Community arenas, university sports facilities, and even NHL teams have already converted to natural gas ice surfacers. Why? Converting Canada’s machines (the biggest names being Olympia and Zamboni) to natural gas presents a sizable and sensible cost-cutting measure. (Generally, rinks can enjoy up to a 65% savings versus propane.) Considering the number of arenas across Canada, these conversions represent a tidal change and significant cost savings.
Although most ice surfacers are fueled by propane, there are even some that operate on gasoline – which, as you can well imagine, is an antiquated and far dirtier option. Many aging technologies exist that need to be brought up to date.
Cash-strapped municipalities, for a simple operational expense of only a few thousand dollars for a natural gas retrofit kit, can begin recouping their costs almost immediately. Plus, the arena’s existing natural gas lines would be outfitted with a refueling appliance that can be rented from their nearest utility. The ability to refuel their machines “right from the tap” cannot be underestimated.
Firstly, natural gas literally halves fuel consumption, so it’s far more efficient than propane. This also spares arenas from the nuisance of having to order, stock, and store a multitude of propane tanks (most consume 200-300 tanks annually). And because natural gas cylinders are mounted to machines permanently, they also spare the hassle and strain of switching out heavy propane cylinders.
If larger NHL arenas are leading the way – smaller community rinks can’t ever be far behind. Has your neighbourhood arena made the switch? Can you think of other types of municipal services that could benefit from converting to natural gas? Let us know in the comments below.
Connelly, K. Community ice rinks turning to natural gas-powered Zambonis.
ERI Case Study. Natural Gas Zamboni: It Clears the Air While It Clears the Ice.