Natural Gas Fueling Infrastructure Development
Compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) stations vary considerably. CNG stations require more equipment and configuration, while LNG stations require less equipment, but more safety precautions during fueling.
There are two types of CNG stations: fast-fill and time-fill. The type of station needed is dependent on the application. Typically, retail stations use fast-fill and fleets that have central refueling and the ability to fill overnight use time-fill.
LNG stations are structurally similar to gasoline and diesel stations, because they both deliver a liquid fuel. LNG dispensers deliver fuel to vehicles at pressures of 30 to 120 PSI. Because LNG is stored and dispensed as a super-cooled, liquefied gas, protective clothing, face shield, and gloves are required when fueling a vehicle.
There are three options for LNG fueling: mobile, containerized, and customized large stations. In mobile fueling, LNG is delivered by a tanker truck that has on-board metering and dispensing equipment. A starter station, or containerized station, includes a storage tank, dispensing equipment, metering and required containment. A custom station has greater storage capacity and is tailored to meet fleets' needs.
Cost of Installation
Costs of installing natural gas infrastructure varies based on size, capacity, and the type of natural gas (LNG, CNG, or both) it dispenses. It also varies in the way the natural gas is dispensed (fast-fill, time-fill). According to a 2010 report published by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy, costs for installing a CNG fueling station can range up to $2 million depending on the size and application. Smaller fueling units average $10,000, including installation. According to the Energy Information Administration, an LNG fueling site can range from $1 to $4 million.
To begin exploring whether natural gas makes sense for your fleet, read Business Case for Compressed Natural Gas in Municipal Fleets, which discusses the various applications where CNG can be a successful replacement to conventional fuel. Use the accompanying Clean Cities Vehicle and Infrastructure Cash-Flow Evaluation (VICE) Model to evaluate the return on investment and payback period for natural gas vehicles and fueling infrastructure.
In addition, your local utility can help determine whether the appropriate level of gas pressure is available at your location, the gas quality and moisture content are appropriate, and whether your gas service can support the gas flow your site will need. Additional investment may be necessary to address these needs.
There are many safety guidelines that need to be considered when developing infrastructure, including the National Fire Prevention Association's NFPA 52 Vehicular Gaseous Fuel Systems Code, which applies to the design and installation requirements of CNG refueling facilities. Your local fire marshal or local Clean Cities coalition can help with this.