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Will your remote monitoring solution scale as needed?

June 24, 2021

Certarus’ business is built around their mission to displace more emission intensive fuels—such as diesel and propane—with low-carbon compressed natural gas (CNG) and renewable natural gas (RNG). To do this, Certarus maintains a 24/7 energy-as-a-service platform which involves compression, transportation, and integration of natural gas for more than 500 customers. Studies show that when compared to diesel, CNG reduces up to 30% of greenhouse gas emissions and is a more cost effective alternative to more carbon-intensive fuels. Certarus’ CNG platform is also capable of serving the emerging hydrogen market to help more customers make the low carbon energy transition. 

To help their customers minimize their carbon footprints, Certarus relies on sensor data to monitor the safety and efficiency of their operations. As their business expanded in the past few years, they became aware of a few key issues with their existing technology that included poor transmission reliability—resulting in gaps in data—and data that was siloed across multiple systems. 

With more than 250 vehicles and 1,200 assets across 16 hubs, Certarus was looking for a platform that could scale with them as they grew. After trialing Samsara’s connected operations platform, Certarus found unique value in having all their operations in one single system. “Samsara's platform gives us the data we need to streamline workflows as we scale,” says Chi Fang, head of technology for Certarus. 

Key takeaways

Certarus uses the Samsara connected operations platform to minimize downtime and provide top-tier customer service across the United States and Canada. 

Ensuring end-to-end safety throughout every stage of operations

Safety is at the center of everything Certarus does. From technician safety at the compression stage to driver safety during delivery and decompression, Certarus is committed to providing a safe experience for employees and customers at every point along their supply chain. “We believe that no job is worth doing if it cannot be done safely,” said Kaylee Stach, transportation compliance lead at Certarus.

The journey begins when drivers load CNG trailers for delivery to customer sites, or load RNG for delivery to market. During transportation of CNG and RNG—often in harsh conditions—driver safety is critical. To keep drivers safe while in transit, Certarus leverages Samsara AI Dash Cams and video-based coaching. The safety team also leverages in-cab alerts for distracted driving to help drivers stay focused on the road. These alerts allow Certarus to coach drivers in real-time to reduce harsh events and avoid future accidents. “Samsara AI Dash Cams allow us to build a more customized approach to driver safety,” says Stach. 

To get drivers bought-in to their safety program, Certarus established a driver rewards program using Samsara Driver Safety Scores. These safety scores aggregate driver safety data to give each driver a unique score on their safe driving performance. After just six months of their program, Certarus has seen an increase in average Driver Safety Scores from 88 to 94 out of 100. 

Improving driver safety has had a cascading effect on Certarus’ business, leading to lower maintenance costs for their vehicles and equipment. “By curbing unsafe driving behavior, we are able to increase the longevity of our fleet through less wear and tear and fewer accidents,” says Stach. 

A key component of their energy-as-a-service platform is stationing pressure reduction systems (PRSs) at customer sites. These proprietary systems are hooked up to CNG trailers to decompress the natural gas and deliver it safely—and at the proper pressure—to their customers’ operations. But an unexpected spike in pressure on their PRSs can lead to a potentially dangerous situation. 

By leveraging Samsara’s advanced equipment monitoring on their PRSs, technicians are able to remotely monitor pressure levels and adjust control setpoints across any hub and customer location with a few simple clicks. With customizable alerts, technicians are notified of any unusual activity or spikes in pressure so they can respond immediately. “Remote monitoring tools like alarms and controls help our technicians prevent accidents before they happen,” says Stach.

Certarus’ proactive approach to safety gives them a competitive advantage in the low carbon energy delivery industry. “We leverage Samsara’s platform to make us the industry leader in safety,” says Stach. 

Improving operational efficiency in the field with real-time data

After safety,Certarus’ number one goal is zero downtime. Since their customers depend on CNG to maintain their operations, it’s critical that every aspect of their operations is functioning 24/7. In some instances, a service interruption can mean running houses out of gas or bringing critical infrastructure to a halt, costing some of their customers hundreds of thousands of dollars. 

