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City considers natural gas as fuel option

COVINGTON -- City of Covington officials are exploring an investment in a compressed natural gas station.

The City Council agreed to hold a work session on the issue after hearing Monday night from a representative with Wise Gas, a company based in Florida that provides consultation, fueling equipment and vehicle conversions to natural gas.

Jeff Greene with Wise Gas said Covington is the ideal spot to open a compressed natural gas station, with its location along the I-20 corridor between Atlanta and the coast. Around 65,000 vehicles pass by Covington exits per day, including 18-wheelers with large fuel tanks that could utilize the station, he said.

"I think there is very substantial potential for additional revenue coming into the city down the road," Greene said.

If the station is used at full capacity of 2,000 to 3,000 gallons per day, the city could get $200,000 a month in revenue, Greene estimated.

Greene said the city would need to invest about $1.9 million in equipment and site improvements to get the station up and running, with maintenance running about $80,000 a year.

Natural gas has been running about $1 less per gallon at the pump. Sedan owners can save about $10 per fill-up, Greene said, adding that he runs through about 40 gallons of gas per week and saves about $60 per week.

Among the benefits of compressed natural gas are that it burns cleaner and quieter, with less air and noise pollution, and,"On average, natural gas costs 30 percent less than conventional gasoline at the pump," Greene said.

After examining both the county and city fleet, Greene determined that the county has 86 vehicles and the city has 37 vehicles, for a total of 123 vehicles, that could be converted to run on natural gas. The county currently pays $338,000 in fuel costs, and the city spends $117,000 on those vehicles. Converting to compressed natural gas would reduce those totals to $236,00 for the county and $82,000 for the city, a yearly combined savings of $137,000, Greene said.

Greene encouraged the city to spend $100,000 on an engineering study and commit to dual fuel vehicles.

He said Wise Gas would also like to assess a secondary site that it would own as a company.

"It's our desire to have a Georgia location and we feel like Covington would be the right location for it," he said.

The Department of Energy has committed $300 million to building compressed natural gas stations throughout the country, Green said, but right now most are being built on the West Coast. Greene estimated that approximately 13,000 of the 65,000 cars passing by Covington on I-20 could be converted to run on compressed natural gas, but noted that conversions aren't happening because there are limited stations. There is at least a 118-year supply of domestic reserve supply of natural gas, Greene said.

Comments

John 2 years, 6 months ago

I worked in the lift ruck industry for 41 years and CNG was an "popular" consideration as an alternative fuel for forklifts back in the days of the oil embargo. Our R & D department developed a system for our fossil fuel burning lifts. We never brought this option to market for the follow reasons: 1. CNG has about 60% of the BTU value of regular gasoline - these simply means the fork lift engine performed 40% less than when powered by gasoline - even greater when compared to to a diesel engine. That also translates to if you need to move so many loads a day a customer would need to increase his fleet size & add additional operators, maintenance.. 2. The storage tank or fuel tank run time capacity was significantly less due to the fact that CNG is under high pressure and the walls of the fuel storage need to be quit thick about two inches compared to an LPG tank which is about 1/8". Meaning refueling would be required more often. 3. Refueling stations - a slow fill system runs about $20K and it took about 2 hours to refill a tank. Certainly fast fuel systems are available but you need to get out the "BIG" check book - depending on fleet size to be service a fast fill system would cost in the neighborhood of $1 million. 4. Of course, an area would need to be set up that meets all the OSHA, EPA, NFPA standards, etc for a CNG refueling area. 5.. Today 35 years later only one lift company offers CNG as an option. Others offered it but quit due to low sales & customer interest. As far as selling CNG to those driving up & down the interstate most of those drivers up and/down I-20 do not have CNG fuel as finding a refill area off the interstate is next to impossible. If you see a CNG vehicle it is probably a city, county or state owned vehicle. As for those big rigs they will only run on diesel, they need all the engine power they can get to pull 80K lbs up and down the interstate & up hills & mountains and don't want to refuel more often. Plus, they want a "greasy spoon" & a shower at their refill stops.

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Newton 2 years, 6 months ago

Hey John, Thanks for the info maybe you should be testifying to the city about what the costs are and cons will be. It seems our local governments city, state or county only hear the pros and no cons. Great info about this technology, and in my eyes the city should not even think of this idea~!

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John 2 years, 6 months ago

When anyone listens to a "snake oil" sales person, it all sounds great until you find out when it is too late. Take the Chevy Volt, initially I thought it was a total electric vehicle- in reality it is a powered by battery & ICE engine or as advertised "an extended range electric car" . It runs about 25 - 50 miles miles on a battery charge then operates on fossil fuel to power a generator. Recharge time is 7 - 10 hours. The cost for a home based charger is $2000 (installed or about $500 uninstalled) & requires a 240 V outlet in the garage What no one really talks about it the cost to replace the battery ("all batteries will die sooner or later") - estimated to be a mere $8,000. The warranty is 8 yrs. or 100K miles. When you add up all the extra costs (vehicle - even with a tax payer subsidy), charger, etc the net economic benefit seems to disappear.

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jrstull 2 years, 6 months ago

John, I appreciate your comments and you certainly know more about lifts than I do, but I would like to point out that at BTU is a BTU. Meaning an equivalent amount of CNG costs significantly less than the same BTUs of gasoline or diesel. Currently around $2.00/gal equivalent vs. $3.50 or $4.00 for gasoline/diesel. Though natural gas might not be the best application for a lift, it is a great application and quite a bargain for City/County vehicles. Concerning "big rigs" there are many currently running on LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas), or bi-fuel engines that can use CNG, diesel, or some combination of both. There is serious money to be saved on fuel for fleets right now and I think Covington would be wise to invest in this market, since there is not much chance of relief from gas/diesel prices anytime soon. Refuse Companies, School Boards, and companies who use a lot of fuel like UPS and AT&T can't get vehicles converted fast enough right now. So I think there will be plenty of opportunity for Covington to recoup their investment and lead the way as we transition to alternative fuels in this country. I do share your view on electric vehicles...the payback is not there and the range of the cars certainly isn't either. Doesn't make sense to burn natural gas to create electricity for cars when you could just run your car on natural to begin with!

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John 2 years, 6 months ago

jrstull, Certain I am aware that a BTU is a BTU. But it is a fact that the same engine running on CNG produces ~20% less power in (HP & torques) than one on running on gasoline due to lower thermal efficiency. That equates to getting 20% less work done (whether it be on a forklift or a bus or a truck or a car). Work is Work. To get the same work done one would need to work 20% longer or increase the fleet size & operators by the same mount. Further, studies have shown it is not economically advisable to convert an existing fleet to CNG - the primary expense is in installing a fuel container that stores the fuel at ~2900 PSI. These containers will have less driving range than a gas tank as the internal volume is greatly reduced by the container wall thickness, therefore more frequent trips (non productive time) to the filling station. The best ROI is to start with new factory installations. These are just a few considerations that those evaluating the feasibility & economic benefits of this conversions need to consider to develop an all inclusive ROI - plus training for employees in charge of maintenance & filling. Certainly, the economics are more favorable when the price difference between CNG & gasoline is what it is today. But who can really say this difference will remain in the future. Give the US a long cold winter the price of natural gas will also increase (prices where much higher for NG about 4 years ago).

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Newton 2 years, 6 months ago

I feel the city should not be making investments like this at all! Just as they should not loan money to organizations. Please stop this wasteful spending and help the people of Covington!

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