Compressed natural gas will be commonplace, exec says3/8/2013
Irving Oil Ltd.’s recent expansion into compressed natural gas deliveries could be the start of a new trend in fuel for businesses and vehicles, according to a Saint John company.
Irving Oil has signed agreements this week with McCain Foods and the AV Group to supply compressed natural gas to their facilities.
The deals were made possible after the provincial government changed the rules around shipments of natural gas last winter.
Irving Oil is in the process of building a natural gas compression facility in Rusagonis, just outside of Fredericton, where trucks will fill up with specialized fuel and transport it to customers.
The 100-square-metre plant in Rusagonis will include a compressed natural gas operation, metering stations, natural gas dryers, and a truck loading dock.
Saint John’s FPC Inc. builds specialized units that are used by companies that transport the volatile gas.
Len Thompson, the president of FPC, said fuelling stations, such as the one being built by Irving Oil in Rusagonis, are going to become commonplace over the next five years.
Compressed natural gas is a popular form of fuel for cars and trucks in many parts of the world. Millions of vehicles in Asia are operating with it.
Lax regulations in some countries have led to safety problems and deaths.
But Thompson said that is not the case in North America. His company has to meet rigorous standards set by Canadian and American regulators.
"They are equally safe or even more safe than what is existing now," Thompson said of units that transport compressed natural gas.
The pressure vessels that Thompson builds reduce the risk of transporting compressed natural gas. These vessels are made of steel reinforced with a composite material.
“Our system has operated in some of the harshest environments and most dangerous environments, I must say, in the world,” he said.
“In every occasion that we’ve had, our system has not had a release of gas.”
He said his units are in use all over the world and they have been in accidents, shot with guns and have even withstood a terrorist attack.
"We've had a double rollover in one scenario. And we had one scenario where the whole unit was set on fire. And the individuals that did that were trying to make something happen,” he said.
Irving Oil is not using Thompson’s containers in its gas distribution business.
The sudden interest in compressed natural gas is being stoked by the potential for significant cost savings.
Compressed natural gas is much cheaper than gas or oil. There are estimates that companies can save between 30 and 40 per cent on their fuel bills by making the switch.
McCain Foods will spend $1 million to convert its two facilities to natural gas, but it then expects to save 30 per cent on its fuel bills.