Monday, July 21, 2014

July Question of the Month

Question of the Month: During the winter of 2013-2014, propane shortages and price spikes were widely publicized by news media, and some fleets reported difficulty getting propane for their vehicles. What really happened and what steps can propane fleets take to protect themselves from similar issues in the future?
Answer: Several factors contributed to the recent winter supply constraints and increased propane prices, including record low temperatures around the country (the 2013-2014 winter was almost 30% colder than the previous winter), increased rain fall requiring additional propane supply for crop drying, pipeline outages (the Midwest Cochin pipeline shut down for three weeks in December 2013), Canadian supply constraints, and increased exports leading to reduced propane reserves. It is important to note, however, that while the demand for propane used to heat homes in colder months fluctuates, fleet demand for propane remains stable throughout the year. As a result, propane suppliers are generally willing to offer longer term fuel contracts to fleets at prices that do not vary during the winter. But fleet customers need to plan ahead and negotiate these agreements in advance. Don’t wait until the coldest day of the year to start asking questions. 
Fleets should develop and maintain a long-term fuel contract based on projected consumption with their local propane marketer or fueling station operator. These contracts can provide a reasonably steady price for propane year-round, regardless of temperature fluctuations and other issues. However, fleets that fuel their vehicles at retail locations where there is no contractual relationship can expect to pay the current market price, which may be equal to or higher than gasoline during peak use periods. As such, the propane price spikes reported in the winter of 2013-2014 primarily affected fleets and drivers without fuel contracts.
While some fleets with fuel contracts also faced supply limitations and price increases this winter, these incidences may have occurred as a result of other circumstances. For instance, some pricing contracts are set up to fluctuate based on a floating commodity price, or they might be indexed to automatically track gasoline or diesel prices. In addition, state fleets may be subject to certain fueling restrictions if the governor addresses energy supply issues through executive action. The prolonged severe weather this past winter resulted in several regions declaring official states of emergency. Similarly, fleets with bi-fuel vehicles, which provide the option to fuel with gasoline, may be subject to caveats during emergency periods that would not affect fleets with dedicated propane vehicles. To avoid unwanted disruptions in propane supply and price spikes, fleet administrators should closely review current and future fuel contracts and discuss various scenarios with their propane marketer to ensure that the contract terms match up with the fleet’s needs and expectations. 
Working with Propane Marketers
Local propane marketers are present in most communities across the United States and can provide expertise and assistance in building fueling stations and deploying vehicles. Additionally, many marketers offer attractive lease options for fuel storage tanks, pumps, and dispensing equipment in return for a multi-year fuel supply contract. The cost of this equipment can be paid back over time through a shared savings or performance contracting agreement, virtually eliminating up-front costs to the fleet operator.
The cost to purchase and install propane fueling infrastructure can be significant depending on the fleet’s choice of refueling options; however, fuel contracts can greatly reduce the financial burden. In most cases, the 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.
Current and Future Propane Supply
While the issues last winter raised concerns, it is important to note that the supply of propane in the United States is on the rise. Propane is a by-product of natural gas processing and crude oil refining. In recent years, as natural gas production levels in the United States have increased, so has the propane supply from these operations. Between 2007 and 2013, the percentage of the U.S. propane supply produced from North American resources increased from 76% to 92%. As such, propane is not subject to the same types of energy security risks as petroleum based fuels that depend on foreign oil supplies face.
For more information on propane production and distribution, pricing, supply, and infrastructure, you can visit the following websites:

Friday, July 18, 2014

CNG Expiring Tanks and Safety

The mission of the Utah Clean Cities Coalition is to advance the energy, economic and environmental security of the United States by supporting local decisions to adopt practices that reduce the use of petroleum in the transportation sector.

With the mission statement in mind, Utah Clean Cities strives to promote and educate the public and transportation sectors on petroleum reduction. Using alternative fuels for vehicles is excellent, but the coalition would like to further educate those with CNG vehicles.

Every CNG tank has a label that states “DO NOT USE AFTER (expiration date).” Owners of CNG vehicles must keep the expiration date in mind as it is their responsibility to have the cylinder replaced at the end of its life. If the tank is not replaced after its expiration date, there is a high risk of ruptures. CNG tanks’ pressure ranges from 3,000 to 3,600 psi. With such a high pressure, any damage is highly unsafe. 

