West Virginia's much-awaited natural gas vehicle future has just about arrived.
IGS Energy CNG Services announced Jan. 17 that it will construct and operate a $10 million compressed natural gas, or CNG, fueling corridor in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. The company is an affiliate of IGS Energy of Dublin, Ohio.
Four stations along Interstate 79 in Charleston, Jane Lew and Bridgeport in West Virginia and in Mount Morris, Pa. will be open to the public.
"We've been looking for some time at where it made sense to put fast-fill CNG stations," said West Virginia Business Manager T.J. Meadows. "Ultimately we've settled on I-79."
The CNG corridor, the first announced in West Virginia since the exploitation of natural gas from the region's Marcellus Shale began in the last decade, responds to the emerging shift among corporate and government fleets to natural gas vehicles, or NGVs.
"Natural gas offers a cheap and environmentally friendly alternative to gasoline or diesel," said company President Scott White. "Because natural gas is both abundant and produced domestically, vehicles fueled by natural gas are becoming an increasingly popular transportation option. Our stations will offer convenient locations and enable drivers to refuel in about the same time it would take at a conventional gasoline station."
CNG is a cleaner-burning alternative fuel to gasoline, emitting up to 30 percent less carbon dioxide, up to 75 percent less carbon monoxide and up to 95 percent less particulate matter than gasoline or diesel, the company said.
And with the persistent abundance of natural gas that has followed the shale boom, CNG costs substantially less than gasoline.
"Right now at our one station, in Dublin, Ohio, last I checked our retail price was $1.99 per what's called a ‘gas-gallon-equivalent,'" Meadows said. A gas-gallon-equivalent, or GGE, contains the same amount of energy as a gallon of unleaded gasoline, and can be compared for price and mileage purposes.
Drivers using CNG can save 30 to 50 percent over gasoline or diesel, he said.
Meadows emphasized the safety of CNG, pointing out that in the unlikely event that an accident ruptures a fuel tank, the fuel would rise into the air and dissipate rather than pooling as liquid fuels do and creating a fire hazard.
Construction of the CNG stations is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of this year and to be complete by the end of the year. Depending on the station, the fuel will support light-, medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.
Several companies have committed to fuel their natural gas vehicles on the corridor, including top-three West Virginia Marcellus producers Antero Resources, Chesapeake Energy Corp. and EQT Corp.
"Antero Resources believes that natural gas presents an unprecedented opportunity for providing a clean domestic and abundant fuel for this country thanks in large part to resources in West Virginia," said Antero chairman and CEO Paul M. Rady. "We are committed to converting our own vehicle fleet to run on CNG, and we are excited for the opportunity to be a market leader in this initiative along with our partners."
By building a CNG fueling corridor, IGS Energy CNG Services is playing a leadership role in making an affordable and cleaner fuel available for West Virginians, according to Scott Rotruck, Chesapeake's vice president of corporate development and government relations. The infrastructure will help Chesapeake toward its goal of converting its West Virginia fleet, he said.
And the stations also will support EQT's transition of more than 200 Marcellus fleet vehicles to natural gas, said David Ross, EQT's vice president for demand development.
IGS Energy CNG Services chose to concentrate its efforts on West Virginia because of the state's movement toward policies encouraging the development of the CNG industry, the company said.
"We recognize the commitment that the state of West Virginia, through the leadership of Gov. (Earl Ray) Tomblin, has made to encourage the use of this local, clean resource," White said. "The company believes the state of West Virginia will serve as an excellent opportunity to demonstrate that CNG will not only save taxpayers money, but also encourage further development of natural gas fueling options. IGS Energy CNG Services stands ready to support the state, its residents and its businesses as they convert to CNG."
In addition to private fleets, the West Virginia Department of Highways has committed to fuel state CNG-powered vehicles at corridor stations.
IGS Energy CNG Services characterized the announcement as a phase one development and said it will be seeking additional locations for a second phase.