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The impact of remote monitoring for CNG Direct

Feb. 25, 2021

CNG Direct, headquartered in Southern California, is a leader in the sale and transport of compressed natural gas. Whether standing in for a utility company during scheduled repairs or providing fuel for remote agricultural equipment, CNG Direct takes pride in offering continuous, 24-hour delivery of natural gas to any location via their rental fleet of state-of-the-art fuel pods.

In search of a remote monitoring solution for their expansive fleet, they turned to their trusted integrator, Western States Controls, who helped them choose the best solution for the job. Now, they can rely on the power of easy-to-use dashboards and alarms to reduce refueling times and proactively prevent customer downtime.

Optimizing dispatch to save time at the pump

Each of CNG Direct’s fuel pods contains a tube trailer that starts out with a pressure between 3,600 and 4,000 psi. As the customer uses fuel, this pressure drops and the trailer must be swapped out by one of CNG Direct’s drivers. Here, it’s crucial that pickups are precisely timed in order to maximize the efficiency of the refueling process.

“Our timing for pickup is critical. If we pick up too late and the pressure drops too low, our drivers end up having to spend several hours longer at a refueling station to bring the unit back up to pressure,” says Armando Ruiz, Design Engineer at CNG Direct. “We wanted a system to help make this dispatch process for refueling as efficient as possible–to help us make sure that we’re sending out trucks at the right time,” said Ruiz.

With advanced equipment monitoring, CNG Direct can monitor pressure levels remotely and send notifications to their drivers the second a unit reaches CNG’s ideal pickup pressure of 2,000 or 1,500 psi. “Using the platform, we'll be able to save our drivers two to three hours at the pump,” said Ruiz. “It can make the planning process a whole lot easier for us, allowing us to determine just how many rotations and trucks we’ll need for a job.”

Preventing downtime and customer disputes

While most of CNG Direct’s customers opt to have a CNG technician on-site for 24/7 monitoring of fuel levels, CNG used to rely on customer-reported usage estimates for shorter jobs. “This is where we can run into issues,” says Ruiz. “If the customer underestimates how much fuel they need, they can run our units completely dry. At that point, there’s a big scramble for us to get a new trailer on site, and if we don't move fast enough, it can lead to a dispute with the customer,” says Ruiz.

Now, with the ability to read pressure remotely from any laptop or smartphone, CNG Direct can calculate accurate fuel levels in real-time. “This allows us to double-check if a customer is using fuel at a faster rate than they originally estimated without having to send someone on-site,” says Ruiz. “When our customers get an alarm about a low fuel level, they know that we’re being proactive, and that not only helps us avoid disputes, it helps build trust.”

Plug-and-play architecture reduces cost and complexity

The complexity of traditional remote monitoring architectures using sensors, connectivity hardware, comms networks, HMIs, servers, databases and additional software can be a big barrier for many rental fleets like CNG Direct.

“While working with CNG, we realized that if we went with the usual approach for SCADA, every radio would have to be reconfigured anytime the units moved to a new site, so we started to explore cellular options,” says Tim Rose, founder and CEO, Western States Controls. “But even with a cellular gateway the setup was still too complex for many end users to maintain with multiple pieces of hardware in the mix,” says Rose.

That’s when Western States decided that Samsara was the best solution for the job. With control functionality and LTE cellular built into the Industrial Gateway, Western States was able to quickly mount the unit and connect pressure inputs directly from the CNG trailer with no additional hardware to install. “We could monitor everything we needed using Samsara, with a lot less hardware, and at about 75% less than the cost of using a cellular gateway with traditional PLCs and HMIs," says Rose.

“The architecture was completely taken care of. Because the Samsara system is so simple, we were able to complete the project much faster, and that’s a big advantage for both us and CNG Direct.”

To learn more about Samsara for equipment monitoring or to start a free trial, contact us here.

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