Most of the time changes in our society, our communities, or our own households happen as a result of personal choice, a grassroots movement or as a result of powerful influences and events in our society that necessitates change. In Utah change is occurring as a result of all three of these factors.
High petroleum prices, low natural gas prices, coupled with a large number of Utahans fed up with high petroleum prices has led to a wave of Utah citizens purchasing new natural gas vehicles or converting their existing vehicles to run on natural gas. Since 2007 the estimated number of registered natural gas vehicles has increased from approx. 5,000 to approx. 20,000 resulting in a 402% increased usage of compressed natural gas. Although the cost of natural gas has increased this year to .86 cents a gallon, citizens still find the cost and effort to convert a vehicle to use natural gas worthwhile.
“We have been receiving hundreds of emails and phone calls a day asking about CNG training. This is why we felt that a training course in Utah was necessary” said Robin Erickson, Director, Utah Clean Cities Coalition. “The original thought was a one week course, but due to the overwhelming demand we extended the training to four one-week courses. In addition, we have two Colleges, Salt Lake Community College and Utah Valley University agreeing to continue the training course in Utah.”
In a recent article in the International Herald Tribune, T. Boone Pickens, a Texas billionaire who is spearheading an effort to promote energy independence through, among other things, an increased use of natural gas, noted that ” Utah shows that the technology is here and the fuel works and the fuel is better than foreign oil.”
With Erickson and the Utah Clean Cities Coalition leading the effort, the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium (NAFTC) presented four weeks of natural gas training during July-August 2008. Fifty-eight participants were provided training utilizing two NAFTC-developed courses – the Light-Duty Natural Gas Vehicles Course and the Natural Gas Vehicles: CNG Cylinder Inspection Course.
Several auto manufacturers have made natural gas-powered vehicles available to the consumer in the past. Today, however, only the Honda Civic GX is being produced by a major auto manufacturer. Many vehicles are being converted to use natural gas, using conversion kits approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Therefore, the need for qualified technicians to service and maintain these vehicles is growing rapidly. The Light-Duty Natural Gas Vehicle Course is an interactive course that is designed for the professional technician or automotive student and teaches safety, service procedures, vehicle systems, and the nature of gaseous fuels.
The NAFTC-developed course Natural Gas Vehicles: CNG Cylinder Inspection was also presented to training participants. Most natural gas vehicles use high-pressure storage cylinders that require periodic inspection. This two-day, hands-on course was taught to train participants to conduct visual inspection of CNG Cylinders. It also helped prepare the participant to take the certification examination conducted by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) (In response to changes in the certification examination offered by CSA, a new NAFTC course Compressed Natural Gas Vehicle Fuel Systems Installation and Inspection is under development to aide participants in preparing for the certification examination and to include changes made by the industry. Anticipated release of this new course is March 2009.
More than 150,000 natural gas vehicles (NGVs) are in use in the United States, each using CNG cylinders and each cylinder requiring periodic inspection, create a demand for certified inspectors. Current standards require a detailed visual inspection once every three years or 36,000 miles over the life of the container. Good shop practice recommends a more frequent general inspection. The inspector needs to know what to look for, how to visually inspect, and how to determine whether the container is safe. The continued use of acceptable cylinders and the removal from service of damaged cylinders that do not pass the visual inspection criteria are critical to the safety and well-being of all who may come into contact with NGVs. Done correctly, cylinder inspection will assure a viable, safe future for an industry that provides a cleaner alternative to traditional fuels for transportation. Participants gain a thorough knowledge of all required inspections, tests, and apparatus and inspection procedures applicable to the types of cylinders to be inspected.
The natural gas training in Utah shows the grassroots response to this increased demand. Jim Pitts, trainer for these courses, noted that “the consensus that we received from the training participants was that everyone who is considering working on or with natural gas vehicles should take these courses. Students who took this training now understand the proper way to work with natural gas vehicles.”
Utah is not unique in their desire to reduce our dependency on foreign oil. The Clean Cities Coalitions throughout the U.S. have been promoting this concept since 1992. Over 90 coalitions have been able to make a huge impact with displacing over 1.6 Billion gasoline equivalent gallons by using compressed natural gas, propane, electric, liquefied natural gas, biodiesel and ethanol. The Clean Cities Coalitions have been taking the lead in helping with training, public awareness and supporting the community efforts with other energy strategies to reduce the use of petroleum.
The National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium can conduct natural gas vehicle training or other alternative fuels training for you and your organization. For more information contact Randall Levelle at 304.293.7882 or Randall.Levelle@mail.wvu.edu.