By: Dave Messersmith, Penn State Extension
On Monday June 11, Penn State Extension hosted an event focused on the use of natural gas vehicles in Pennsylvania. The event, “Natural Gas Vehicles: The Road Ahead in Pennsylvania,” covered a variety of topics from CNG infrastructure to engines and conversion technology, all of which are questions being addressed by the industry.
Panelists who discussed the innovations and initiatives for natural gas vehicles included Matt Henderson, Shale Gas Asset Manager, Penn State’s Marcellus Center for Outreach and Research; Aron Lantz, Innovation Engineer from Larson Design Group; Andre Boehman, Penn State Earth & Mineral Sciences Energy Institute; Lynn Lyon, Pioneer Natural Resources; James and Dennis O’Donnell, Alternative Fuel Solutions of Pennsylvania, LLC; William Freeman, Chesapeake Energy; Anddrikk Frazier, Integrys Transportation Fuels, LLC/Trillium CNG; Joe Darling, American Natural Gas; and Tony Bandiero, Director of Greater Philadelphia Clean Cities. These panelists are all members of a community that is seeking to better our environment and economy by converting vehicles to natural gas and building the infrastructure to support such conversion.
Natural gas vehicles offer a cleaner option for transportation, emitting significantly fewer emissions into the air than traditional gasoline or diesel. Already, a number of cities and companies across the country have begun converting their passenger vehicles and fleets to natural gas, resulting in thousands of dollars in cost savings and reduction of emissions.
Despite these benefits, one major challenge to increasing the use of NGVs is the lack of fueling station infrastructure in locations suited for local vehicle refueling. While this is an issue NGV drivers face across the country, some cities and states have made significant strides in developing the needed infrastructure.
Aron Lantz shared one plan to meet the infrastructure challenge, known as the “Pennsylvania Clean Transportation Corridor.” As Aron explained, this proposed natural gas filling station corridor would connect Pennsylvania’s major metropolitan areas, allowing travel between Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and State College. Following Lantz’s comments, Lynn Lyon discussed the Texas Clean Transportation Triangle and how that plan offers CNG fueling stations to drivers on three major interstates. The infrastructure is available, and as cities continue to convert their vehicles to natural gas, more stations will be built and CNG will become a realistic option for not only fleet vehicles, but consumer passenger vehicles as well. Honda already makes NGVs for the average consumer (the Civic GX model runs on CNG), and GM, Chrysler and Ford recently announced their plans to manufacture NGVs for consumer purchase.
Several questions from the event focused on costs, ranging from equipment to vehicles to stations. William Freeman discussed grants and public funding, and noted that “as you look at grants, take into consideration costs to upgrade your shops.” James O’Donnell addressed costs for light-duty conversion and home filling, and offered that “after you’ve put 30,000 miles on your natural gas car, your conversion and compressor are paid for.” When it came to questions around the cost of a filling station, the panelists agreed that there are so many variables to take into account. Such as how many vehicles are being filled, how frequently, how fast they need filled, who will be doing the maintenance, etc. Speakers lightheartedly agreed that answering the question of how much does a filling station cost is similar to asking how much does a house cost in Pennsylvania?
Events like this are very important to the continued development of natural gas for transportation. The natural gas and transportation industries are working together to take advantage of the benefits domestic natural gas is offering the country. Collaboration was a theme repeated by speakers at the event. As Tony Bandiero said, “the NGV marketplace is big enough that everyone can work together.”
We have an abundant and affordable supply of natural gas that can power and transport our country for years. As the industry focuses on creating ways to efficiently use natural gas, they are also continuously updating their best practices to better protect and preserve the environment where natural gas is developed so everyone can feel the benefits of this clean American resource.