Podcast – CNG Conversions with SkyCNG

It has been a very interesting week, with dropping oil prices being a leading headline around the world.  Our interview this week was with Brent Skipper, the Owner of SkyCNG.  The company sells compressed natural gas (CNG) conversion kits, and provides a lot of information for folks thinking about doing a CNG conversion.

Podcast Number Two – SkyCNG, October 19, 2014

News Recap for The Week of October 13, 2014

Monday

  • NPR’s StateImpact reports that Pennsylvania Republican Governor Tom Corbett is opening the door to additional taxes on natural gas.
  • New satellite data released by NASA and the University of Michigan show methane hotspots in the United States, but they probably predate fracking, as the USA Today explained.

Tuesday

  • The Financial Times had a great story about Europe’s efforts to diversify natural gas supplies away from a reliance on Russia.
  • The Herald-News says Waste Management is expanding its natural gas fleet.
  • According to the AP, West Virginia saw modest benefits from oil and gas in 2013.
  • North Dakota’s Republican Governor Jack Dalrymple sees a future in his state for capuring and using the natural gas currently being flared, according to FuelFix.

Wednesday

  • The Arlington Star Telegram has an interesting story on fracking sand
  • The Energy Information Administration (EIA) says that gas prices are very low in some regions that lack good pipeline options.
  • Folks in the low-price regions are searching for more ways to use that gas, as reported by the TribLive.
  • NGI’s Shale Daily reports that nobody likes to see gas wasted.
  • The Rapid City Journal reports that North Dakota gas is getting more routes south.
  • The Oil and Natural Gas Industry Labor-Management Committee released study detailing industry job growth.

Thursday

  • Henry Hub’s dominance was questioned by Forbes.
  • The Wall Street Journal had an editorial calling for a better gas plan in Europe.
  • National Journal and many others reported on a new study questioning the climate benefits of natural gas.
  • The guys on the Powering America podcast had a very interesting discussion on the impacts of various price points on various crude oil producers.

Friday/Saturday

  • The Wall Street Journal reports U.S. natural gas prices are dropping.
  • India is allowing natural gas prices to rise in order to keep its domestic production up, according to India.com.
  • Chesapeake is selling of some assets in the Marcellus, according to NewsOK.
  • Some landowners in Illinois are suing the state for delaying their fracking permits, according to local WSILTV.
  • Dropping oil prices are analyzed by Michael Levi in PoliticoDaniel Yergin in the Financial Timesand George Perry in Forbes.

Interview with Brent Skipper, Owner of SkyCNG

SkyCNG is a great site that has a lot of information on CNG conversions, and I had the opportunity to talk with its owner Brent Skipper.  Brent told me he had a background in finance.  He had been around the world and seen the popularity of natural gas vehicles in many countries, and was frustrated with the high price of gasoline, but he was unable to find enough information back home to make a conversion to natural gas himself.  So he started SkyCNG as an informational website that would provide the information he could not find from anyone else.

As his website became more popular and he found products he was comfortable with, he began selling CNG conversion kits himself.  His company focuses bi-fuel conversions on light-duty, gasoline vehicles.  For the most part, that means adding a CNG system to a gasoline-powered light truck or van (he drives a bi-fuel Tundra himself).  SkyCNG kits do not modify the existing gasoline system in any way, so if a driver gets to far from a CNG station the vehicle can run on regular gasoline.

Brent filled me in on the economics of a CNG conversion.  He recommends his kits to anyone driving 25,000 to 30,000 miles per year.  A typical conversion costs $6,000 to $7,000, and that cost can be recovered quickly if you drive enough miles.  He said CNG conversions are most popular on V-8 trucks and vans, so his typical customers are electrical contractors, cleaning companies, and the like.  Most commonly, the CNG tank will be installed in the bed of a truck, just behind the cab where a toolbox is often installed.

SkyCNG only sells its kits to qualified technicians.  Finding a technician to do a CNG conversion can be a challenge, but SkyCNG can refer one and also helps train people for the job.  Fleet managers, for example, are often trained through SkyCNG to install and maintain CNG systems.

Brent addressed some common concerns for me.  On the refueling front, he said his customers typically refill at CNG fast-fill stations, which are rapidly spreading throughout the country.  He did say that at-home refueling is not a very useful technicalogy at this time.  Brent is not worried that oil prices will hurt the economics of CNG, as he says the differential between CNG and gasoline will still make a conversion worthwhile for anyone who puts a lot of miles on a truck.  He did not see the safety of CNG as much different than gasoline, he warned against do-it-yourself tinkering for any kind of vehicle modification.

Sadly, he did not think that converting my Jetta made a lot of sense.

I really enjoyed my conversation with Brent, and I encourage you to check out SkyCNG.com.  Also, be sure to check out SkyCNG’s youtube page for some more easily-to-understand information on this topic.  One good example is this rundown on one of their most popular kits: