July 30, 2013

Spotlight on Westport Michigan

Westport is a global company with offices in nine countries around the world: Canada, the United States, China, Australia, Sweden, France, Italy, South Korea and India. Today’s post is about Westport’s office in Plymouth, Michigan. Westport Vice President John Lapetz walks us through some of the highlights of the operations and facilities.

What are the key operations?
We’re a global technology centre for spark ignited engine technology. We have a group of people who design engines that operate using natural gas. We have seven test cells where we test new engines, technology, components and other systems.
Westport’s technology center in Plymouth, Michigan which includes laboratories for vehicle research and testing.
We can simulate road driving conditions to ensure our products are up to the challenge of any scenario that may arise. We assemble and build prototype vehicles, which enables us to build demonstration vehicles. There’s also a laboratory here which we refer to as the “HIL” (Hardware in the Loop) devoted exclusively to developing control systems. We can simulate control systems before we put them into the vehicle.

Overall, we house the controls lab, engine dynamotors, vehicle laboratory, garage facility with ventilation for easier testing, and engineering offices. We also have offices for services, sales, marketing and manufacturing.

What are the key activities?
The key activities that take place at Westport Plymouth are the design, development, validation, service and manufacturing support for automotive products that we sell in North America. The program management activities support the engineering programs Westport uses. Another important aspect is managing purchasing activity for production and productivity.

We develop control system ideas and generate products and intellectual property for our unique, one-of-a-kind natural gas vehicles.
The Plymouth location completes research, development and testing on bi-fuel engine systems on Ford vehicles.
For how long have you been in operation?
We moved here in December, 2011. The building was vacant and was custom built to Westport’s needs.
In the summer of 2012, we were in full swing. All of the locations we considered included: Plymouth (current location), Novi, Wixom, and Livonia.

We selected this building because the space represented the best opportunity to fit everything we needed, the shape of the building, and its proximity to major highways for convenience. In July 2011, we started to hire permanent employees. At that point we had about 30 employees – now we employ around 60 people.

Kevin Stofflet works hard on developing software in the controls lab.
Other Interesting Facts:
We have a very transparent organization with a people-focused culture – all of Westport’s offices share this in common. Interestingly, both Westport’s European and Canadian buildings have the same furniture. If you visit an office in Vancouver, Canada or Gothenburg, Sweden the colors and door frames are similar. It’s wonderful to have that kind of consistency.

Westport Michigan is engaging, transparent and respectful – a place where we take on the hardest challenges.

July 24, 2013

Liquefied Natural Gas: A Transportation Solution for the 21st Century

By Karen Graham, Karen Hamberg and Jonathan Morissette

LNG Blog Series - PART 1

We wrapped up our series on Renewable Natural Gas a few weeks ago – we hope it was informative. Continuing our exploration of alternative gaseous fuels for transportation, we turn this week to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). In a two-part series, we look first at the unique properties and behaviour of LNG and how it’s growing as a unique fuel for transportation, and then how to safely handle LNG at the fueling station and on the road in our trucks.

Liquefied natural gas, or LNG, is fuel that’s playing an increasing role for a range of applications. Originally developed to efficiently store large amounts of natural gas as backup for electricity generation plants during times of very high (or “peak”) usage (called “peak shaving”), LNG’s flexibility has created a demand in transportation. LNG is playing a key role in Westport’s product development, whether in on-road heavy-duty trucking or emerging rail, mining and marine applications.

The key to LNG’s versatility lies in its energy density. The liquefaction of natural gas increases its density 600 times - converting 600 square feet of gas into one square foot of odorless and colorless liquid. The resulting liquid needs to be insulated to remain around –161.5° C, but doesn’t need to be kept under pressure. It can be quickly transferred from one vessel to another, enabling the fast refueling times that vehicle operators are accustomed to with traditional liquid fuels. Unlike compressed and pipeline gas, LNG can’t be odorized (the sulphur smell we recognise from natural gas ranges and ovens, and CNG in vehicles), and facilities and vehicles which handle it have methane-detectors as a safety measure.

LNG is stored in double-walled, stainless steel tanks, with a vacuum between the layers which further insulates the chilled liquid from outside ambient temperatures. The vacuum space between tank walls also has insulating material injected into it to further insulate the LNG, which can remain chilled and liquid for up to seven to 10 days. The double-walled tanks provide a high degree of safety.

