3M, which offered last year to help compressed natural gas fuel cylinder manufacturers turn out better, lighter and cheaper product with a superior composite matrix resin (F&F, March 28, 2011), now says it will make CNG tanks itself, certify them and bring them to market this year.
“We recognized how compelling our value proposition is so we revised the strategy,” global business manager for 3M Advanced Composites and Materials Rick Maveus told F&F last week.
Maveus spoke with Fleets & Fuels after 3M and Chesapeake Energy announced a deal to collaborate on the design, manufacturing and marketing of “a broad portfolio [of CNG tanks] for use in all sectors of the United States transportation market.”
The new CNG tanks will be “10 to 20% lighter with 10 to 20% greater capacity, all at a lower cost than standard vessels,” states a joint release. They will be “safer and more durable,” too.
“We can design, from scratch, a better tank,” said 3M global lab manager Gene Portelli.
‘A Strategic Relationship Between Two Fortune 500 Companies’
Chesapeake has pledged an initial $10 million toward design and certification services, market development support and a commitment to use the new tanks for its corporate fleet conversion to CNG.
“They’re going to support us on the front end and the might of 3M will capitalize the thing for manufacturing,” said Vic Genco, director and GM of 3M engineered products and solutions.
“It’s not just the resin,” said Maveus. “It’s innovation in design. It’s innovation in process. And it’s innovation in materials.”
“The right level of nanoparticle with the right resin formulation will lead to great synergy with the carbon fiber and thus higher performance in the end application,” Maveus said. The production tank resin will likely have a 30% fill of nanoparticulate silica material, he said, to help take better advantage of the inherent strength of the vessels’ carbon fiber overwrap.
The project is described as “a strategic relationship between two Fortune 500 companies.”
The two said they have engaged Utah’s Hypercomp Engineering for design and certification. “3M will manufacture the tanks,” the announcement states, “and focus its capital on all future operations and production.”
“3M expects these tanks to be available for sale during the fourth quarter of 2012.”
Kristin Thunhorst, Andrew Hine, Paul Sedgwick, and Mike Huehn of 3M Composite Materials, (industrial adhesives and tapes division) have been involved in the 3M nanosilica resin work for CNG tanks, as has Douglas Goetz of the 3M Corporate Research Materials Laboratory.
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