Natural Gas Vehicles-Safety


In addition to
having environmental and economic benefits, natural gas is also a fuel
that is as safe for use in vehicles as
gasoline or diesel. There are key differences that contribute to
the safety of natural gas. Unlike gasoline
and diesel, which are harmful
to human health, natural gas is non-toxic. Also, in the event of a
vehicle crash or fuel spill, gasoline can form highly
flammable liquid pools on the ground if a tank holding
the fuel ruptures and leaks. However, natural gas is less
likely to ignite than gasoline. Instead, it will
rise and dissipate, as it is lighter than air. NGVs have a safety record
similar to other vehicles powered by other fuels,
such as gasoline and diesel. Some NGVs, such as trucks
covering long distances, use Liquefied
Natural Gas, or “LNG”. LNG tanks are insulated
to keep the fuel cold at minus 260 degrees
Fahrenheit. Other NGVs use compressed
natural gas, or “CNG”. CNG fuel tanks, or cylinders,
feature robust designs that are engineered to provide
years of reliable service. The cylinders are mounted
in protected areas, such as behind the
rear seat in a sedan or behind shielding
in larger vehicles. Natural gas cylinder
designs are subjected to 14 separate
qualification tests, which include
dropping, bonfire, penetration and more. Each cylinder is also
subjected to a pressure test before being shipped
to the customer. Though CNG cylinders
are inherently safe, they have
a limited lifespan and like most vehicle
mechanical parts, they must be
maintained properly. The most important
aspect of this care is periodic inspection. Federal standards
require that CNG cylinders be visually inspected after a
motor vehicle accident or fire and at least every
36 months or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first,
for damage and deterioration. A CNG cylinder typically
expires after 15 or 20 years. At that point, it must be
removed from the vehicle and disposed of
properly and safely. Proper maintenance
of NGVs and cylinders is critical to their
continued safe operation. There is an established
nationwide network of inspectors certified to
perform safety inspections. Some can also provide proper disposal of
expired CNG cylinders. If your organization operates
a large fleet of NGVs, training your own technicians
to perform cylinder inspections may be an option to consider. Community colleges
and other locations offer training classes in
cylinder safety and inspection for garage technicians. For information on CNG cylinder
safety classes near you, visit www.CSAgroup.org
and search for “Personnel
Certification Programs”. In conclusion, the NGV
industry’s manufacturing and safety procedures have made
natural gas vehicles as safe as other
vehicles on the road. Natural gas
for vehicles … it’s CLEAN,
ABUNDANT, AFFORDABLE and AMERICAN.