There are several vehicles with CNG tanks that are expired. Below is a list of vehicles that have expired tanks and should be replaced.

Dodge full-sized vans started as CNG in 1992 and mini-vans began in 1994. The production of these CNG vehicles was terminated in 1997 and 1998.
All Dodge vans that were factory equipped have tanks that have passed the expiration date.

Ford CNG passenger cars came to market in 1993 and continued through 2002. At this time, all Ford CNG Crown Victoria, Contour and pickup trucks that were factory equipped prior to 1999 have expired CNG cylinders.

All CNG Honda Civics manufactured in 1998 and early 1999 are also on the expired CNG tank list.

If your vehicle is listed above, you need to see a certified tank inspector immediately. Certified tank inspectors will be able to inspect your CNG tank and properly drill holes for end of life treatment. Certified tank inspectors will also be able to replace your expired CNG tank with a new one.

Below are certified tank inspectors Utah Clean Cities recommends:

To contact an inspector, click on their name.

Additionally, it is easy to forget about the basics and it is always important to remember safety. Click here for a quick video to refresh on safety precautions for manufacturing, installation, inspection, and end of life treatment for natural gas cylinders. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Third Annual Utah Governor's Energy Development Summit

The third annual Utah Governor's Energy Development Summit took place June 3 and 4 at Salt Lake City's Salt Palace Convention Center. With more than 1,200 guests in attendance and 100 booths for a networking trade show, the Summit was another success.

Throughout the Summit, breakout sessions allowed guests to hear from several panels on subjects from alternative transportation to Southern Utah’s solar energy projects.  

Utah Clean Cities’ Executive Director Robin Erickson hosted a panel that discussed alternative transportation from a fleet perspective. Among the panel was Scott Lavery (UPS), Sam Lee (State of Utah), Murrell Martin (Utah State School Board), and C. Lance Allen (Waste Management). Each representative spoke about their actions to move forward with transportation changes and how the changes have improved their companies.

Every attendant gathered for lunch where the Governor’s Excellence in Energy awards was announced along with a speech from keynote speaker Ted Nordhaus, co-founder of The Breakthrough Institute. Gov. Herbert took time to acknowledge President Obama’s new plan to reduce emissions by 30 percent within the next 15 years.

“There is concern out there in the business community that this could have a detrimental effect on the economy,” Herbert said as he noted that Utah relies on coal for 80 percent of all electricity in the state.           

Gov. Herbert unveiled a 10-year energy efficiency and conservation plan, which includes transportation and air quality project outlines. In the plan, there is a stress on education and outreach to the public for Utah to have better fuels and vehicles.

“We are trying to lead by example, and we expect that the public will do its part too,” Gov. Herbert said in view of being educated on the topic leads to more efficiency.

In addition to the 10-year energy efficiency plan, Gov. Herbert revealed one more surprise to the audience. He announced that Utah is one of three states participating in pilot projects to convert natural gas into ethanol. This would help reduce fine particulate pollution.

The Summit was truly a success in bringing together businesses, non-profits, state legislators, and the public to discuss what is happening in energy development. Utah Clean Cities plans on supporting the governor’s education plan as it continues its efforts to educate the public on petroleum and idle reduction, and alternative fuels.

To view the Governor's entire energy plan, click here.

Want to find out more on the Governor's Energy Development Summit? More information can be found through the Office of Energy Development and the Deseret News.

