Alternative Fuel Vehicle Maintenance
An alternative fuel vehicle is a vehicle that runs on a fuel other than "traditional" petroleum fuels (petrol or diesel). Natural gas vehicles (NGVs) operate on compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG). Other alternate fuels used for transportation include liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and Hydrogen (H2) for fuel cells. Natural gas vehicles or alternative fuel vehicles are increasingly being used in metropolitan and suburban areas and many fleet owners are converting their traditional vehicles to alternative fuel vehicles to save money and to benefit the environment. Consequently, fleet managers and vehicle dealers must ensure that their facilities are instrumented with a comprehensive fire and gas detection, alarming, and mitigation system to meet the current code and safety requirements for fueling, maintaining and repairing alternatively fueled vehicles.
Gas Detection and Alarming
Hazardous conditions may arise in facilities due to the presence of combustible and toxic gases. Hazardous gases may include, but are not limited to:
- Combustible Gases
- Carbon Monoxide
- Nitrogen Dioxide
Such gases may be released because of defects or leaks in the vehicles or storage/fueling equipment, or because of human error. Hazardous gases can build up in enclosed areas and become a risk to the facility or to the safety of the personnel who work in the facility. It is therefore necessary to implement gas and flame detectors along with controllers that can issue suitable alarms or visual warnings and take remediating actions like turning on exhaust fans or opening doors. A comprehensive system can protect assets and personnel within areas such as work bays, paint shops, chassis washes, tire shops, fuel/dynamometer buildings, or fueling areas.
Automation and Integration Strategies
Detecting hazardous gases and issuing alarms are important steps, but it is equally important to take remediation actions. This can be done through integrating the gas detection and alarm system with the building management system responsible for automating the larger facility. Common applications include connecting a Modbus device to a BACnet-managed system.
The primary mitigation solution to an unwanted gas release is to use ventilation. Normal day-to-day operation in a natural gas or other alternative fuel maintenance facility may have the fans on low speed to continuously refresh the air. However, during emergency situations, the ventilation system will “push” fresh air into the building while exhaust fans “pull” air from the building to expel the hazardous gas into the atmosphere as soon as the gas is detected. If the gases continue to escalate, evacuation and additional ventilation are utilized.
Other automation processes may include providing notifications as a local alarm to an employee’s phone, tablet, and/or PC, and controlling the ignition source near the location of the potential accidental discharge of gas.
As these systems are automated, the regulatory agencies require that the systems be “performance approved” and checked on a periodic basis.
Codes and Regulations
Sierra Monitor continues to manufacture equipment and maintain certifications, such as UL 2017 and UL 2075, as defined in the ever-changing codes pertaining to natural gas vehicle facilities. We pride ourselves on adhering to these various national and international codes and regulations.
In addition, a local Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) may enforce additional requirements beyond these codes and thus should be consulted directly before undertaking facility modifications. Also note that various codes are adopted voluntarily by the states and local municipalities and are enforced by the local AHJ (i.e. Fire Marshal).
Major codes governing NGV facilities include but are not limited to:
- NFPA 52 (2013): Vehicular Gaseous Fuel Systems Code
- NFPA 30A (2012): Code for Motor Fuel Dispensing Facilities and Repair Garages
- NFPA 88A (2015): Standard for Parking Structures
- NFPA 70 (2014): National Electrical Code
- NFPA 59 (2015): Utility Liquefied Petroleum Plant Code
- International Fire Code (IFC 2012)
- International Mechanical Code (IMC 2012)
- International Building Code (IBC 2012)
- International Energy Conservation Code (IECC 2012)