Key takeaways from Emterra’s educational roundtable on CNG

by Sonia Straface

MISSISSAUGA, Ont. – After the grand opening of Emterra’s newest CNG refuelling station in Mississauga, Ont. this week, the company along with its partners, GAIN Clean Fuel and C.A.T. helped to host an educational roundtable where the issues and concerns about CNG could be shared and discussed.

The panel and presenters included many industry experts and Truck News was there to hear their insights and opinions on the new CNG stations and what converting to CNG does for the industry and the environment.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the discussion.

CNG is safe because of how much it is scrutinized

Because using CNG is generally new, it is scrutinized and is subject to numerous inspections, said Marie-Genevieve Poitras of ANGI Energy Systems. ANGI designs and manufacturers systems for CNG vehicle fuelling stations and was the supplier for the CNG compressors and pumps at the new CNG fuelling station in Mississauga.

“What I can tell you on a safety level…there are various safety features on a compressor skid,” she said. “Because it’s new, because it’s unknown, they are scrutinized. We’ve had an array of people going through the equipment. From a safety point of view, from a liquid fuel to a gas fuel, is there is no spill, that is one of the things that is always a strong point.”

She added that if a leak is present there is an automatic shutdown of the system.

“So, we’re not looking at the same problem as you could with diesel and spills,” she said. “They are safer than safe, inspected at every level and we work with all authorities. Different provinces have different requirements and we make sure that every province that we work with, that we make certain we follow all of the rules.”

Emmanuel Varenne of Mack Trucks echoed Poitras’ comments and added : “Fuel is here to burn. Natural gas is much less prone to ignition than gasoline, so gasoline is the most dangerous fuel. If gasoline were to be as scrutinized as natural gas, we wouldn’t sell gasoline.”

CNG can work for long-haul applications

There to discuss how CNG can be used in long-haul applications was Daniel Goyette, president of C.A.T. who partnered with Emterra and GAIN to open the new CNG station. C.A.T extended its partnership with GAIN and is set to open four more stations (one in Quebec and three in the US) in the near future.

Goyette said a common question he is asked is how his trucks can go long distance running on CNG.

“Our trucks can run 1200 miles (on diesel) before they refuel, but the driver can only run 550 miles per day,” he said. “And we did our mapping from here all the way down to the border of Mexico, with a 500 mile range for fuel, and our (CNG) trucks can run 650-700 miles without refuelling. So we really feel confident that any long-haul carrier can be running on CNG.”

Marc-Andre Paquin of GAIN said that to see if your business can run on CNG, you have to start with the engine. Currently Cummins has 9L and 12L CNG engines, and is coming out with many more, including dual fuel options.

“There are lots of options, so whatever your business model is, there is a CNG option that is available for you,” he said.

As far as maintenance goes, Goyette said his trucks haven’t been running yet so he couldn’t give the audience a clear perspective on the maintenance issues that CNG trucks will be subject to.

“But, I did a lot of research about CNG trucks and everybody told me they had no issues with maintenance,” he said of his choice to convert to CNG. “The trucks can start at -40 degrees  every time. I haven’t heard bad stuff about them. The MPG right now…it’s running on DGE and it’s 5.5-6 miles per gallon.”

CNG could help the driver and maintenance worker shortage

The new technology that comes with converting your fleet to CNG could potentially help your fleet in recruiting and makes trucking sexier, said Paulina Leung, v.p. of corporate strategy and business development at Emterra. The driver and mechanic shortage in the country is reaching severe levels and Leung said that letting the younger generation – who are technologically advanced and have an interest in saving the environment – know about CNG vehicles could be the key to helping address that shortage.

“On the note of employment difficulty, I think we can all agree our industry has a shortage of qualified professional drivers, and we also have challenges in recruiting mechanics,” she said. “One way in which I think CNG in particular can help address that, for the younger generation perhaps working with diesel there’s nothing new, but now with the new shops, and trucks have to be upgraded, there’s a little more excitement, and it makes it a bit sexier, and that’s something we’ve been doing and we’ve been using to help recruit people to work for us in our shop and to drive our vehicles as well.”

CNG fuelling stations “are everywhere”

If you’re going to convert your fleet to CNG it has to make sense and you have to have confidence that your vehicles can refuel wherever their route is, confirmed Paquin. And though this is the first GAIN CNG station in Canada, it’s not the only CNG fuelling station in Canada.

“The refuelling infrastructure is the key to it all,” he said. “If you can’t fuel your truck, then it doesn’t make sense to convert. And when we look at the CNG market from a North American standpoint, really we’re looking at over 1,000 public stations. Most of them at this point are in the US, but you have players in Canada that are present and are available to you. The stations are everywhere.”

He said like C.A.T., your business should look at the publicly available maps of CNG stations across North America and see how they fit with your fleets’ routes.

“Our objective (at GAIN) is to grow (the number of CNG stations) as much as possible, in Canada,” said Paquin. “In the US, there’s plenty.”

GAIN said it is on track to open nearly 100 CNG stations in the US next year. A new Quebec CNG station in Coteau-du-Lac is set to be opened next month.

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