Friday, June 20, 2014

June Question of the Month

Question of the Month: Why is idle reduction important? What are ways that I can prevent idling, and what are the benefits of doing so?
Answer: Idling, the time when a vehicle’s engine is on but the vehicle is not moving, wastes over 6 billion gallons of fuel each year in the United States according to Argonne National Laboratory (ANL). This adds up to more than $20 billion annually in fuel costs. For example, heavy-duty trucks frequently idle at rest stops; an estimated 650,000 long-haul trucks use more than 685 million gallons of fuel per year by unnecessary idling. Idle reduction technologies and practices can help lower fuel consumption and fuel costs, protect public health and the environment, and increase U.S. energy security. Reducing idle time can also help reduce engine wear and maintenance costs. Finally, idling for long periods is illegal in many states and jurisdictions.
Idle Reduction Technologies and Practices
Heavy-Duty Vehicles
Truck stop electrification and onboard equipment can help reduce idling at truck stops, roadsides, and delivery sites. It is important to note that the cost-effectiveness of the technologies below depend on the vehicle applications and climates in which they are used as well as the duration of the idling.
·         Truck Stop Electrification provides power from an external source for important systems such as air conditioning, heating, and appliances without needing to idle the engine during required stops at rest areas.
·         Auxiliary Power Units are portable units that are mounted to the vehicle, and provide power for climate control and electrical devices in trucks, locomotives, and marine vehicles without idling the primary vehicle engine.
·         Energy Recovery Systems use the vehicle’s heat-transfer system to keep the truck’s heater operating after the engine is turned off, using engine heat that would otherwise dissipate.
·         Automatic Engine Stop-Start Controls sense the temperature in the sleeper cabin and automatically turn the engine on if the sleeper is too hot or too cold.
·         Cab or Bunk Heaters supply warm air to the cab or bunk compartment using small diesel heaters. Heaters can be coupled with air conditioners if needed.
School Buses
School bus idling is particularly problematic because of the negative health impacts for children. School bus engines should be turned off while the engine is not needed, such as at loading and unloading areas, and should only be turned back on when the bus is ready to depart. Idle reduction technologies for school buses that operate in cold climates include small on-board diesel cabin heaters and electrical block heaters, which can provide warming for the passenger compartment and engine.
Light- and Medium-Duty Vehicles
For light-and medium-duty vehicles, the primary idle reduction strategy is to turn the engine off when the vehicle is parked or stopped for long periods of time. Drivers can also reduce petroleum consumption by avoiding the use of a remote vehicle starter and obeying no-idle zones. Fleets may implement policies to set minimum fuel-efficiency targets or require the use of idle reduction practices. In addition, fleet managers can train their drivers on the benefits of reduced idling and how to use idle reduction strategies.
For vehicles that must stop often or for extended periods of time, such as cabs, limousines, and utility trucks, the idle reduction technologies below can be implemented:
·         Air Heaters operate on engine fuel and are self-contained units that blow hot air directly into the vehicle’s interior. These are similar to the heaters for heavy-duty vehicles.
·         Coolant Heaters use the vehicle’s heat-transfer system and are mounted in the engine compartment. This technology uses the vehicle’s fuel to heat the coolant, and then pumps the heated coolant through the engine, radiator, and heater box. By keeping the engine warm, the coolant heater reduces the impact of cold starts. These are similar to the heaters for heavy-duty vehicles.
·         Waste-Heat Recovery Systems are similar to the energy recovery systems mentioned above for heavy-duty vehicles.
·         Auxiliary Power Systems are similar to the auxiliary power units mentioned above for heavy-duty vehicles. 
·         Automatic Power Management Systems allow a vehicle driver to turn off the engine and use battery power to run the accessories from the battery. When the power management system senses the battery getting low, it restarts the engine until battery levels regenerate.
·         Hybridization enables vehicles requiring power take-off equipment to perform work with the main engine off.
Idling Regulations
There are many state and local laws and incentives in place to reduce idling in specific jurisdictions. For information on current idling reduction incentives and regulations, see the Clean Cities IdleBase ( tool and the Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC) Laws and Incentives ( database. While most current laws apply to diesel vehicles, increasingly laws are beginning to address gasoline vehicles as well.
Idle Reduction Tools
IdleBox Toolkit
The IdleBox toolkit ( includes resources such as print products, templates, presentations, and information resources that can assist in creating idle reduction projects for medium- and heavy-duty fleets. IdleBox can also be used to educate policymakers, fleet managers, drivers, and others about the benefits of idle reduction.
Idle Reduction Worksheets
ANL has light- and heavy-duty idle reduction worksheets for drivers and fleet managers on their Idle Reduction Tools and Outreach Materials ( page. The worksheets can help calculate the cost of avoidable idling, as well as potential savings from reducing idling time by implementing technologies and practices.
Additional Resources
For additional information about idling and idle reduction, please see the following resources:
·         AFDC Idle Reduction Basics (
·         Petroleum Reduction Planning Tool (
o   The Petroleum Reduction Planning Tool can help create a plan for your fleet to reduce petroleum consumption and emissions, and includes reducing idling as one of the strategies. See the AFDC Tools database ( for additional resources.
·         ANL Reducing Vehicle Idling (
·         U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) SmartWay Program ( and Clean School Bus Program (
o   These national partnerships aim to reduce emissions from the freight industry and diesel school buses through idle reduction and other strategies.

