3M (St. Paul, Minn., USA) and Chesapeake Energy Corp. (Oklahoma City, Okla., USA) on Feb. 21 announced an agreement to collaborate in designing, manufacturing and marketing a broad portfolio of compressed natural gas (CNG) tanks for use in all sectors of the United States transportation market. Currently the fuel tank on a CNG vehicle is its most expensive single component.
3M’s CNG tank solution combines the company’s proprietary liner advancements, thermoplastic materials, barrier films and coatings, and damage-resistant films. Using nanoparticle-enhanced resin technology, 3M Matrix Resin for pressure vessels, 3M will create CNG tanks that are 10 to 20 percent lighter with 10 to 20 percent greater capacity, all at a lower cost than standard vessels. In addition, the 3M technology reportedly produces safer and more durable tanks than those currently on the market.
Chesapeake has pledged an initial $10 million toward design and certification services, market development support and a commitment to use the new tanks for its corporate fleet conversion to CNG. The company’s investment will be provided by Chesapeake NG Ventures Corp. (CNGV), established in 2011 to identify and invest in companies and technologies that will replace the use of gasoline and diesel derived primarily from foreign oil. CNGV has committed $1 billion over the next 10 years to help fund various initiatives to increase demand for natural gas, including investments totaling $300 million in Clean Energy Fuels Corp. and privately-held Sundrop Fuels Inc.
3M has engaged Hypercomp Engineering, Inc. of Utah for the design and certification of tanks. 3M will manufacture the tanks and focus its capital on all future operations and production. 3M expects these tanks to be available for sale during the fourth quarter of 2012.
“3M believes in the potential of natural gas, and this agreement illustrates our commitment to the industry,” said George Buckley, chairman, president and CEO of 3M. “We are excited about this collaboration to speed the development and adoption of natural gas-powered vehicles.”
Increased political support and private investment have made natural gas a viable automotive fuel alternative with large growth potential. With more than a 100-year supply of natural gas in the United States and an average price per gasoline gallon equivalent of $1.00 to $2.00, the fuel is plentiful, affordable and domestic. The fuel also burns more cleanly than gasoline, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent and particulate matter by 95 percent.
“This partnership brings together two leading companies from different sectors, both committed to advancing the natural gas transportation fuel market,” says Aubrey K. McClendon, Chesapeake’s CEO. “We applaud 3M for recognizing the future of natural gas as a low-cost, cleaner alternative to gasoline, and for creating innovative tank technology that will make natural gas vehicles more affordable and accessible to fleets and individual consumers nationwide. Our country needs a solution to break the foreign stranglehold on our fuels market, and today’s announcement is another step to transition our nation away from costly imports.”