LNG floats on top of water, and has a very narrow range of concentrations (a 5-15% mix with air) in which it can ignite. It also has a higher auto-ignition temperature (1,004oF/540oC) than diesel (600oF/315.5oC) or gasoline (495oF/257oC).[1] As a result, LNG has a reduced risk of explosion compared to other liquid fuels. A spill of LNG, even if ignited, won’t catch fire but only burn around the evaporating edges of the pool. According to the Papua New Guinea LNG Project, since 1944 there have been only four fatal accidents involving LNG anywhere in the world.[2] LNG is non-corrosive and non-toxic.

Fuel suppliers and station operators across North America and around the world have committed to increase the use of LNG in heavy duty trucking. Shell has announced that is investing $300 million in partnership with Travel Centers of America to build up to 200 LNG pumps at 100 locations across the United States.[3] Clean Energy in partnership with Flying J Travel Centers is creating what it calls “America’s Natural Gas Highway,” a national network of 150 stations in its first phase that will power interstate shipping and regional fleets working locally.[4]

In the European Union, the European Commission has announced the LNG Blue Corridors project to build 14 new fueling stations - adding to the 30 plus existing LNG stations – to complete a Europe-wide natural gas trucking network of at least one LNG station every 400km by 2020.[5]

These commitments by government and industry will boost the growth of the LNG transportation sector, bringing the economic and environmental advantages of natural gas to more truck fleets. In our next post, we’ll take a look at the safety and experience of fueling with LNG.

[1] http://www.npc.org/FTF_Topic_papers/21-LNG_in_Transportation.pdf and http://www.pnglng.com/media/pdfs/environment/eis_attachment01.pdf
[3] http://www.forbes.com/sites/christopherhelman/2012/06/13/shell-investing-300m-to-fuel-lng-powered-trucks/
[4] http://www.cleanenergyfuels.com/buildingamerica.html
[5] For more information, please see our prior blog post on this announcement, Europe Paves the Way for LNG-Powered Transportation with Four New Blue Corridors.

July 22, 2013

August 8 Webinar: Making the Shift to Natural Gas - Best Practices for Fleets

Westport is offering a free webinar on August 8: Making the Shift to Natural Gas: Best Practices for Fleets. We sat down with presenter Konrad Komuniecki, Westport’s Senior Director of Operations, and chatted about the topics he’ll be covering during his presentation.

Q. Why are we talking about this topic?

A. Once you’ve made the choice to switch to natural gas, it’s important to understand what you need to do to adjust your operation. We’ll provide answers and information to attendees about the practical considerations involved in switching your fleet to natural gas.

We’ll focus the discussion around the following four areas:
  • Driver and technician training
  • Maintenance practices
  • Preparing your facility and shop
  • Educating your organization and community
Q. What’s the value to potential fleets?

A. The presentation will help fleet owners and managers understand the process they need to take when preparing their facilities and operations for natural gas vehicles. Understanding what kinds of preparation and alternations are needed will help fleets make the rights choices to ensure a successful transition to natural gas.

It will also be a good opportunity to hear about the resources available for fleets who’ve made the decision to switch. We‘ll be providing the names of websites, key literature, and contacts.

Q. Who will benefit from this?

A. Fleets who are thinking about natural gas vehicles, and also those who’ve made the decision to run on natural gas but need help with the transition. We’ll address the key operational changes needed for natural gas vehicle operations, including a very important topic: safety.

Q. Why are things like staff and driver training so important?

A. For many drivers and staff, natural gas will be a relatively new fuel. It’s important that they understand the business decision to switch to natural gas, the advantages to the company and operations, and the safety precautions their organization is putting in place for everyone’s protection.

Q. Who should attend?

A. Anyone who is interested in learning more about how to transition their fleet to natural gas. 
Specifically: Fleet and operations managers, maintenance personnel, drivers and dispatchers, health and safety personnel.

Register Here.
Have any more questions? Email Westport at: media@westport.com

July 17, 2013

Westport Climbs On Board the West Coast Marine LNG Project

Natural gas may have good potential as a marine fuel in Canada, which is the focus of the West Coast Marine LNG Supply Chain Project. Westport is one of 17 organizations participating in the initiative, led by the Canadian Natural Gas Vehicle Alliance (CNGVA), which will examine the barriers to adopting liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a marine fuel and give recommendations on how to overcome obstacles.

“We’re a B.C.-based company contributing our knowledge of the natural gas transportation industry and our expertise in cryogenic solutions,” said Laurence Lemay, Manager, Market Development. “Bringing the key industry stakeholders around the table is crucial in driving change – this is happening in our own backyard and we want to be part of it.”

