How to make maintenance facilities CNG compliant

What you need to know about converting a maintenance facility to CNG.


Making the switch to compressed natural gas (CNG) as a fueling source can be an easy decision once you crunch the numbers and see the possible savings. You may have already decided to take advantage of those savings by converting your fleet to CNG.

You conducted a feasibility study, calculated your ROI and even applied for federal and state funding to help with the conversion. Now you just have to commission the design for the station and build, right? Wrong. There’s more to it than you think.

In your cost-benefit analysis you probably included the cost of the fueling station and applicable components, and even the cost of the vehicle conversions or new CNG vehicles, depending on what makes sense for your fleet. But what about storing and/or maintaining your new or retrofitted CNG vehicles? Did you know that because of the gaseous state of CNG and its tendency to rise that your maintenance and storage facilities need to be compliant with the applicable codes and regulations?

If you get too far into your CNG conversion before considering and accommodating these issues, your project could be delayed, come to a complete halt or even crash and burn. Enlisting a trusted advisor, most likely a design or consulting firm with CNG conversion experience who is familiar with the requirements, codes and regulations surrounding CNG, can help you to achieve a seamless conversion.

 

WHY CNG?

CNG as an alternative fuel to diesel or gasoline makes economic sense. Making the switch to CNG improves your bottom line, a benefit that a variety of fleets can enjoy. Whether you are a private or public fleet, regional delivery fleet, municipality, school district, taxi fleet or airport, the savings are universal.

You can save an average of 30 to 50 percent on fueling and associated vehicle and maintenance costs. CNG is clean, green, affordable, abundant and most importantly, American. Major regional and even national fleets that have already made the decision to switch include Frito-Lay, Pepsi, UPS, Smith’s Dairy, Dr. Pepper/Snapple and Waste Management, to name a few.

 

THE WRONG PERCEPTIONS

Most individuals involved in CNG conversions for their fleets tend to think it’s all about the vehicles and station. While those are two major components, there is a third, more "incognito" factor that tends to get overlooked: the maintenance/storage facility. This is one of the major operational components for fleets that need to be upgraded in order to store and perform even light maintenance on CNG vehicles.

There are a lot of players involved in CNG conversions and some of them just want to make money. It is easy to get caught up with manufacturers and salesmen directing you “to do this” and “buy that.” Some of them play on the ignorance and fear of people involved in their fleet’s conversion in order to sell products.

Moreover, there are a lot of over compliance rumors out there, and companies are capitalizing on the misinformation.

Jeff Gicewicz, vice president of corporate holdings for Try-it Distributing, a beverage distributor in Western New York, openly admitted that he didn’t have all of the answers when he pitched the conversion project to his boss. “Plain and simple, there is more to it than I anticipated,” Gicewicz said. “But you don’t know what you don’t know, right?”

Conversions to bring maintenance facilities up to code can be costly and complicated. This is not something most fleets are equipped to handle themselves. Choosing the right trusted advisor can help you through it while minimizing the cost of mistakes or rework, and ensuring a safe working atmosphere.

 

THINGS YOU NEED TO CONSIDER

Facilities where CNG vehicles are stored or maintained follow a different set of rules because of the chemistry of CNG. Because CNG is a gas, it rises and collects in pockets in the ceiling. Therefore, any items that fall within 18" of the ceiling (for example lighting fixtures or fans) must be Class 1 Division 2.

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