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CNG Fueling Stations
Compressed natural gas (CNG) is a staple alternative fuel that has enjoyed steady adoption over many years as more and more car owners and fleet managers begin to realize the benefits of natural gas vehicles. So while electrics and hybrids get all of the headlines, CNG has actually been getting more drivers.
At the basis of any new paradigm of vehicle fuel is going to be distribution and how owners of those vehicles refuel them. CNG is no different, though it has far fewer problems than do most other alternatives.
CNG Refueling Station Requirements
The first requirement of a CNG station is the methane gas itself. This is usually stored on-site in large tanks in either liquefied form (LNG) or pre-compressed form (CNG). It can be stored above or below ground or piped in directly from a natural gas plant nearby.
The stations have the same general safety requirements of a gasoline station, though security of above-ground tanks is something new. CNG is volatile (as is gasoline, hydrogen, and many other fuels), so the tanks and storage containers must be robust.
An alternative to CNG, adsorbed natural gas (ANG) is emerging as another alternative that does not have the volatility or compression requirements of CNG and allows for smaller, lighter tanks on vehicles without compromising safety. For now, however, CNG is the most common methane gas fuel type.
Advantages of CNG
The pumps and general fueling procedure are roughly the same and require few new learned behaviors on the part of the consumer (driver). Outside of the coupling to connect the vehicle's tanks to the pump, little else need be learned. This speeds the learning curve and thus the adoption rate. It also means fewer lifestyle changes as compared to battery electric vehicles, which require such lengths of time to recharge that they require a full change of habits.
Another advantage is the relatively cheap rate of adoption as compared to building charging stations or some types of hydrogen fuel infrastructure. CNG pumps and systems are common enough now that turnkey solutions are available to make it relatively cheap and easy to set up a refueling station.
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