas in the transportation sector is huge – due to the energy security issue, the availability of our own natural gas and the price difference of natural gas, compared to diesel,” stated Jim Moore, president of Emission Solutions, Inc. (ESI). ESI works exclusively with International (Navistar trucks and school buses) and is one of the companies involved in the burgeoning industry of compressed natural gas (CNG) powered vehicles.
“We convert existing trucks or buses by swapping the existing diesel engine out, or the local International dealers accomplish the conversion from diesel to CNG ‘in-frame’ (under the hood), by installing the CNG components that we provide to them. Our engine is also offered by International in their new trucks from the factory as an OEM product,” said Moore.
He described their engine as a 7.6L CNG engine that primarily serves intra-city fleets that run a daily route, with a daily return to a central location for refueling. Some examples of this include school buses and municipal and local food-beverage distribution fleets. Moore added, “Those of us in the CNG industry lobby for the NAT GAS Act, which would provide incentives that encourage local fleets to convert to natural gas for their vehicular use, sooner rather than later.” The NAT GAS Act is the acronym for New Alternative Transportation to Give Americans Solutions Act of 2011 – which is an amendment to a Senate Transportation bill.
Technocarb was founded to develop, manufacture and distribute alternative fuel conversion systems for gasoline and diesel fuelled engines worldwide. Vice president Peter Gordon said, “We focus on customer service and cost effective products to define our market niche.” The company manufactures and sells a wide variety of vehicle-specific alternative fuel systems, as well as “universal” style and industrial application conversions. The systems typically consist of the components required to convert a vehicle or piece of industrial equipment from gasoline operation to alternative fuel operation, except fuel tanks and high pressure fuel lines. Technocarb has also developed a state-of-the-art supplemental CNG and liquid propane gases (LPG) “blending” system to significantly reduce harmful emissions and reduce fuel costs for both turbo and non-turbo diesel applications. Ethanol, hythane (hydrogen/methane) and ammonia conversion system research is also ongoing.
Gordon explained some of the challenges of working in his industry, “EPA rules governing diesel/CNG systems make it almost impossible monetarily, for anyone but an OEM to achieve outdated, impractical rules. Also, CNG tank prices are ridiculously high due to limited competition and U.S. regulatory requirements, so the industry is desperate for fuel saving solutions.
“Solutions are already available, but again – due to regulatory barriers – emissions certification costs and the fact that both State and Federal grants are only available to EPA or CARB certified products, the OEMs in fact are the only companies who can afford to jump through all the usual regulatory hoops. There is very little incentive to change this business model. If one considers the incredible prices being charged for replacement ‘diesel’ engines that are alternative fuel, the only companies/public utilities that can afford the ‘upgrades’ are subsidized by the same government who make much more reasonably-priced products effectively unavailable, due to cost barriers.
“The only people who win are the companies that are funded by special interest groups who work the government cash cow year after year, all at the expense of the taxpayer. If 1 percent of the money being spent on subsidies, regulatory enforcement, etc. was instead spent on streamlining a fair and equitable test verification program, the cost of systems would then drop like a rock and become available to a much wider range of diesel engine users. This would benefit millions of diesel engine owners, not just a few publicly-funded operations.”
Gordon went on, “One can walk into any automotive/truck parts store and buy a huge range of items that are in direct violation of EPA and CARB ‘tampering’ rules. Every OEM selling parts that change the operating parameters of a vehicle is in direct violation of EPA CARB rules, yet this is never addressed because these companies are ‘too big’ to be held accountable. Simultaneously, the alternative fuel industry, which as a whole promotes cleaner alternatives, is scrutinized in a very severe manner. It certainly seems that this situation exists because a much smaller group is involved, which cannot afford to legislatively challenge the status quo.
“The single biggest environmental issue worldwide is diesel particulate emissions. Diesel/alt fuel systems from virtually any source reduce particulate emissions in a very cost effective manner. The technology is available now, not in 20 or 30 years. Still, diesel engine owners have no reasonably-priced options to reduce particulates, reduce diesel fuel consumption and more importantly, save some money that they use to invest in tomorrow. Natural gas is at a historically low price, gasoline and diesel prices are high and going higher. It makes sense to clean up the oldest and most toxic engines now rather than forcing the public to spend money it doesn’t have on new vehicles and equipment when there is a cost effective, cleaner solution under our noses. It is difficult to cite ‘testimonials’ about the effectiveness of alternative fuel systems for two reasons: 1) people fear government reprisals for the ‘crime’ of cleaning up the environment and saving some money, and 2) no one wants to give the ‘competition’ any information that may help them compete,” Gordon concluded.
Cummins Westport (CW) manufactures natural gas engines for the on-road automotive market, also in applications such as trucks and buses. CW engines are 6 cylinder, spark-ignited engines based on the Cummins diesel engine. The company claims the engine offers proven reliability, durability and performance.
Engines are 100 percent dedicated natural gas engines, built in the factory for installation into new vehicles. They are not conversions or conversion kits. For the waste and recycling markets, the Cummins Westport ISL G engine is available from 250 to 320 hp and used in refuse, truck and vocational applications. It meets 2010 EPA and CARB emissions standards with the use of a maintenance-free, three-way catalyst. No selective catalytic reduction is required and the ISL G has been a very popular engine in the refuse market.
For larger horsepower requirements, the ISX12 G natural gas engine will be available in 2013. Based on the Cummins ISX12 diesel engine platform, it will also operate exclusively on natural gas (CNG or LNG), utilizing Cummins Westport’s proprietary spark-ignited, stoichiometric combustion with cooled exhaust gas recirculation technology, first introduced with the ISL G. Preliminary specifications include a range of ratings to 400 hp and 1,450 lb.-ft. torque, optional engine brake, and manual and automatic transmission capability to meet customer and original equipment manufacturer requirements. The ISX12 G is designed for refuse applications, and regional haul and vocational truck/tractor – intermodal and distribution operation, pickup and delivery.