3M (St. Paul, Minn.) and Chesapeake Energy Corp. (Oklahoma City, Okla.) on Feb. 21 announced an agreement to collaborate in designing, manufacturing and marketing a broad portfolio of compressed natural gas (CNG) tanks (photo, right). Chesapeake has pledged an initial $10 million (USD) toward design and certification services and market-development support, and most importantly, it has made a commitment to use the new tanks as it converts its corporate fleet to CNG. 3M has engaged pressure-vessel specialist Hypercomp Engineering Inc. (Brigham City, Utah) for the design and certification of the tanks. 3M, however, will manufacture the commercial tanks and focus its capital on all future operations and production. 3M expects tanks to be available in the fourth quarter of 2012.
According to 3M, increased political support and private investment have made natural gas — which burns more cleanly than gasoline, cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent and particulates by 95 percent — a viable alternative automotive fuel. With more than a 100-year supply of natural gas and an average current price per gasoline gallon equivalent of $1 to $2, CNG is expected to be both affordable and plentiful. The gas and the tanks required to store it represent large growth potential, according to 3M.
Aimed at all sectors of the U.S. transportation market, 3M’s CNG tank solution combines the company’s proprietary liner advancements, thermoplastic materials, barrier films and coatings and damage-resistant films. Currently the fuel tank on a CNG vehicle is its most expensive single component. 3M says it will use its nanoparticle-enhanced 3M Matrix Resin for pressure vessels to create CNG tanks that are lower in cost; 10 to 20 percent lighter, with 10 to 20 percent greater capacity; and more durable than those currently on the market.
The company’s investment funds will be provided by Chesapeake NG Ventures Corp. (CNGV, Oklahoma City, Okla.), 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 the demand for natural gas.
“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.”
Meanwhile, GASTANK Sweden AB (Piteå, Sweden) announced on March 5 that it has developed new “zero permeation” high-pressure CNG cylinders for motor vehicles. The cylinders meet the stringent ECE R110 regulation governing the use of Type IV high-pressure CNG tanks for motor vehicles, yet they are reportedly cost-competitive with legacy materials.
The inner liner is made with Akulon (polyamide 6) Fuel Lock from DSM Composite Resins (Geleen, The Netherlands) and HiPer-tex high-performance glass fiber from 3B-the fibreglass co. (Battice, Belgium). Prof. Kurt Berglund, president of GASTANK Sweden, says, “The combination of both Akulon Fuel Lock and HiPer-tex glass fiber enables optimizing the cost-benefit ratio of Type IV cylinders. HiPer-tex high-performance fibers bridge the gap between heavyweight steel and high-cost carbon fiber composites due to its ability to deliver a comprehensive range of properties economically.”
Tim Vorage, application development manager at DSM, adds, ”Akulon Fuel Lock not only shows a permeation factor at least 150 times lower than high-density polyethylene [HDPE], it also significantly limits creep under extreme temperatures at the cylinder’s neck thanks to a 50°C higher temperature resistance than HDPE. In addition, the ability to withstand higher temperatures allows a faster curing time of the composite material.”
In other pressure vessel news, SGL Group – The Carbon Co. (Wiesbaden, Germany) announced on March 16 that it has been selected by The Linde Group (Munich, Germany), a world-leading gases and engineering company, to be the exclusive carbon fiber supplier for its Linde Gases division’s new GENIE line of gas cylinders that reportedly represents a “significant and revolutionary step” away from traditional steel cylinders. The lightweight GENIE cylinders are said to hold more gas and have excellent portability. They also incorporate extensive new features, including built-in “digital intelligence,” unique regulators and a range of accessories that, according to The Linde Group, “significantly enhance functionality and user experience.” The vessel’s steel liner is filament wound with SGL’s own SIGRAFIL C50 T024 EPY carbon fiber, then the cured tank is encased within a recyclable HDPE jacket. Reportedly the first gas cylinder of this type to reach market and significantly lighter than a steel counterpart, the ergonomically designed GENIE’s stable, stackable, wide-diameter format gives it an appearance that departs from previous cylinder designs.