A Look Into the Past, Part 3: Excellence and Innovation
We're back. Last week we looked at 7 Challenging Quirks of LPG, and how they made working with it as an alternative fuel tricky in the early days of the Auto LPG industry. Today, then we will look at how those challenging material behaviours were overcome. Join me, then, as we dive back into David Batchen's memoir (with the occasional added remark) to find out how it was done.
4 Innovative Solutions
Our very first dispensers were fitted with American industrial meters which had been used in the industry for many years. However, it was quickly found that they were not accurate enough for retail use. This led us to develop our own meter, which we based on a German meter with a good reputation in Europe. We have now sold thousands of these meters around the world, even exporting them to Germany.
Modern-day Batchen meters.
Since LPG is handled as a liquid under pressure, the connection to the motor vehicle must be pressure tight. This is achieved by a firm attachment of the hose nozzle to the car filling point. The problem, then, is if the car drives away with the nozzle still attached. One of two things will happen: either the fitting is pulled of the car, or the dispenser is wrecked.
We developed a hose breakaway coupling which would separate at a predetermined force, and seal off each end of the hose to the prevent the escape of any liquid. It could also be easily reconnected without emptying the hose, thereby removing a potential safety hazard: the release of gas on the service station forecourt. These too have been exported all over the world, and have been copied in several countries.
A Sentry20 breakaway coupling.
The hose nozzle which was connected to the car was another piece of industrial equipment which was found wanting in the early days of the industry. We had decided to try to develop a nozzle as had Treloar Industries, manufacturers of nozzles for petrol. Neither of us were making much progress, so one of the engineers at Shell suggested we join forces, and combine Batchen's knowledge of LPG, with Treloar's experience in making petrol nozzles. The managing director of Treloars, John Treloar (of Olympic sprinting fame), had recently retired and needed a new interest, so we decided to form a new company, which we called LG Equipment, Pty. Ltd. This was in 1986.
A range of LPG nozzles, provided by LG Equipment.
The two of us became good friends and business partners in a small enterprise which developed a variety of LPG hose nozzles, with about 80% of our production being exported around the world. John and I did the design work initially, with John doing the drawings, and we sub-contracted the machining of the components. At first, John assembled the nozzles at his home, but as the business grew we eventually moved into premises at Taren Point in the south of Sydney. Finally, after we were both well into our retirement we sold the business in 2003 to Philip, John's son.
The development of all this ancillary equipment led to a great improvement in the accuracy of metering and the safe handling of LPG on service stations. Another major milestone was the development by an a Sydney company, Ebsray Pumps, of several LPG pumps. The most important of these was a submerged unit which could be installed in an underground tank. The allowed storage tanks on service stations to be located underground, with consequent increase in permissible size. Other developments in piping and safety measures led to Australia now being considered to be the leading country in the world in the technology of handling LPG in built-up areas.
Some world-renowned D.J. Batchen Auto LPG dispensers, made possible by a tradition of excellence and innovation that began with our founder, David Batchen.