The fuel gas industry has taken prominence in the worldwide transportation sector for many years now. Be it for transportation, material handling or power plant applications, the fuel gas sector is part of the dialogue in the national and international lexicon like never before.
Whether the discussion is from the perspective ‘Alternative fuels for a cleaner tomorrow’ or ‘Alternatives to petrol fuels’, let’s take a look at the fuel gas industry for the transportation sector and a brief description of the worldwide industry.
CNG fueling stations have become ‘the norm’ from the vast reaches of South America, throughout the EU and India with New Delhi’s bus and auto-rickshaw’s powered by CNG to the most remote stations in the western part of China.
CNG is relatively inexpensive, abundant and enables countries to enjoy some relative independence from foreign energy imports. Equipment suppliers worldwide have enjoyed this boom in developing countries as the need for refueling station equipment is ever increasing. Remote locations are fueled through the daughter station concept. Disconnected from a national natural gas pipeline, daughter stations received CNG tube trailers and fill via a cascading system and direct compression into transport vehicles. Daughter stations are the real drivers of growth in the developing world.
In the US, however, CNG for transport vehicles has not ‘caught’ on with the fervor as in other places worldwide. However, with the development of massive natural gas reserves, this could change in the foreseeable future. Exactly how remains to be seen.
Hydrogen & CNG
Making its debut years ago in Faridabad India, Hydrogen and CNG blended fuel gas made its introduction to the scene as an efficiency-enhancing additive to traditional CNG fuels.
This blend offers multi-faceted benefits including increased engine efficiency and reduced tailpipe emissions. In rapidly developing markets, where there are significant increases in standard of living and vehicle ownership, CO2 emissions reduction per household will be of ever increasing importance. This newly developing field will enable quantitative benefits with very modest cost impact to the consumer.
Over the last five years, the global hydrogen energy economy has seen quite an expansion considering various government budget cuts, alternative energy fad’s coming and going and a general industry re-positioning.
In light of all of this turmoil, tremendous industry learning and growth is taking place in key sectors worldwide:
In North America, the material handling market is proving to be an early commercialization opportunity for industrial gas suppliers and component suppliers. Small and large warehouse distribution centers are benefiting from the inherent advantages of hydrogen fuel cell-powered forklifts.
In Germany, with Daimler ready for commercialization, the opportunities are abundant when considering the need for hydrogen refueling stations, vehicle service providers and gas supply.
In Japan, with Honda and Toyota ready, Japan has a 100 Station goal by the end of 2015.
Scandinavia has been quietly building a strong hydrogen presence throughout Denmark and Norway, with temporary stations located in Sweden.
Hydrogen delivery varies from installation to installation, including tube trailer supply, liquid hydrogen supply (prominent in North America), hydrogen from electrolysis and hydrogen from steam methane reformation (SMR). In all cases, compression is required to elevate hydrogen to the pressure required to fill vehicles to 350 and 700 bar.
Along with this development, much work remains to be done. Manufacturers are currently working on bringing to the market new technologies for residential fueling stations and large stations (300 kg per day and higher).
As the worldwide fuel gas market evolves, equipment suppliers have the challenge of meeting the increasing demand, along with the technical challenges of producing reliable and safe equipment. This must be accomplished while managing costs and working in concert with codes and standards development committees to craft universal standards which can be used the world over.
About the author
Kareem Afzal is vice-president of Business Development at PDC Machines, a diaphragm compressor manufacturer located in Warminster PA, US. PDC is leading the way in hydrogen station and HCNG development as a component and solutions provider for the last 10+ years. PDC Machines diaphragm compressors for ultra high purity compression of industrial and specialty gases have been the leading compressors of choice worldwide comprising the vast majority of any other supplier by 2:1. For more information, please contact Kareem at
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