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; propane infrastructure is well-established across the United States.
Types of Infrastructure
Fuel providers and fleets can place propane dispensers alongside gasoline, diesel, or other alternative fuels. The infrastructure needed for propane is very similar to gasoline and diesel refueling equipment. Propane is transported to the site via a delivery truck and put into onsite storage, traditionally above ground. The fueling dispenser is also similar to a gasoline dispenser. The difference is that propane is delivered to the vehicle under a low pressure so it remains a liquid.
Codes and Safety
As with any fuel, it's important to know and consider the safety guidelines when establishing infrastructure. This includes the CSA Natural Gas and Propane Installation Code B149.5-15, which includes requirements for the placement of propane fuel systems and containers in vehicles, and 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 right amount of storage needed to adequately meet vehicle fueling needs.
Cost of Fueling Infrastructure
Fortunately, propane production, storage, and bulk distribution capabilities already exist across most of the U.S. That means establishing propane fueling infrastructure for vehicle refueling only requires the build-out of dispensing equipment—including the storage tank, pump, dispenser, and card reader at a station. Learn more about costs associated with propane vehicle infrastructure.
Building a New Station: Many suppliers offer an inexpensive lease of the tank, pump, and dispensing equipment in return for a fuel supply contract. In these cases, the station owner or fleet is only responsible for the cost of equipment that cannot be removed from the site when the fuel contract expires, such as the electricity line or the concrete pad for the storage tank. This can make the upfront cost of propane infrastructure very affordable. The cost of establishing private infrastructure, not through a lease, includes purchasing and installing the necessary equipment for storing and dispensing propane and typically runs from $37,000 to $175,000, but varies based on situation and need.
Upgrading Existing Retail Sites: Most propane vehicles can refuel at existing retail sites that sell propane in small volumes, for example to fill grill canisters and mowers. It is important to be knowledgeable about what fuel will cost when using existing retail sites that are not primarily vehicle fueling sites. Upgrading dispensing equipment at those sites to a retail-style metering dispenser with a card reader may accommodate broader vehicle refueling and drive demand. The pump may also need an upgrade to give vehicles a faster fill rate.
Visit the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC) site to learn more about propane vehicle and infrastructure training.