Westport joins a wide cross-section of industry representatives participating in the $1.2 million project, including: Rolls-Royce, BC Ferries, Shell, FortisBC, the American Bureau of Shipping, the Government of Canada, the BC Ministry of Transportation and Port Metro Vancouver, among many others.

Alicia Milner, President of the CNGVA, says the West Coast is an ideal focus of the project with its extensive natural gas resource base and Port Metro Vancouver, Canada’s largest port and gateway to Asia-Pacific.

“The CNGVA recognized that our members would benefit greatly from closer collaboration with government and the marine sector to help create access for LNG to the marine market,” Milner said. “The project provided a natural fit with the natural gas vehicle industry’s strategic development and growth priorities.”

Stringent emission controls are scheduled for 2015-2016, meaning ships will no longer be able to use higher emission heavy fuel oil within 200 nautical miles of the coast. That means cleaner air.

Milner said that currently Transport Canada regulations don’t allow the use of LNG as a marine fuel, so it’s important to have Transport Canada’s Transportation Development Centre at the table as a project funder and participant.

July 15, 2013

Changing the Way the Future Looks Here and Now

Westport is Changing the Way the World Moves. We’re also changing the way we express who we are as a company, how our products and services benefit the world, and where we see the role of natural gas in the future of global transportation.

Today, Westport launched Here and Now, a new look and message that defines who we are.

We are changing to reflect the new world of transportation where natural gas plays a significant role and where our opportunities lie – Here and Now. Why now? Because Westport has moved natural gas transportation from a brilliant idea into a wide range of products, and by doing so, we’re changing the way companies do business, the way goods are moved, the way the job site works, the way cities run and the way the future looks.
Our new look and feel celebrates and showcases where you see our technology at work in the world. Our name and logo remain the same, but as we said earlier, year 2013 is a year of transition, a year of evolution. The coming months promise to continue to drive change and evolution and we’re prepared for what’s around the next corner by designing the most advanced natural gas vehicles and engines the world has ever seen. Not just for cars and trucks. But for any vehicle that carries a payload, crosses the water, or thunders down the tracks.

Check out our new brand video that tells the Westport Here and Now story:
Visit us at www.westport.com and follow us @WestportDotCom to learn more.

July 12, 2013

Westporters Love Their Wheels

The Frame

On July 11, Vancouver-based Westporters enjoyed the Westport World of Wheels, where staff had the chance to show off a huge variety of makes and models, and everyone enjoyed barbeque lunch for a real summertime show and shine.
Westporters check out the fabulous wheels of colleagues.

The Motor

Who's driving this? A few years ago, several “car” folks connected and decided to bring their project or show vehicles to work on the same day to get together and admire them all. Today, it’s open to all wheels, be they on a car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, or other form of transportation. This year, we even had a motorhome!
Show-goers admiring all the vehicles.
The planning group includes Colin, who has been involved in the World of Wheels Show for all of past events. He brought his 1930 Model A sports coupe. Bryan, not new to Westport but new to the Vancouver office, planned an event in LA to coincide with the Vancouver event a few years ago, but this is the first year he’s been in Vancouver to show off his ’67 Chevy Nova.
Bryan with his '67 Chevy Nova - a prized possession of 14 years.

The Fuel

While the vehicles on display are mainly fuelled by gasoline (petrol) like many cars in North America (for now), the show-goers fuelled up on barbeque from the very popular wheels of White Spot Triple O’s food truck, hosted by Westport with lunch donation proceeds going to micro-loan organization Kiva. Westport supports individuals through Kiva by funding natural gas vehicle conversions to entrepreneurs around the globe.
The White Spot's Triple O's food truck fuels hungry Westporters with tasty burgers.
The motorcycles of Westport.

The Performance

Workday show and shine, great lunch, and support for natural gas vehicles worldwide - a very pleasant way to spend your lunch hour. The real winners will be the recipients of loans through Kiva to purchase or convert to natural gas vehicles. 

Westporters enjoying the car show.
Checking what's under the hood.
Oh yes, Westporters love their wheels – and their burgers too, apparently.

Photo credits: Westport/AlanU

July 9, 2013

Challenges to wider adoption of RNG for transportation

In the fifth and final post in our series on renewable natural gas (RNG), we look at some of the challenges to the widespread use of RNG for transportation.

There are promising developments in Europe and the United States that show tremendous potential for RNG in transportation. Several challenges exist, though, to commercial-scale use of RNG fuelled vehicles  including reliable feedstock availability, cost/economics of RNG production, the regulatory and policy structure, and infrastructure/fuel specification uncertainties. The first three challenges are highly interrelated, and each affects the others.