Friday, May 23, 2014

DOE Request for Information: Fuel Cell Research & Development

Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy
Fuel Cell Technologies Office

DOE Issues Request for Information on Fuel Cell Research & Development Needs

May 5, 2014 
The U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE's) Fuel Cell Technologies Office has issued a request for information (RFI) seeking feedback from the research community and relevant stakeholders to assist in the development of topics for a potential Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) in 2015 for fuel cells and fuel cell systems designed for transportation, as well as stationary and early market applications, including cross-cutting stack and balance of plant (BOP) component technology.

The purpose of this RFI is to solicit feedback on R&D needs for and technical barriers to the widespread commercialization of fuel cells. Feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders is sought. The Fuel Cell Technologies Office is specifically interested in information on R&D needs and priorities concerning the development of low-cost fuel cell components and pathways leading to improved fuel cell performance and durability.

For details, see the RFI announcement DE-FOA-0001133 or e-mail questions about the RFI to with "question" in the subject line. RFI responses must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. (EDT) on June 2, 2014. This RFI is not a funding opportunity announcement; therefore, DOE is not accepting applications for funding regarding this topic at this time.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

May Question of the Month

Question of the Month: What are the key terms to know when discussing hydrogen fuel, fuel cell vehicles, and hydrogen fueling infrastructure?

Answer: It is important to know how to “talk the talk” when it comes to hydrogen and hydrogen-fueled vehicles. Becoming familiar with the terms below will help you better understand the fuel so you can ask the right questions and make informed decisions.

Considered an alternative fuel under the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPAct), hydrogen (H2) can dramatically reduce emissions and has the potential to significantly reduce our dependence on imported petroleum. While pure hydrogen is not abundant, it is present in water (H2O), hydrocarbons (e.g., methane, CH4), and other organic matter.

Although hydrogen is not currently widely used as a transportation fuel, government and industry are developing clean, economical, and safe hydrogen fuel and hydrogen-fueled vehicles. The first commercially available hydrogen vehicle is expected to be offered in select dealerships this year. 

Fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) are zero emission vehicles fueled by pure hydrogen gas stored directly in the vehicle. FCEVs are two to three times more efficient than a conventional vehicle powered by an internal combustion engine. FCEVs produce no harmful tailpipe emissions, have the ability to refuel in as little as three minutes, can achieve a range of more than 300 miles on a single fill-up, and may use other advanced efficiency technologies, such as regenerative braking systems.

Similar to battery electric vehicles, FCEVs use electricity to power a motor located near the vehicle’s wheels. However, unlike other electric vehicles, FCEVs produce electricity from hydrogen using the fuel cell, leaving heat and water as byproducts. A fuel cell is a device that can convert the chemical energy of hydrogen into an electrical current through a chemical reaction with an oxidizing agent, such as oxygen. The most common type of fuel cell for vehicle applications is the polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM). A PEM fuel cell is composed of an electrolyte membrane positioned between a cathode (positive electrode) and an anode (negative electrode). The hydrogen gas is introduced to the anode, while oxygen is introduced to the cathode. A catalyst (typically platinum) induces an electrochemical reaction that splits the hydrogen molecule into hydrogen ions. The protons are allowed to pass through the membrane while the electrons are forced to travel through an external circuit to produce electricity for the car. Then the electrons combine with the protons and oxygen at the cathode to form water, which is the fuel cell’s exhaust.