To achieve this goal, Certarus relies on remote monitoring via the Samsara IG41, using real-time fuel levels and flow rates from their PRSs to predict when a fuel trailer needs to be replaced. By combining this real-time remote monitoring with routing and dispatch tools via Samsara Vehicle Gateways (VGs), Certarus can dispatch a new fuel trailer to a customer site before they run out of fuel.

By accurately timing their trailer swaps, Certarus can be sure they aren’t leaving any money on the table by picking up a unit that still has fuel. Not only does this maximize their profits but the optimized logistics help ensure high-quality customer service. “By using a data-driven approach to achieve ‘just-in-time’ refueling, we believe that we can realize significant cost savings, and further enhance our customer service,” says Fang.  

In addition to optimizing their logistics, Certarus uses data from the IG41 to quickly—and virtually—respond to any issues that may occur. Because many of their customers’ sites are in remote locations, Certarus prioritized a platform that could provide remote control functionality in areas with little cell reception. “In most cases, we set up our equipment at a customer site and leave. Since some of these jobs can be more than six hours away by truck, that could mean 12-hours round trip to address an issue. Samsara gives us the option to control equipment remotely, saving us thousands of dollars in the long run,” says Jackson Lin, engineering supervisor at Certarus. 

Using the Samsara dashboard, the Certarus team can remotely check real-time health metrics, turn equipment on or off, and see if pressure levels rise or fuel levels drop. With real-time alerts, they can immediately respond to changes and resolve issues faster to avoid outages for their customers. “If Samsara can save us just a half-day of downtime per year, then it has paid for itself,” says Fang. 

Maintaining vehicle and equipment uptime with preventive maintenance

A big part of providing great service is having a reliable and well-maintained fleet. To keep their operations up and running and minimize downtime, Certarus uses VGs and Asset Gateways (AGs) to support their preventive maintenance program. With insight into their vehicle diagnostics from the VGs and trailer locations from the AGs, Certarus plans maintenance based on usage and diagnostic data. This way, mechanics are able to quickly pinpoint vehicles and trailers that are in need of service before they need to be taken out of service. 

Using the Samsara open API, Certarus is able to integrate its maintenance management system, UpKeep, to automatically generate work orders and streamline efficiency. This helps maintenance teams get critical equipment up and running faster—even when the equipment is scattered across remote locations. “Since we have real-time data, we’re able to hold our team more accountable for work orders to be completed on-time. We’ve saved so much time because we no longer need to figure out where equipment is located,” says Kyle Dunbar, fleet maintenance manager at Certarus. 

Their ability to connect all of their data into one single place extends beyond maintenance. With Samsara’s open API, Certarus is able to connect all of their data into one single place to improve efficiency and reduce time spent switching between systems. “By connecting our systems via the open API, we get to select the best tool for each job but still benefit from Samsara’s integrated platform,” says Fang. 

A partnership for connected operations 

In order to advance their connected technology strategy, Certarus knew they had to adopt a data-first approach. “At Certarus, we strive to leverage technology as a competitive advantage and Samsara’s integrated platform enables us to continue to offer reliable, uninterrupted service to our customers,” says Fang. 

“The average technician will interact with Samsara dozens of times a day, whether it’s logging their duty status via the Driver App, relying on in-cab dash cams for coaching, or using the remote monitoring dashboards to check the health of our equipment. In challenging, remote environments that require a mobile-first approach, Samsara helps our operations team stay connected.” 

With the Samsara connected operations platform, Certarus has found a reliable partner that will grow with their business. “We know that by partnering with Samsara, we’re not only committing to the platform today, but what it’s capable of becoming in the future,” says Fang. 

Want to learn more from Certarus? Watch our on-demand webinar, “How Certarus Uses Remote Monitoring to Maintain a Competitive Edge.” 

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