As Commodity Prices Face Pressure and Oil Stays High, Will Farmers Embrace Natural Gas?

2012 promises to be a difficult year for farmers as an estimated 4.8% increase in U.S. corn production, coupled with increased planting of the crop worldwide, puts downward pressure on prices. Corn, which has doubled in the past two years due to demand for cattle feed, is expected to drop by 30% to $4.035/bushel next year in Chicago trading. The record U.S. wheat harvest which is also projected next year should depress wheat prices as well, according to a Bloomberg article.

But oil prices are expected to remain high.  Barclay’s senior economist Alia Moubayed said that the Saudis need $91 oil as a “break even point” in an interview on Bloomberg’s “Surveillance” yesterday. Social unrest swept the Middle East in 2011, and the Saudi government has attempted to quell dissent by promising increased social benefits. The Saudis need higher oil prices to keep those promises. Saudi Arabia’s massive production capacity means that they are a longtime swing producer who can influence the world oil price by simply increasing or decreasing production. U.S. oil producers also need $80 oil to stay profitable. Below $80 they begin slowing drilling and decreasing production.

This combination of higher input costs and lower grain prices, coupled with the recent price boom in farmland, promises to squeeze profits for farmers in 2012. This has many farmers looking for ways to cut costs.

Natural gas may be part of the answer. “Though there are costs to converting diesel powered machinery to run on a diesel/natural gas blend, a 20-30% savings in diesel fuel promises a quick return on investment for high volume diesel users.” said C&E Clean Energy Solution’s Brian Carpenter. Continue reading

Sunny Delight to cut 400,000 gallons of diesel by use of CNG

Sunny Delight Beverages has put into service a fleet of compressed natural gas vehicles for distribution in southern California, in markets including Los Angeles, Mira Loma, Carson and Riverside.

The move is expected to cut about 400,000 gallons of diesel fuel in 2012, and to cut well-to-wheel greenhouse gas by 23 percent versus diesel-powered engines.

Transportation management and logistics provider Transplace said that it executed a transportation plan that focused on keeping costs down for the beverage manufacturer. The companies have a five-year arrangement. Transplace manages the carriers and the fueling options within the network, and Glacier Transportation deployed the fleet.
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F250 Powerstroke Natural Gas Conversion Project Pt. 6

Click here for Part One

The pyrometer installation was by far the most frustrating part of this conversion project. The best place to locate your pyrometer probe is in one of the exhaust manifolds before the turbo. That’s going to give you the most accurate reading about what’s going on inside your engine.  The exhaust gasses spend some heat energy when they spin the turbo, so putting the probe after the turbo is going to generate artificially low temperature data. I recommend drilling the hole as close to the head as you can reasonably get it, and I recommend going in from the bottom, rather than the top of the manifold, if you can. Most of your drill shavings fall to the ground that way, rather than ending up in the hole. Unfortunately I was unable to drill from the bottom without removing the manifold, and being pressed for time, I chose to drill where I could most easily drill. The location I chose was on the left bank of cylinders between the #3 and #5 cylinders. Continue reading

Making a Stationary Diesel Run on Natural Gas

The company that sells the conversion kit for the Powerstroke conversion project, C&E Clean Energy Solutions, also sells kits for stationary diesels to enable them to run off pipeline gas.  Here is a Davey 3600 psi air compressor which is powered by a 17 h.p. Hatz air cooled diesel engine. The engine is fitted with a small version of our stationary diesel natural gas conversion kit.

When the video starts, you can hear the engine and compressor running in the background. Both units are on and the engine is under pretty close to its max load for this particular application. The compressor might demand a little more from the engine as it gets closer to that 3600 psi number, but this is about as hard as it ever works right here. When the video starts, the unit is already running on a mixture of natural gas and diesel fuel.

I then show the digital pyrometer and the master switch for the natural gas kit. When I shut the switch off, you hear the motor do two things: slow down, and get noisier. It’s doing that because it’s going back to running on straight diesel fuel and the injectors are starting to deliver more diesel fuel as the governor compensates for the lost natural gas fuel.

Because I’m using this unit as a demonstration platform and I need it to be mobile and have a mobile fuel supply. So I had to find a way to run it off of compressed natural gas. Because it’s air-cooled and naturally aspirated, our CNG unit wouldn’t work. So I had to cobble a system to make it run off compressed gas taken from the tank in my truck. I put a 300 psi rated valve and air fittings off the low pressure side of the 3600 psi-250 psi hot-water-heated regulator on my truck’s conversion kit. The gas then passes through an air compressor pressure regulator where I bump it down a bit more. Then it passes through an oil-resistant air hose, and is patched into a two stage RV propane regulator. That steps it down from 250 to 1/2 psi.

