At the political conventions several weeks ago, technology developed in Des Plaines helped keep some attendees riding on air — natural gas to be exact. Gas Technology Institute, 1700 S. Mount Prospect Road, researched the engineering of a new mobile fueling station with compressed natural gas that serviced 12 shuttle buses, which transported people at the Republican and Democratic national conventions.
, worked with a commercial partner, Ultimate CNG, based in Oakton, VA, to develop a modified truck to dispense compressed natural gas, or CNG, to vehicles that run on the fuel. The FuelMule addresses a number of barriers to the expanded use of CNG in transportation, according to a press release.
Tony Lindsay, research and development director at Gas Technology Institute, stated in the press release, “This technology helps to overcome the capital investment issues associated with building new fueling infrastructure. In the past, there haven’t been enough [natural gas vehicles] to justify the high investment in building many fueling stations, and there are too few stations to allow widespread growth and adoption of [natural gas vehicles] in various fleets. This new innovation can work to balance things out with its ability to bring fueling capability to where it’s most needed.
The FuelMule will undergo a series of stress tests and refinements next year before being offered for sale in the marketplace.
Natural-gas propulsion is most found in commercial and industrial vehicles and cabs. But the population could be expanded with some additional improvements.
Compressed natural gas costs about $1.69 less per gallon equivalent compared to diesel and offers fleets a domestic fuel choice that is cleaner for the environment, according to the press release.
Dennis Pick, president of Ultimate CNG, stated in the press release, “With FuelMule CNG fueling services, no longer must fleets choose between the convenience of diesel and clean natural gas. They can have access to CNG with no capital investment required and no fueling infrastructure maintenance.”
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The FuelMule station is equipped with a reciprocating gas compressor capable of dispensing the equivalent of eight diesel gallons per minute at a pressure of 3,600 pounds per square inch, according to the press release. The FuelMule’s payload area is fitted with lightweight, carbon-composite tanks, which have an onboard storage capacity the equivalent of 700 gallons of diesel, according to the press release.
One of the novel aspects of the system is that the natural gas engine that motors the truck down the road also powers the natural gas compressor, according to the press release.
The FuelMule can fuel 35 to 50 mid to heavy-duty vehicles, and separate electronic metering makes it capable of filling two vehicles simultaneously, according to the press release. The FuelMule can be loaded with compressed natural gas in as little as two hours.
America's Natural Gas Alliance provided twelve shuttle buses used at the political conventions to give delegates and guests a first-hand experience with the alternative-fueled vehicles, according to the press release. The shuttle busses transported convention participants to hotels and local attractions.
Regina Hopper, America’s Natural Gas Alliance president and CEO, stated in the press release, “Our message in Tampa, Charlotte, and beyond is that this is an extraordinary opportunity for our nation, and it’s time to get onboard with this American fuel choice. Companies and local leaders across the country are embracing natural gas as a fuel choice and calling for more vehicle options and filling stations to help drive greater use.”
The FuelMule traveled 1,372 miles from Janesville, WI, to Tampa, FL without having to stop for fuel — it fueled itself, according to the press release.
A local utility in Tampa, FL, TECO Peoples Gas, and, in Charlotte, NC, Piedmont Natural Gas Company, provided compressed natural gas to keep the buses rolling, with the FuelMule quietly working in the background to keep things moving along.
As a nonprofit research facility, the Gas Technology Institute does not always receive much recognition for the technologies it is responsible for helping bring to market, said Diane Miller, marketing communications manager at the Gas Technology Institute. Miller said the conventions gave her organization a little more attention than it usually receives.
The shuttle busses at the political conventions prominently displayed the commercial partners. The connection to the Gas Technology Institute, and to Des Plaines, is fixed in a logo on the side of the FuelMule.
“We had an opportunity to toot our own horn, so to speak,” Miller said.