How to make maintenance facilities CNG compliant

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


  • NFPA 30A
    • Relevance: Motor Fuel Dispensing Facilities and Repair Garages.
    • In short: Defines major and minor repair garages, which determines the type of codes that are required to store and/or maintain a CNG vehicle.
  • NFPA 52
    • Relevance: Vehicular Gaseous Fuel Systems.
    • In short: Pertains to the design, construction, installation and operation of containers, pressure vessels, compression equipment, buildings and structures, and associated equipment used for storage and dispensing of CNG as an engine fuel.
  • NFPA 70
    • Relevance: National Electrical Code.
    • In short: Addresses the installation of electrical/communications conductors and equipment, and optical fiber cables in commercial, residential and industrial occupancies. 
  • NFPA 88A
    • Relevance: Standard for Parking Structures.
    • In short: Pertains to the parking and storage of CNG vehicles in open and closed parking structures. It also concerns the storage, handling and dispensing of fuels.
  • Other important codes include:
    • International Fire Code.
    • International Building Code.
    • Federal Regulations, such as the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Acquisition and Fuel Use Requirements. (For more information on federal regulations visit the Department of Energy (DOE) website at www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/laws.)
    • Mechanical Codes.
    • Energy Codes.
    • Local Codes. (For example, the New York City Fire Code is a major factor in Wendel’s CNG facilities upgrade project with the New York City Transit Authority.)  

 

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH THE AHJ?

The Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) enforces the codes in their respective state, county or city/town, depending on who it is. The AHJ can be the local fire department, state fire marshal, insurance company or the like.

Although CNG-powered vehicles have been around since the 1930s, they have just recently begun to take off due to the decoupling of crude oil and natural gas. As a result, a large number of AHJ’s have little experience concerning codes that affect CNG vehicles and facilities where they are stored and maintained.

This process is just as new to them as it is to you and your fleet. Finding a trusted advisor who knows the codes and how they affect the design of your facility will truly help to expedite the process and save you money.   

One issue that has come up when Wendel was serving its clients is the conflicts that exist between codes. For example, the international and national codes do not always agree. The AHJ tends to lean toward the more restrictive end of things, or over-compliance.

The most restrictive code is not always the correct answer and having someone there to debate intelligently on your behalf could save you money.

It is also very important to get the AHJ involved in your project as early on as possible. It is much easier to explain what you are doing and why to the AHJ during the design process, rather than presenting them with a finished design and trying to get them on board. That way all comments and concerns can be addressed early on, keeping your project on track.

One way Wendel proactively tackles potential conflict is by employing a process where all team members, including stakeholders and the AHJ, fully immerse themselves into the design by way of several regimented Charrettes and meetings over a two- to three-day period.

One of our recent CNG fueling station/building modification projects in St. Cloud, Minn., got off to a great start as a result of this process, with all stakeholders bought in on the design and the AJH in agreement concerning applicable codes and regulations.

 

THINGS YOU CAN DO

If you are on the cusp, knee-deep in it or just toying with the idea of upgrading your maintenance facility, there are a few things you can - and should - do:

  1. Do your research. Attend seminars and seek out advice from fleets that have already converted or are in the process. Educate yourself on who the key players are in your region.
  2. “Align yourself with quality people within the industry,” cautioned Gicewicz of Try-it. “I did a lot of research on my own, but we aligned ourselves with the team that seemed to have the most knowledge about this, and that was Wendel’s team.”
  3. Seek out a trusted advisor who will work with you and on your behalf. Choose a firm that is experienced, understands the codes and regulations, and has completed projects of similar scope.

Code review and design approach to the storage and maintenance facility may be the determining factor if CNG is economically feasible for your fleet. This is why an experienced trusted advisor is critically important when deciding on converting.

As someone who is leading the charge and at the heart of Try-it’s conversion, Gicewicz wanted to stress that their decision to switch involved more than the savings on fuel costs.

“We really like to push the fact that it [converting to CNG] lessens our dependence on foreign oil and all of the troubles and heartaches that come with that,” he said. “Not all those companies have our best interests in mind, or our troops’ best interests in mind. That’s definitely a priority for us to get that word out.”

If you are not sure if CNG is a possibility for you, we can conduct a quick, free analysis that estimates possible savings and even a payback period. See Wendel’s website, www.wendelcompanies.com, for contact information.

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