Compressed natural gas offers a long list of benefits for new natural gas vehicle (NGV) owners as well as car owners who choose to convert their existing vehicles to CNG fuel. These benefits include the efficiency, eco-friendliness and cost effectiveness of CNG compared to traditional petroleum-based fuels such as gasoline. Another very important advantage of compressed natural gas is safety. It may not be the safest alternative fuel but it sure does beat traditional gasoline engines when it comes to safety.
If you are considering switching to CNG either by purchasing a new NGV or retrofitting an existing vehicle with a CNG conversion kit, you should take the time to know and understand how compressed natural gas is safer. Let us examine the factors that make CNG a safer alternative fuel to gasoline.
Actually, CNG’s good safety record rests upon two factors. The physical property of natural gas is, in itself, safer than most fuels. Also, fuel systems for NGVs and bi-fuel vehicles are designed according to high quality standards. CNG is safer because of several reasons, namely:
Compressed natural gas has a limited range of flammability compared to gasoline and diesel fuel. It needs 5 to 15% of air and fuel mixture to burn. Natural gas also has an ignition temperature of 1100 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that it takes a higher temperature to ignite natural gas compared to gasoline, which can ignite at approximately 600 degrees.
Compressed natural gas has lower fuel density. In fact, it is lighter than air. So, if ever there is a leak in the CNG fuel system, the gas would simply disperse into the atmosphere, significantly lowering the risk of ignition. Meanwhile, gasoline and diesel fuel are both dense liquids. We all know what happens when there is a gasoline leak. In this regard, natural gas has a greatly reduced risk of fire in the unfortunate event of a leak.
Compressed natural gas is odourless, tasteless and colourless. Since this makes it difficult to detect a leak, a harmless chemical is added to give the gas a distinctive odour, usually similar to rotten eggs. These additives do not affect the effectiveness of the gas.
Compressed natural gas is non-toxic. This means there are no poisonous ingredients in it that can be absorbed into the blood once inhaled. It also doesn’t contaminate the earth and water.
Compressed natural gas burns cleanly. In fact it is the cleanest burning fossil fuel today. If ignited, natural gas burns with a clean blue flame and produces mainly heat, carbon dioxide and water vapour.
Compressed natural gas tanks and cylinders are specially designed and engineered to contain the gas safely at between 3,000 to 3,600 pounds per square inch. These natural gas cylinders have also passed through stringent federal safety standards and thorough impact testing to ensure its integrity in the event of collision and other accidents. They are incredibly strong and rugged as they are made from polymers and composites that are much stronger than steel. NGV fuel tanks are also equipped with automatic release valve that will open and release gas automatically whenever there is excessive heat or pressure build-up.