There are two difficulties in making that work. One is just the volume of gas I’m able to move through those small orifices, even though it’s under quite a bit of pressure. The other problem is that I have moisture in my gas and I get icing from the rapid drop in temperature. That’s happened to me a time or two and has made a couple of messes. I found that dialing back the pressure gives me more run time before the icing starts. As a result of that, I’m not able to substitute as much gas as the engine will actually take. I estimate I’m running on 30-40% fuel substitution right now. That’s enough to make a noticeable difference when the gas is turned on, but it’s not my maximum possible fuel substitution by any means.

When I’m running it on a 3/4″ gas line at 1/2 PSI, I estimate I’m able to run 65% or 70% gaseous fuel substitution.

While the CNG kit for pickups and tractors, etc, requires a turbocharged engine to work, the stationary kit will work on both turbo and naturally aspirated engines. It will work on generators, irrigators, well pumps, feed grinders, saw mills, just about anything that you use a stationary diesel for.

The main point of this demonstration is this: Depending on the price of your natural gas and diesel fuel, you can save a lot of money on diesel fuel, or you can save a whole lot of money on diesel fuel. Even at 50% substitution (the low end of what is possible) you are substituting a fuel that costs around $1 per gallon, (or less) for one that costs around $3-$3.60 per gallon.

If you burn 6 gallons an hour of straight diesel fuel, and your diesel fuel costs $3.20 per gallon, you’re spending $19.20 per operating hour.

If you substitute 50% of the fuel with natural gas, you’re spending $9.60 per hour on diesel and $3 per hour on natural gas, cutting your cost per hour of operation to $12.60. That’s a savings of almost $7 an hour.

As I said before, 50% substitution is generally the minimum benchmark. If you’re running your diesel under 90-95% load, you’re not going to be able to substitute 50%. Maybe more like 30-40% substitution in that case, but most guys don’t run their engines that hard.

If you’re running a lighter load, then you can get 75% substitution. On that same 6 gallon per hour motor, you’d be burning 1.5 gallons of diesel per hour. At $3.20 per gallon, that’s $4.80 worth of diesel fuel and $4.50 worth of natural gas, giving you a $9.30 per hour operating cost.

That’s a savings of  almost $10 per operating hour. The unit that substitutes 3 gallons per hour costs $1540 if you buy the pyrometer with the overtemp protection. That price includes shipping.

At $10 per hour savings, that unit will pay for itself in fuel savings in 154 operating hours. If you irrigate 800 hours per season, you get to start putting $10 per hour in your pocket less than 1/4 of the way through the irrigation season.

It’s a pretty simple equation. Spend less money on fuel. Make more profit on your crop.

F250 Powerstroke Natural Gas Conversion Project Pt. 5

Click here for Part 1, here for Part 2, here for Part 3, and here for Part 4

I suppose it’s not necessary to leave the wiring until last, but I have chosen to do so. The wiring process is very simple if you’re only installing the kit. The kit comes with two crimp-type wire connectors, a switch, and a length of red wire. One of the two wires on the conversion kit solenoid is a ground wire and the unit is meant to be grounded via one of the bolts that mounts the kit to the bed. The other one is the positive voltage to energize the solenoid.

Find a source of engine-on-only power somewhere, either under the dash or under the hood. Just turn the key on to the run position, and ground your test light. Poke around at electrical connections until you find one that’s lights up the test light. Turn off the key and check the connection again. If there’s no voltage present, you’ve found your power source. I chose to connect to a solenoid under the hood.

I’m a little bit hyper about my wiring connections because there’s no problem more maddening to find than an intermittent ground or something like that. For that reason I don’t like crimp connectors and I loathe Scotchloks. I’m a big fan of solder and heat shrink tubing wherever I can use it, especially when the connection might be exposed to the weather. I also like ground connections to be made under the hood, at least. I’ve seen some body grounds get pretty unreliable as the vehicle ages and rusts, especially grounds toward the rear of the vehicle. But the body grounding under the hood is usually pretty decent. So I chose to solder and heat shrink all my connections at the conversion kit in the bed, and ground my circuit to an existing body ground on the firewall of the truck. I elected to use the crimp connectors under the dash, and to connect the wire to the fittings under the hood.

