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CNG: A part of the future
by Christina Rowland
May 08, 2013 | 1810 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ROBSTOWN – The ability to change fleets of vehicles from gasoline or diesel to compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG) is out there and cheaper than ever.

At the Texas Oil and Gas Eagle Ford Shale Conference and Expo in Robstown on May 1, Jon Coleman with Ford Motor Company said that the upfit to make a vehicle a CNG vehicle is as low as $8,000 now.

It wasn’t that long ago that same upfit was $10,000 or more.

According to a slide in Coleman’s presentation, annual fuel savings on a CNG vehicle can be $2,621.

The savings is based on the vehicle being driven 30,000 miles per year and paying $2.20 for CNG when gas is closer to $3.70 and diesel is at $4.

The upfit to the vehicle would pay for itself in just a few years.

Coleman said the benefits of CNG are that it is abundant, affordable, American and clean.

With more CNG vehicle options than ever before, many companies are jumping on the bandwagon to switch their fleet vehicles over.

AT&T made the switch in 2008, and others have followed suit since then, including UPS and FedEx.

While the change is not for everyone, it is becoming a more attractive option, but there is a limiting factor.

“Infrastructure availability is the key to making CNG mass market,” Coleman said.

Chip Haass with Chesapeake Energy echoed Coleman’s push for the use of CNG and LNG in a later presentation.

“Infrastructure in the terms of fuel stations is one of the biggest barriers you will face,” Haass said.

While California has the most CNG stations, the number of them in Texas is growing every day.

Some stations are public, but more and more private entities are putting in the stations to fuel their fleets.

The City of Corpus Christi built a CNG fueling station in fall 2012 for its fleet of transit buses.

There are currently public stations in most major metropolitan areas of the state, including San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Laredo and more.

The cost to build a station can vary depending on whether it is for consumer car use, fleet vehicle use or other uses.

According to Haass, the number of stations should continue to grow as well because there are grant opportunities available for people to build the stations.

He said TCEQ recently awarded grants for the construction of several CNG stations in San Antonio.

Haass said another reason people need to be looking toward CNG and LNG instead of normal fuels is “limited volatility.”

The price of natural gas is not driven as much by commodity price as gasoline or diesel is.

“If the price (of natural gas) shot up to $12 per MCF, we could still get you to the pump for less than you are paying for gas or diesel now,” he said.

Haass, who drives a CNG vehicle himself, said the SUV gets the same mileage using CNG as regular gasoline.

Natural gas is readily available in South Texas. The Eagle Ford has a dry gas window that can still be utilized, and there are other dry gas plays around the state.

Haass said playing matchmaker between the people who want CNG fleets or even personal vehicles and the people building the stations and infrastructure is important.

An increase in the need for natural gas for CNG vehicles could result in a boost in the economy to the South Texas counties that have the natural gas in the ground.

Christina Rowland is the regional editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 119, or at regional@mySouTex.com.
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