August 13, 2013
By JIM RUNKLE, The Express
The new compressed natural gas filling station is under construction in the McElhattan area, according to Wayne Township Landfill Manager Jay Alexander, who said the facility should open by Sept. 1, if all goes according to schedule.
If everything happens in good order, this will be the first public-access, natural gas filling station for vehicles in the county.
It’s a move long anticipated by elected officials as they seek local benefits from the low cost of natural gas and the fact that it’s a natural resource literally beneath the very feet of central Pennsylvanians.
As to potential customers, county officials are hoping that includes many local residents and businesses, but right now the Clinton County Solid Waste Authority will be its own first and best customer, according to Alexander.
There remains a strong interest, however, with “about 10 agencies that have expressed serious intentions” of transforming vehicles from gasoline to CNG in a conversion process.”It’s difficult for them to actually commit to the process until there’s a physical presence and station here,” Alexander said.
The authority is promoting the use of natural gas utilization in this region and has committed a $1.8 million contract to O-Ring CNG Inc. of Punxsutawney to build a compressed natural gas filling station at the landfill along Route 220.
The concept has been on the table for just over a year, as landfill officials compared the costs of regular vehicle fuel like diesel, compared it to natural gas and determined the latter is much cheaper.
In the landfill’s case, the operation has already converted two of its trucks to “dual fuel” systems,” and three additional trucks have been ordered in connection with the landfill’s hauling efforts.
In addition, the authority is working with Volvo Inc. on tentative plans for the conversion of the landfill’s heavy equipment to CNG, a move that would save the enterprise a great deal by way of fuel costs, Alexander said.
Texas-based energy company Range Resources Corp is another potential customer, Alexander said. He noted that the company just recently unveiled a new company fleet of trucks that run on compressed natural gas.
Range Resources has about 184 CNG vehicles, of which about 100 are in southwestern Pennsylvania. The fleet is a mix of Ram 2500 and Chevrolet Silverado 2500 pick-ups, which were factory-engineered as CNG vehicles.
Alexander said the only thing holding those vehicles back from operations in Clinton and nearby counties, is the availability of CNG stations like the one being created in Wayne Township.
The facility will be both slow-fill and fast-fill, Alexander explained, with the fast fill open to the public and the slow fill system inside the fence, to be used for authority-owned vehicles.”
Fast-fill stations are generally best suited for retail situations where light-duty vehicles, such as vans, pickups and sedans, arrive randomly and need to fill up quickly.
Low-fill stations are used primarily by fleets. This type of setup works best for vehicles with large tanks that refuel at a central location every night.
Alexander said he believes over time the authority will recoup in fuel savings the cost it expends in converting its vehicles to CNG.In most cases, CNG costs 15 to 40 percent less than the regular gasoline.
Alexander said the system offers a relatively simple technology for private industries and municipalities to fuel their vehicles at a fraction of the cost of gasoline or diesel and get similar or better engine performance.
The idea is to use the fuel to supply the landfill’s own fleet, and sell any excess to municipal or business fleets, while allowing public access to a natural gas filling station.
Authority Chairman James Maguire said he’s already made an investment in CNG savings – He’s ordered his privately owned, CNG vehicle, and will be using the McElhattan station as his fueling stop in the foreseeable future.
The surge in the available supply of natural gas – riding the wave of drillers exploring the Marcellus Shale deposits in the state – has made it an attractive option, especially for government and private industries with larger fleets.
The current drawbacks to vehicle conversion are the cost and the availability of local filling stations, but CNG is generally considered cleaner, safer and less expensive than many fossil fuels.
“Internally, our goal is to cut our fuel bill of 2012 in half within three years,” Alexander said.
Wayne Township Reorganization Meeting will be held January 6, 2014 at 7:00 pm. The regular monthly meeting will be held immediately following the Reorganization Meeting.