Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Volvo Diesel Trucks Field Test Methane Fuel

'Fill Up with Gas' Takes on a Whole New Meaning
Shipping News Feature

SWEDEN – Truck manufacturer Volvo have always been proactive when it comes to truck development and many freight companies favour their units. The harsh conditions found in the company’s home country, coupled with a history of heavy haulage pulling timber through all manner of terrain have bred a durable range of vehicles for shipping all manner of goods. Today, Volvo Trucks will initiate public field testing with methane diesel trucks that can run on liquefied methane gas and at the same time, Sweden’s first filling station for liquefied methane gas will open at Stigs Center in Göteborg.

Three Volvo FM trucks with 13-litre engines are currently being field tested. The technology is based on Volvo’s proven Euro 5 diesel engine, which has been converted for gas operation. This is a revolutionary step in the development of gas use in heavy vehicles, since trucks running on liquid gas combined with methane diesel technology has up to four times longer driving range compared to most traditional gas trucks.

The field test trucks are equipped with special tanks for liquefied methane gas. Liquid gas is the optimum fuel for methane diesel technology. When liquid methane and diesel are used in a ratio of 75–25, a truck performing long haul or intercity duties has an operating range 500 to 1000 km, depending on driving conditions. This is twice the operating range of methane diesel vehicles running on compressed gas and four times that of gas trucks with Otto engines.

The field test vehicles are being operated by transport companies DHL, Götene Kyltransporter and Renova. The start of the field tests coincides with the inauguration of Sweden's first public filling station for liquefied methane gas at Stigs Center in Göteborg. The station is a collaborative project between Volvo Trucks, Göteborg Energi and Fordonsgas Sverige, whose CEO Bo Ramberg expects the market for the new fuel powering heavy commercial vehicles to expand rapidly.

Filling stations have previously only existed for CNG (compressed natural gas). If methane gas is cooled down to minus 160 °C instead of being compressed, it becomes liquid and its volume is reduced by half. In this case, it is called LNG (liquefied natural gas), or LBG (liquefied biogas) if it is a biogas. Both these gases are also called LMG (liquefied methane gas).

Three filling stations for liquefied methane gas have been planned in Sweden to date. Besides the completed one in Göteborg, Aga will open a filling station in Stockholm, and Eon will open one in Malmö. Volvo Trucks is a partner in all the projects. There are plans to build additional stations if demand increases.

Mats Franzén, Manager of Engine Strategy and Planning at Volvo Trucks said: “We’ve chosen a route whereby we combine the diesel engine’s superior efficiency rating with the benefits of gas, resulting in a truck that is significantly more energy-efficient than traditional gas trucks.”

Photo: A Volvo FM equipped with a Methane Gas – Diesel 13 litre 460HP power unit.