Propane Fueling Infrastructure Development
Infrastructure availability is a driving force behind the acceptance of any fuel. Fleets depend on being able to locate fuel within a reasonable distance at a competitive price. States with abundant propane resources can offer a sound business case for installing propane infrastructure to service their fleets.
Types of Infrastructure
Fuel providers and fleets can place propane dispensers alongside gasoline, diesel, or other alternative fuels. The infrastructure needed is very similar to gasoline and diesel refueling infrastructure. Propane is brought to the site via a transport truck and put into onsite storage, traditionally above ground. The fueling dispenser is similar to a gasoline dispenser. The main difference is that propane is delivered to the vehicle under pressure so it remains a liquid. When the vehicle tank is full, the dispenser stops automatically, just like gasoline dispensers.
Codes and Safety
There are many safety guidelines that need to be considered when developing infrastructure. This includes the National Fire Prevention Association's NFPA 58 Vehicular Liquefied Petroleum Gas Code, which applies to the design and installation requirements of propane refueling facilities. Your local fire marshal can help with this. In addition, your local propane supplier can help determine the appropriate amount of propane needed to be stored on site to adequately meet vehicle fueling needs.
Cost of Development
Fortunately, propane production, storage, and bulk distribution capabilities already exist across most of the U.S. Therefore, fueling infrastructure development for vehicle refueling only requires the build-out of dispensing equipment—the storage tank, pump, dispenser, and card reader at a station.
Building a New Station: The cost of purchasing and installing the necessary equipment for dispensing propane typically runs from $37,000 to $175,000, but varies based on situation and need. Depending on the fuel supplier, some of the cost may be eliminated. Many suppliers offer an inexpensive lease of the tank, pump, and dispensing equipment in return for a multi-year fuel supply contract. In these cases the station owner or fleet is only responsible for the cost of infrastructure that cannot be removed from the site when the fuel contract is over, such as the electricity line or the concrete pad for the storage tank. This can make the upfront cost of propane infrastructure very affordable.
Upgrading Existing Stations: Although vehicles can refuel at these small stations if necessary, station owners who currently sell propane in small volumes, for example to fill grill canisters and mowers, can upgrade their dispensing equipment to a retail-style metering dispenser with a card reader to accommodate broader vehicle refueling. The pump may also need an upgrade to give vehicles a faster fill rate.
Visit the AFDC Alternative Fuels Training page to learn about organizations that provide propane vehicle and infrastructure training.