The availability of biomass feedstock is critical to expanding the use of RNG. In Europe, key factors for future supply are availability of land for RNG production[1], regulatory structures that either stimulate or inhibit growth in supply (e.g. regulations for waste water treatment and landfills), sustainability requirements (e.g. limits on land use conversions), and shifting supply-demand dynamics.[2] Competing demands for RNG, such as meeting renewable electricity generation targets, can also affect the availability and price of RNG for transportation.

The economics of RNG are driven by a number of factors, not least because RNG is a relatively new fuel type for transportation with a small market share. On the supply side, production and delivery costs to the pipeline can make it more costly than compressed natural gas (CNG), although still cheaper than gasoline and diesel, according to the analysis (below) of the California market.[3]

Source: National Petroleum Council, 2012
Without incentives, like tax treatment (e.g. Germany’s RNG processing bonus or Sweden’s energy tax deduction for CO2 neutral vehicles and RNG producers)[4], and/or some form of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions pricing that recognizes RNG’s environmental benefits, it’s challenging to develop RNG compared to lower-cost non-renewable fuels. 

The third area, regulation and policy, also has a large impact on both availability of the feedstock and the cost of producing and selling RNG. But most policies in the U.S. on renewable and low-carbon transport fuels favour liquid biofuels.  And the renewable portfolio standards (RPS) in roughly 30 U.S. states (along with other incentives for renewable power) tend to direct RNG to electricity generation instead of transportation.  Europe has a clear path for developing renewable sources over the long term via its Energy and Transportation Roadmaps, and countries such as Germany and Sweden have taken the lead in deployment. In the U.S., the gaseous fuels renewable fuel standards together with liquid biofuels (federally, only liquid biofuels are included in the Environmental Protection Agency’s “RFS2”[5]), can help develop RNG as a transportation fuel.  

Policies such as California’s GHG offset protocol for methane capture from livestock projects can be adopted in other states – either for voluntary or compliance purposes - to help meet the challenges of limited and costly RNG.[6] In Europe, policies such as the European Union’s (EU) Directives on renewable energy, recycling and landfills, together with National Renewable Action Plans help focus activities and resources toward meeting the EU target for 20% renewables by 2020.

The final challenges to the wider use of RNG for transportation are more technical and relate to quality and common standards:
  • Can RNG be injected into natural gas pipelines? Barriers include lack of a universal definition of trace gases/impurities permitted (RNG composition is dependent on the makeup of the feedstock), and a lack of quality assurance that RNG for transportation use is sufficiently upgraded from biogas.
  • Can RNG or a blend power my natural gas vehicle? Barriers include lack of a common gas specification standard for RNG for transportation (i.e. a vehicle engine standard that clearly identifies allowed or disallowed trace compounds that can affect engine performance and life).[7]
  • The last challenge is practical: how to get the upgraded RNG to the pipeline network, when the best sources for transportation (landfills and livestock) may be far from access points? Here, a combination of incentives and connection standards or obligations can encourage distribution networks and RNG producers to establish cost-effective connections. 

[1] Non-energy crop sources including agricultural waste, landfill gas, and new approaches such as “power to gas” from wind etc. can have considerably smaller footprints.
[2] Floris van Foreest, “Perspectives for Biogas in Europe,” The Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, NG 70, December 2012.
[3] National Petroleum Council, Renewable Natural Gas for Transportation: An Overview of the Feedstock Capacity, Economics, and GHG Reduction Benefits of RNG as a Low-Carbon Fuel. Topic Paper #22, NPC Future Transportation Fuels Study, August 1, 2012, p. 13. Accessible at http://www.npc.org/FTF_Topic_papers/22-RNG.pdf.
[4] van Foreest, “Perspectives for Biogas in Europe”, Figure 12.
[5] Environmental Protection Agency, http://www.epa.gov/otaq/fuels/renewablefuels/regulations.htm.
[6] GHG-emitting firms who need to reduce their footprint are thereby encouraged to invest in these offset projects.
[7] An example of a standard that can assist customers and fuel providers alike to understand engine requirements for RNG may be found on the Cummins Westport website – technical bulletin at bottom of page. http://www.cumminswestport.com/biomethane.

July 5, 2013

Europe Paves the Way for LNG-Powered Transportation with Four New Blue Corridors

The LNG Blue Corridors project was launched in Brussels on May 27, 2013 to boost demand for heavy duty vehicles operating with liquefied natural gas (LNG) and reduce air pollution from the transportation sector in Europe. Westport is one of the 27 partners from 11 participating countries. 

