1991 - Volume #15, Issue #3, Page #19[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Fueling Up On Natural GasIt's possible to save up to 50% on fuel costs by converting to natural gas and refueling at home with a first-of-its-kind "refueling station" that hooks up directly to natural gas pipelines, according to the manufacturer.
The "FuelMaker" is the first personal use natural gas refueling system. It compresses natural gas so it can be stored and carried on a vehicle that's been modified to burn natural gas (without impairing its ability to still burn regular gas). The appliance looks like a picnic cooler and connects directly to an existing residential or commercial natural gas supply. All you do is connect the refueling hose to your vehicle. After several hours when the fuel tank is full, the appliance automatically shuts itself off.
"Natural gas is the fuel of the future," says Henry Tomlinson, chairman of the Federation of Alberta Gas Co-ops. He says on an amount of natural gas equivalent to a gallon of gasoline sells for just 50 to 70 cents. Many large organizations with fleets of trucks have already converted to natural gas, fueling up at large industrial-size refueling stations. Many farm cooperatives are also looking at setting up these types of fueling stations.
According to Tomlinson, both gas and diesel engines can be converted to run on natural gas. On gas engines, natural gas either flows through the carburetor or into the fuel injection system. A regulator kit that mounts on the engine allows compressed natural gas to be injected into the air intake: On diesel engines, natural gas is introduced into the air intake manifold. Diesel engines can be converted to run on up to 75% natural gas. It's necessary to continue to use 25% diesel fuel in order to provide a source of ignition as well as lubri cation for the fuel pump.
In order to use natural gas as a motor vehicle fuel, it must be compressed so it can be stored on board a vehicle in a relatively small tank. The FuelMaker pressurizes natural gas to 3,000 psi and delivers about 1 gal. of compressed natural gas per hour. A special fuel storage tank, whicl,is built heavy to withstand the high gas pressure, mounts under a pickup bed, on top of a tractor cab, or in the trunk of a car. A typical tank holds the energy equivalent of about 5 gal. of gas so it takes about five hours to fill. For faster fill up, two separate refueling tanks can be installed on the vehicle. A dual hose option lets you simultaneously refuel both tanks or a second vehicle.
There are two major obstacles facing farmers who want to convert to natural gas. First, most farmers don't have access to natural gas pipelines. Secondly, even where rural gas pipelines are common, such as in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, farmers may need either several FuelMaker appliances or a bigger and faster refueling station because of the number of vehicles and equipment they own and their high fuel requirements. The FuelMaker compresses gas at a relatively slow rate in order to prevent draw down on other natural gas appliances. However, Tomlinson says-manufacturers are working on higher capacity refueling equipment. "It's only a matter of time before larger refueling stations become available," he says.
At30 miles pergal.,a vehicle would have a daily range of up to 150 miles with one 5-gal. tank. In almost all cases, the vehicle's gasoline system is left, intact so that the driver can easily change from gasoline to natural gas and back again on-the-go by flipping a switch.
Questar Corp. of Salt Lake City, Utah, BC Gas of Vancouver British Columbia, and Sulzer Bros. Ltd. of Switzerland, have,, formed the FuelMaker Corporation which manufactures the FuelMaker appliance.
The FuelMaker sells for about $3,000, the storage tank for about $500, and a regulator that mounts on the engine and further reduces gas pressure costs about $900.
For more information, contact: FARM SHOW Followup, FuelMaker Corporation, Box 12503, 1066 West Hastings St., Vancouver, British Columbia Canada V6E 3G3 (ph 604 684-4269) or FuelMaker Corporation,, 141 East First South St., Salt Lake City, Utah 84111 (ph 801 530-2417).
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