Smith Dairy opens CNG fueling station

The Kasich administration is pondering ways government and business vehicle fleets take advantage of low cost natural gas.

Wednesday afternoon two members of the Kasich team got a close look at a changes Smith Dairy has made to begin converting its trucks to use compressed natural gas.

Smith employees cut a ribbon and guests enjoyed Ruggles ice cream before getting a look at the dairy’s new CNG fueling station.

Kasich couldn’t attend the event because he’s at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. But he sent Todd Snitchler, chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, and Craig Butler, assistant policy director for energy, agriculture and environment. Both mentioned plans for a CNG work session in early October to review efforts to begin using the fuel.

“The timing seems to be right for giving this a good hard look,” Snitchler said.

The low cost of natural gas is a big reason for using CNG, Snitchler said. Chuck Diehl, Smith Dairy fleet manager, said CNG costs $1.95 per gallon. The fuel also is cleaner than gasoline or diesel.

Development of the Utica shale — early indications are the rock is loaded with natural gas and oil — in eastern Ohio is another reason for government and business to look at CNG vehicles. Butler said Kasich hopes oil and gas pulled from the Utica is used in Ohio, and if any is left over “we’ll ship it to Texas.”

The challenge is having vehicles fueled by CNG and stations that sell the fuel, Snitchler said. During the past year, Kasich’s staff has discussed those issues with car companies and fuel retailers, Snitchler said.

The technology is available and used in other parts of the county, he said. “The public needs to see that it’s a viable alternative.”

Smith Dairy’s new facility is open to anyone with a CNG vehicle. The station takes credit cards and accepts fleet accounts.

Smith Dairy has spent two years developing the station.

Steve Schmid, president of Dairy Enterprises, said the company made the move as part of an effort to be a good steward for the environment. “I like the fact that our kids and their kids will have a cleaner world because of this,” he said.

A Dominion East Ohio line supplies the station. Gas flows into a compressor area, where it is processed and stored until someone pulls up to the pumps.

Smith Dairy spent $1.5 million to build the station and $1 million for six new Freightliner trucks that run delivery routes in Northeast Ohio. Plans are to convert Smith vehicles to CNG as financing allows, with a goal of having a complete CNG fleet by 2030.

In addition to showing off its new trucks, Smith Dairy had a SARTA bus and other CNG vehicles on hand. That included a Harley-Davidson that Orange County Choppers custom built for Chesapeake Energy. The motorcycle tours the country, pulled by a bi-fuel Chevrolet truck.​

This article was first published by Canton Rep.

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