The aim is to establish a network of LNG refueling facilities, starting with four LNG Blue Corridors. Station-infrastructure partners will establish about 14 new LNG or L-CNG stations (liquefied-compressed natural gas, combining LNG and CNG in one station) as well as creating a fleet of about 100 additional LNG heavy-duty vehicles which will travel on the corridors. These new stations will complement more than 30 existing stations already supplying LNG across Europe.
Station infrastructure partners of the LNG Blue Corridors project will  aim to build 14 new LNG or C-LNG stations.
“This project is a great step forward in establishing LNG as a fuel for heavy duty trucks in Europe,” said Nad├Ęge Leclercq, Westport's Director of Market Development, Europe, Middle East and Africa. “We were very excited about it from the beginning because it gives us the opportunity to work closely with key players towards establishing LNG as a transport fuel in Europe.

“With Westport’s experience in North America, we understand how important it is to work together with stakeholders in the gas supply and transportation sectors to make the switch to LNG as smooth and efficient as possible.”

The LNG Blue Corridors project will run for four years and connect over 12 member states of the European Union. The defined roadmap of LNG fuelling points covers the Atlantic area, the Mediterranean region and connects Europe’s South with the North and its West and East. The initiative also aims to support existing natural gas for transportation demonstrations occurring participating countries. There are already several hundred trucks operating on LNG in Europe, which will benefit from these new corridors and stations.
A roadmap of the four European LNG blue corridors.
Source: NGVA Europe

The project cost is €7.96 million and is co-funded by the European Commission. The total cost is €14.33 million with contributions from participating partners, which includes in-kind support. All partners are members of NGVA Europe (the Natural & bio Gas Vehicle Association), which has played a key role in making the project happen.

Westport joined NGVA Europe in 2010 and in the corridor project will focus on developing natural gas vehicle standards and regulations, and support the adoption of LNG trucks on the corridors.

The ‘Blue Corridor’ European concept has existed since at least the early 2000s. At that time, the idea was to primarily use CNG as a vehicle fuel across Europe. More recently, with developments related to the use of LNG as a vehicle fuel in North America and Europe, the concept of ‘LNG Blue Corridors’ emerged.

This LNG Blue Corridors project will help the European Commission to reach its target of at least one LNG station every 400 km Europe-wide by 2020. This project should foster further expansion of European corridors and enable LNG to become a mainstream transportation fuel in Europe.

Further Reading:

July 4, 2013

Westport Shines at ACT Expo 2013

Westport was the word on everyone’s lips at Alternative Clean Transportation Expo 2013 (ACT Expo) in Washington, D.C. from June 24 to June 27. Tuesday's keynote speaker Tom O’Brien of TravelCenters of America called the Westport 15L engine a catalyst in making liquefied natural gas (LNG) a go-to choice for transportation fuel in North America.

Jim Arthurs, President of Cummins Westport, noted that the number and calibre of companies attending the conference demonstrates that natural gas is ‘here and now,’ as he introduced Wednesday's keynote speaker, David Abney, Chief Operating Officer of UPS.

A leader in the adoption of alternative energy vehicles, UPS has already added 1,016 compressed natural gas (CNG) and 812 LNG trucks to its fleet, and natural gas is the focus of its alternative fuel fleet. Much of their current fleet features the Westport 15L engine, and the company is adding another 122 vehicles with the new Cummins Westport ISX12 G engine – one of which was featured in the exhibit hall, along with three Peterbilt trucks featuring Westport and Cummins Westport engines.
Westport's Matthew Campbell and Gage Garner highlighted the new Westport iCE PACK™ LNG Tank System which received attention from Expo attendees and media.
Westporters were kept busy throughout the trade show answering questions from interested industry professionals and showing off all the products on display, including the Westport WiNG Fuel System powered Ford F-250.
There were a number of informative break-out sessions, including one on Thursday with Westport's Senior Director of Marketing and Business Development John Howell and Lynn Lyon Director, Fuel Market Development at Pioneer Natural Resources Company. 
Follow Westport on Twitter @WestportDotCom to keep up to date on all of our upcoming news and events!

Related Reading: 
Cummins Westport ready to ship 400-hp ISX12G:

OEM Panel Discusses Challenges, Future for Natural Gas:  

Bulk Transporter: Kenworth Natural Gas Truck Lineup Take Center Stage at ACT Expo 2013:

Ryder Places 39 More NGVs: