The value of CNG (compressed natural gas) to run vehicles is being seen here in northeastern Pennsylvania.

A PA Route 6 CNG Corridor is being planned, and Chesapeake Energy is also taking advantage of CNG.

Benefits of CNG

According to Denise McCourt, a spokesperson for Natural Gas Vehicles for America, a trade association representing the natural gas vehicle industry, based in Washington, D.C., a vehicle can come off the production line ready to run on CNG — such as the Honda Civic GX — or vehicles can be converted to run on CNG; this involves installing hardened valves in the engine to handle CNG.

The environmental benefits of a CNG vehicle are that they produce 20 to 30 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than comparable diesel- and gasoline-fueled vehicles, she noted. She said this fact comes from research by the California Air Resources Board.

She added that a CNG vehicle has less emissions. For example, she said, a Honda Civic GX produces 95 percent fewer emissions of non-methane hyrdrocarbons and 75 percent less emissions of nitrogen oxide.

She noted that natural gas, per unit of energy, contains less carbon than any other fossil fuel and thus produces lower carbon dioxide per vehicle mile traveled.

PA Route 6 CNG Corridor

The PA Route 6 CNG (compressed natural gas) Corridor would establish a series of CNG filling pumps at existing filling stations across the Pennsylvania US Route 6 Corridor stretching 400 miles from New York State near Milford, Pike County, Pa. in the east and through Crawford County, Pa. to the Ohio state line on the west.

Smethport Mayor Ross Porter from McKean County, chair of the PA Route 6 CNG Corridor Leadership Team and board member of the PA Route 6 Alliance, said the project is in its early stages. It’s a project of the PA Route 6 Alliance.

He noted that the team is not looking for grants to establish the CNG filling pumps, but is rather is seeking to work closely with private industry to install the pumps. The Corridor could be a model for the whole country, he said, and could be duplicated in other places. He said they would initially like to have pumps every 30 or 50 miles.

Currently, the PA Route 6 Alliance is building the leadership team for the CNG Corridor project.

It will include people from the natural gas industry, from academia, vocational-technical schools, and from state and federal government, he said.

According to Porter, the Leadership Team’s purpose is move the project forward.

He said CNG is the fuel of the future, and the PA Route 6 CNG Corridor is “an idea whose time is ripe.”

“We’re looking for a transition into CNG as a future fuel,” he said. He said it’s a proven technology and a conservative estimate shows 11 million CNG vehicles in the world.

Currently, he said, the United States is shipping out billions of dollars out of the national economy to foreign countries, which he said is draining the economy. Using CNG, he said, would recycle energy dollars in U.S. He said the movement for the PA Route 6 CNG Corridor is about energy independence and would allow the country to be more secure and thus be less affected by the dangers that come with relying on foreign oil.

“We have this resource and it will be a minimum of change for people living in our region,” he said.

Porter said a gasoline vehicle could be converted into a “bi-fuel” vehicle to run on both CNG and gasoline. A motorist, he said, would be able to switch back and forth from one fuel to the other “on the fly.” He noted that CNG vehicles run much more cleaner than gasoline vehicles.

“We are the original natural gas heritage region in the world, certainly in the United States,” he said. “Natural gas developed along this corridor in the 1880s with the oil industry. Now, we’ve come full circle and there’s this new discovery of natural gas in the area. It’s the natural thing to move forward with CNG vehicles. Natural gas is part of our history, and yet we don’t have any fueling stations along the PA Route 6 Corridor. We’ve got a long way to go.” He also noted the earliest natural gas fields are located in the area of the PA Route 6 Corridor.

Chesapeake initiative

According to Brian Grove, Senior Director — Corporate Development for Chesapeake:

Chesapeake Energy is undertaking a pioneering and innovative community project to convert its vehicles in northeastern Pennsylvania to compressed natural gas (CNG), thus creating sufficient demand for a local convenience-store chain to install a CNG fueling station, and allow a local transit authority to leverage state funding to convert its mass-transit buses to CNG. Natural gas is an abundant resource that burns cleaner than either gasoline or diesel; it is less expensive than foreign oil; and we have domestic reserves projected to last hundreds of years.

As part of this project, which received $750,000 through the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Quality’s Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant program, the Endless Mountains Transit Authority (EMTA) will convert to CNG fuel five 18-passenger public-transit buses. Additionally, Chesapeake Energy will convert 50 vehicles from its local light-duty fleet to run on CNG, which is part of the company’s ‘Fueling the Future Initiative’ to convert all of its 4,100 corporate vehicles. By virtue of this complete transformation, Chesapeake Energy is leading the way to help transition the national transportation system away from expensive and carbon-heavy gasoline and diesel to carbon-light, affordable, domestically produced natural gas.

In conjunction with these fleet conversions, Dandy Mini Mart will construct and operate one of the first public natural-gas-fueling stations in northeastern Pennsylvania. The CNG-refueling station, which will be added to one of Dandy’s existing facilities in Bradford County, will give residents access to an alternative, affordable, clean-burning, Pennsylvania-produced vehicle fuel. Additionally, the facility will serve as the CNG-refueling station for Chesapeake Energy’s converted fleet and EMTA’s converted buses. Transit buses like those operated by EMTA, along with refuse trucks, heavy-duty vehicles, school buses and commercial fleet vehicles, are ideal for natural gas, providing significant fuel savings to the operator and air quality benefits to the region.

The effort to promote CNG in Bradford County is exactly the type of project proposed in the Marcellus Works legislation: it creates public access for CNG fuel and a public benefit through the bus conversions by leveraging a private investment from Chesapeake and Dandy Mini Mart. As the legislation soon envisions, Pennsylvanian high-mileage and high-fuel fleets including transit, refuse, and delivery vans will be fueling in conveniently accessible public locations that will also provide light-duty consumer natural gas vehicles the availability of an affordable fueling selection.

The discovery and development of a once-unimaginable supply of natural gas from several shale formations across the country allow the U.S. to enjoy a significant competitive advantage in addressing economic, environmental and energy issues. In Pennsylvania, development of the Marcellus shale provides a readily available supply of low-cost natural gas to serve the entire region, and partnerships like this are key to breaking the national dependence on foreign oil. This proposal represents the first phase of what is hoped will be a multi-county expansion of infrastructure to increase public access to CNG fuel. Chesapeake Energy looks forward to expediting this project and working with additional partners to help residents realize the full and enormous benefits of this clean-burning resource.

Chesapeake is also working toward this goal in the approximately 17 other states in which it operates. In every operating area, the company is pursuing relationships with private retailers to offer public-access fuel stations. We will continue to expand our CNG fleets in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia over the next few years. The members of ANGA (America’s Natural Gas Alliance), and Marcellus operators are all actively pursuing natural gas vehicle initiatives in their fleets through participation in collaboration with utilities in the Clean American Transportation Alliance. In this joint effort, producers and utilities alike will work on market development projects to increase the number of natural gas vehicles on the road.

Local efforts

Locally, Ferrario is making inroads on the energy frontier with liquid propane. Its website notes that Ferrario Ford can supply Ford Trucks with ROUSH Liquid Propane Injection as a complete vehicle, or convert existing vehicles at its location in Elmira, N.Y. See the next edition of the Northeast Driller for a story on the company’s efforts.