The energy in 2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) of hydrogen gas provides about the same FCEV driving range as a conventional sedan propelled on 1 gallon on gasoline. Due to hydrogen’s low energy content by volume, the fuel must be stored as a gas in the fuel tank at high pressures (10,000 pounds per square inch). Additional research is currently underway to optimize fuel storage.

At this time, FCEVs are more expensive than conventional vehicles, but are nearing commercial readiness. Many major original equipment manufacturers, including Honda, Hyundai, and Toyota, have announced plans to begin selling or leasing FCEVs to the public in 2014 and 2015 in certain markets.

Fuel Production
Hydrogen can be produced domestically from a variety of sources, such as natural gas, coal, and renewable resources (solar, wind, and biomass). The environmental impact and energy efficiency of hydrogen depends on how it is produced. A challenge of using hydrogen is efficiently and inexpensively producing hydrogen fuel.

Hydrogen for use in FCEVs is split from other molecules through either reforming (using steam) or electrolysis (using electricity and water).  Currently, natural gas reformingis the cheapest and most efficient process to produce hydrogen in the United States.

If the hydrogen is produced through electrolysis from clean, renewable energy, FCEVs could produce zero lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions. There are projects underway to decrease the costs associated with these production methods.

Fueling Infrastructure
Hydrogen stations are typically located in areas of current or expected FCEV deployment, and can either be designed to store delivered hydrogen, or to produce hydrogen on-site (via electrolosys or reforming).  Fueling sites include storage tanks, compression, and fuel dispensing equipment. Hydrogen fueling stations can be standalone operations or co-located with conventional fuel or natural gas dispensers. Applicable safety standards and codes specific to hydrogen fuel include the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA)’s NFPA 2: Hydrogen Technologies Code (

To date, most existing hydrogen fueling stations have been constructed as part of demonstration projects. Earlier this month, the California Energy Commission (CEC) awarded nearly $47 million in grants for the development of a network of retail hydrogen fueling stations throughout the state. For additional information, please see the CEC’s Notice of Proposed Awards ( the FCEV market expands, fueling infrastructure is expected to continue to grow to meet the demand.

For more information on hydrogen fuel, vehicles, and infrastructure, you can visit the Alternative Fuels Data Center Hydrogen page ( and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Hydrogen and Fuel Cells Program page (

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

April Question of the Month

Question of the Month: What emerging alternative fuels are under development or are already developed and available in the United States?

Answer: Clean Cities coordinators and stakeholders are familiar with the most commonly used alternative fuels, which have been covered over the last several months in the Question of the Month “key terms” series. However, there are also several emerging fuels that are currently under development or already in use in the United States. Like other alternatives, these fuels can increase energy security, reduce emissions, improve vehicle performance, and stimulate the U.S. economy. In addition, some are considered alternative fuels under the Energy Policy Act of 1992 ( and may qualify for federal and state incentives.

Below we have listed a few emerging alternative fuels, their characteristics, and their benefits:

·         Biobutanol (butyl alcohol):
o   Composition and production: Biobutanol is a 4-carbon alcohol that can be produced from the same feedstocks as ethanol, including corn, sugar beets, and other biomass wastes.
o   Use as a transportation fuel: Biobutanol can be blended with other fuels for use in conventional gasoline vehicles.
o   Benefits:
§  Domestically produced from various feedstocks
§  Produces fewer emissions than gasoline
§  High energy content
§  Blends well with gasoline and ethanol
§  Can be produced using existing ethanol production facilities with some modifications
§  Less soluble in water than ethanol, thus less likely to cause a sludge build-up in fuel tanks

·         Drop-In Biofuels:
o   Composition and production: Drop-in biofuels are hydrocarbon fuels that are substantially similar to petroleum-based gasoline, diesel, or jet fuels. They can be produced from various biomass feedstocks, such as crop residues, woody biomass, dedicated energy crops, vegetable oils, fats, greases or algae.
o   Use as a transportation fuel: Drop-in biofuels are in an early stage of development, with several commercial plants in the United States and abroad. The focus is aimed at eventually replacing gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel.
o   Benefits:
§  Domestically produced from biomass feedstocks
§  Produces fewer emissions than conventional fuels
§  Compatible with existing engines and infrastructure
§  Can be used as replacement fuel for diesel, jet fuel, and gasoline
§  Can be produced from various feedstocks and production technologies at stand-alone plants or those located alongside petroleum refineries where drop-in fuels can be inserted into the refinery process

·         Methanol:
o   Composition and production: Methanol, or wood alcohol, has similar chemical and physical fuel properties to ethanol. Methanol can be produced using various feedstocks, including carbon-based feedstocks, such as coal. However, natural gas is currently the most economical feedstock.  
o   Use as a transportation fuel: In the 1990s, 100% methanol and 85% methanol/15% gasoline blends (M85) were used in compatible vehicles, similar to ethanol flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) on the market today. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory is currently researching ways to use methanol for fuel cell vehicles.
o   Benefits:
§  Domestically produced
§  Produces fewer emissions than conventional fuels
§  Low production costs
§  Improves safety compared to gasoline due to lower risk of flammability

·         Renewable Natural Gas (Biomethane):
o   Composition and production: Renewable natural gas (RNG), also known as biomethane, is pipeline-quality gas that is fully interchangeable with fossil natural gas. RNG is essentially biogas (also known as swamp gas, landfill gas, or digester gas) that has been processed to purity standards. Biogas is typically composed of 50-80% methane, 20-50% carbon dioxide, and trace gases such as hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen. It is produced by decomposing organic matter, such as sewage, animal byproducts, and agricultural, industrial, and municipal solid wastes.
o   Use as a transportation fuel: Renewable natural gas can be used in existing natural gas vehicles without modification.
o   Benefits:
§  Can be produced domestically at facilities alongside landfills, sewage treatment plants, or livestock operations. This allows for the systems to use the biogas as a renewable power source to run their operations.
§  Reduces emissions by capturing methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and keeping it from being released into the atmosphere
§  Reduces the cost to landfills to comply with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency combustion requirements
§  Reduces landfill, sewage, and livestock wastes and odors, produces nutrient-rich fertilizer, and requires less land than aerobic composting

·         xTL Fuels (Fischer-Tropsch):
o   Composition and production: Synthetic liquid transportation fuels, otherwise known as xTL fuels, are produced through various conversion processes. These processes convert fuels from carbon-based feedstocks to yield various fuels, such as gasoline, diesel, ethanol, and methanol. In particular, the Fischer-Tropsch process produces liquid fuels from coal and natural gas. Coal can also be converted into liquids through liquefaction.
o   Use as a transportation fuel: Much like drop-in biofuels, xTL fuels can replace conventional petroleum diesel for use in vehicles without modifications to the engine or fueling infrastructure.
o   Benefits:
§  Can be produced domestically using the United States’ vast coal reserves and natural gas
§  Reduces greenhouse gas emissions
§  Fischer-Tropsch diesel emits little or no particulate emissions due to its low sulfur and aromatic content, as well as its reduced hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide emissions
§  Compatible with current diesel and gasoline powered vehicles and fueling infrastructure
§  Provides similar or better vehicle performance than conventional fuels
§  Converts relatively inflexible energy sources, such as coal or biomass, into useful transportation fuels

·         Dimethyl ether (DME):
o   Composition and production: DME is a non-toxic, colorless gas that can be easily liquefied to a biodegradable synthetic liquid fuel. It is produced from various feedstocks, such as natural gas, coal, biomass, or even carbon dioxide.
o   Use as a transportation fuel: DME can be used in conventional diesel engines and stored in similar vehicle storage tanks to those used for propane fuel.
o   Benefits:
§  Domestically produced
§  Emits no particulate matter, no sulfur oxides, and very low levels of nitrous oxides and carbon dioxide
§  Provides similar or better vehicle performance than conventional fuels due to the high cetane number
§  Easy to store and transport, and liquefies at low pressure, removing the need for costly, high-pressure storage containers 

More information on emerging alternative fuels can be found on the AFDC Emerging Alternative Fuels page ( We encourage you to check out this page, as it was recently updated with new content.

For more information on DME, please see SAE International’s presentation DME from Natural Gas or Biomass: A Better Fuel Alternative