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Look out, Chicago: $5 gas headed your way

By Dave Siff

  • Analysts: Prices at the pump could hit $5 by Memorial Day
  • High oil prices, increasing exports driving gas prices up
  • Clark Howard says you better shop around!

Attention, drivers: Get ready for some serious pain at the pump.

Analysts tell the Los Angeles Times that gas prices will hit $4 a gallon or more by spring, and — hold on to your wallets — could reach $5 over Memorial Day weekend.

And those are just average prices. GasBuddy.com, which posts prices from around the country as reported by its more than 300,000 member motorists, predicts record prices in major cities all over the map this spring. The site forecasts $4.95 a gallon in Chicago and $4.70 in Los Angeles, with record prices also hitting Philadelphia, Seattle, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis, Dallas and San Francisco. Continue reading

F250 Powerstroke Natural Gas Conversion Project Pt. 4

Click here for Part 1, here for Part 2, and here for Part 3

Now that the bed mounted conversion kit is installed and the hot water and vapor lines are all run, it’s time to install the high pressure stainless steel tubing that brings the gas from the tank to the conversion kit.

Swagelok compression fitting

In some ways this is the most difficult part of the conversion because of the high pressure compression fittings. They are expensive, and it’s possible to install them incorrectly and ruin the little self swaging crush-sealing ferrules. If you ruin the ferrule it can be replaced, but it’s not something you can run down to Autozone and pick up. It has to come from a company that deals with high pressure fittings. I’m in a small town in the upper Midwest, and my nearest retail outlet for these fittings is over 500 miles away. So if you goof one up, and you didn’t purchase extras (always a good idea) then your project is on hold until you get more ferrules. It’s best to order some extras when you buy your fittings.

There are three U.S. based companies that I know of who manufacture these fittings: Swagelok, Duolok, and Parker. There are also several foreign companies, mostly Chinese. Due mostly to the way I went about acquiring my fittings, I’ve got a mixture of brands. Some of mine are Swagelok, some of mine are of Chinese manufacture with no discernible markings telling me who the manufacturer is, and one is by a Chinese company called Li Feng Lok. Continue reading

Kenworth Hosts NatGas Summit In Wisconsin

Courtesy of LNG World News

Natural gas continues to be a focus of truck operators as more than 200 Wisconsin Kenworth customers recently gathered to learn more about new available equipment and the future of natural gas in the industry.

The Wisconsin Kenworth NatGas Summit, held recently at the Glacier Canyon Conference Center, featured four sessions that covered topics such as the state and federally-funded Clean Cities programs to help fleets adopt new technology using alternative and renewable fuels. The sessions covered compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) engine technology and fueling infrastructure. The sessions also gave customers opportunities to inspect two CNG-powered Kenworth T440s.

I found the Kenworth summit to be very informative, providing a lot of good, quality information that will help us in our decision how and when to adopt natural gas-powered trucks into our fleet,” said Jeff Villers, a fleet maintenance manager with CTS Inc.

The summit was a response to our customers’ requests to learn more about natural gas, the natural-gas powered trucks Kenworth offers and about the experiences of customers who have already started using the trucks,” said Jim Moeller, president of CSM Companies, parent company of Wisconsin Kenworth. CSM Companies operates five Wisconsin Kenworth dealership locations in Green Bay, Menomonie, Milwaukee, Mosinee, and Windsor, and Michigan Kenworth locations in Gaylord and Grand Rapids. Continue reading

Kenworth Truck Show Features CNG & LNG Trucks

USA-based Kenworth Truck Company hosted a truck show in Indianapolis featuring compressed natural gas (CNG) powered and hybrid Kenworths at the start of December. The company’s dedication to provision of green fleet choices includes compressed and liquefied natural gas (LNG) trucks. More than 350 truck and fleet operators learned about new available equipment and the future of natural gas fuel in the trucking industry. Also presented were free training sessions on vehicle maintenance and grant writing.

“Truck operators and their technicians got a lot of great information about spec’ing choices, maintenance and grant assistance to help make the new technology more affordable,” said Jacob Nichols, general manager of Kenworth of Indianapolis. “A seven-person panel discussion provided information and opinions on the growth and future of natural gas in heavy duty trucks and the transportation industry. Participants learned how the rising cost of diesel and the increasing availability of domestic gas reserves is helping to build momentum for the adoption of natural gas-powered vehicles.” Continue reading