Natural Gas Fuel – Is It Time To Convert?

Natural Gas Fuel – Is It Time To Convert?


Natural gas costs have decreased substantially relative to fuel oil over the past few years because of the major gas production increase due to fracking. This has led some fuel oil consumers to consider spending capital to allow a switch to natural gas. A Becht Engineering client, Coopers Creek Chemical, Inc., in Conshohocken, PA, requested support in examining the potential for using natural gas rather than fuel oil in their energy intensive operation. This facility had used fuel oil for their energy needs for more than 75 years, so initially there was some inertia against making the investment to switch.

The relative British Thermal Unit (BTU) cost basis of natural gas versus fuel oil was very attractive and the local supplier of natural gas offered to bring the fuel into the facility and construct a pressure break down station. Becht Engineering provided a Phase 1 capital cost estimate for the piping addition required to connect process units and boilers to the natural gas. We also utilized our technical experts to examine the proposed gas burner design including consideration of providing a burner that could handle both gas and oil fuels.

The conversion appeared very attractive and Coopers Creek therefore requested a piping installation proposal from a mechanical contractor. After review from our Becht Engineering Cost Estimator, the proposal was accepted. During the piping installation our field engineer assisted with the final layout design. He also was involved after fabrication and installation, and reviewed all instrumentation and connections to assure they met code and standard design practice.

The conversion was successful resulting in a major reduction in fuel cost and also helped extend service life of the stills.  This improvement possibility was noted during the evaluation, but not included in the initial justification economics.

Our client continues to view our engineering services as key in making this timely move toward reducing their energy use and maintenance costs and improving their overall operation.

Shown in photo:

  • John Kinast, Operations Manager
  • Arve Holt, PE, Becht Engineering
  • Mark Morris, VP
  • Scott Morris, VP
  • Al Morris, President

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About The Author

Mr. Vahlsing served in refinery tech service, central engineering, corporate headquarters and R&D during his career with Sunoco. During this period he developed and managed engineering and research for a wide range of new and revamped refining and petrochemical processes. He also marketed Sunoco engineering and research services when Sunoco sold manhours outside of the corporation. Dave’s role at the Philadelphia office is to match the needs of Becht clients with our staff skills, to prepare clear and mutually acceptable scopes of work and to monitor the progress of our projects to assure complete customer satisfaction. He is a graduate of MIT, past chairman of the Chemical Consultants Network, past president of the Philadelphia Squash Racquets Association, past president of the Cynwyd Club of Bala Cynwyd, PA and continues to be involved with a variety of civic organizations. Dave is a cofounder of Hydrocarbon Engineering Associates, an engineering services company that was merged into Becht Engineering. He is licensed as a professional engineer in Ohio and Pennsylvania.

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