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Natural-gas vehicles, fuel stations expand faster

By - Last modified: September 21, 2012 at 10:14 AM

Natural-gas vehicles are fast approaching a time when they, and the stations to recharge them, will be much more commonplace in business, according to Stephen Yborra, the director of market development for NGVAmerica, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group promoting natural-gas vehicles.

Yborra, who also is director of market analysis, education and communications for the Clean Vehicle Education Foundation, spoke to an assembly of business leaders Sept. 14 at the Radisson Hotel Harrisburg in Cumberland County. Harrisburg-based construction trade group Mid Atlantic BX and the state Department of Environmental Protection organized the seminar.

"We're 25 percent of the world's oil use and less than 5 percent of its population. That's not a sustainable model," Yborra said, positioning natural-gas vehicles as a clean alternative to gas and diesel trucks for all sorts of commercial and government operations.

And Pennsylvania's industry could be at the center of natural gas's rise to prominence, he said.

Here are some highlights from Yborra's presentation.

1. Years ago, it was only energy companies building fueling stations for natural-gas vehicles, but today more independent fueling companies and convenience stores are building natural-gas and other alternative fuel ports as the number of vehicles increases. "(Convenience stores) don't sell fuel," Yborra said. "They sell Twinkies and soda. They want you to walk in the door."

2. Today, there are 11,000 transit vehicles, 4,000 school vehicles and 5,400 refuse trucks that use natural gas for fuel, according to NGVAmerica. Trusted commercial vehicle manufacturers such as Volvo and Mack are producing more of them. "Fifty-three percent of all trash trucks off the lines are natural gas," Yborra said.

3. There are 1,100 natural-gas fueling stations in the U.S. today. Companies could add between 200 and 250 more stations by the end of the year. "That's huge because we've been at 1,100 for years," Yborra said.

4. Because the U.S. has an abundance of natural gas in various rock formations from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania to smaller formations in the west and south, there’s a reduced impact to fuel supply lines from natural disasters. “Now we not only have a great supply, but it’s entering the pipeline from more locations,” Yborra said.

5. Pennsylvania is poised to be a leader in natural-gas transportation, including fueling stations, because of its dense network of roads and status as a transportation hub for the rest of the country, Yborra said.

6. Private companies and government switching to natural-gas vehicles and building a fueling station should open it up to public access sales in order to pay for the facility and finance operations, he said.

7. Companies in government contracting should look into adding natural-gas vehicles to their fleet because some states make them a prerequisite, he said.