Delivering gasoline in CNG-powered trucks | PostIndependent.com

Delivering gasoline in CNG-powered trucks

The West Glenwood Shell station is the planned location for a Trillium compressed natural gas fueling station, which received a state alternative fuels grant this week. Station owner Al Butler is also looking to convert is his Western Petroleum fleet to CNG vehicles. The new CNG station could be up and running by this time next year.

Area fueling stations that get their wholesale gasoline and diesel products from Western Petroleum of Glenwood Springs may one day get their product delivered via trucks powered by compressed natural gas, if all goes as planned for distributor Al Butler.

Butler, who is working with Salt Lake City-based Trillium CNG to host a compressed natural gas fueling station at the West Glenwood Shell station, which he also co-owns, is planning to convert one or more of his distribution vehicles to CNG power.

Trillium was one of eight companies awarded a Colorado Energy Office Alt Fuels grant this week, totaling more than $400,000, to install a CNG station in Glenwood Springs. It was the only station location awarded on the Western Slope, with the remainder being along the Front Range Interstate 25 corridor.

"We're excited about it, and definitely feel that it's needed out in this direction," Butler said of Trillium's plans. "We also decided that if we're going to take a crack at this, we'd like to help put some more CNG vehicles on the street.

"As a fleet operator, we do see the savings involved in it, and it's something that will help out the environment as well," Butler said.

He said the fleet conversion would probably start with just one of his two larger fuel transport trucks sometime within the next two years, as his current lease arrangements expire. The smaller bulk transport trucks could also eventually be converted, he said.

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"We'll run one to start and just see how it works," he said. "Like everything else, you want to take a look at the numbers and see what the costs are compared to the savings."

Butler has also been working closely with Trillium's business development director Jared Stedl on the state energy grant proposal for the CNG station. Trillium operates the CNG fueling station in Glenwood Springs for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority, which operates several CNG buses as part of its recently expanded Bus Rapid Transit system.

Stedl was in Glenwood Springs this week working with Butler on the eventual station agreement, and with Matt Shmigelsky of Carbondale-based Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER), on bringing more private and public fleet operators to the table with CNG conversions.

Fleet commitments were critical to winning the state grant, Stedl said, and will be even more so as plans to invest more than $1 million into development of the CNG station move forward.

To have the distributor associated with the planned station location be part of the fleet commitment was huge, he said.

"We will need a commitment for about 100,000 gallons in the first year to get started," Stedl said. "By year four, we're looking for 200,000 gallons."

"We plan to be very busy over the next nine months or so introducing ourselves to the community and lining up more commitments," he said.

If all goes as planned, the new CNG station could be up and running by the middle of next summer, he said. In addition to the state grant, Garfield County and the city of Glenwood Springs also awarded a $100,000 subsidy to jump-start the effort.

"It's exciting that we will have a new fuel opportunity that will help area fleets lower the costs of their operations with fuel that is produced here locally," said CLEER's Shmigelsky, referring to the natural gas that is produced in the Piceance Basin in western Garfield County and throughout northwest Colorado.

So far, 10 fleet operators, most of them private, have agreed to begin converting their fleets to CNG vehicles and to use the new Glenwood Springs fueling station once it's up and running, Shmigelsky said. The U.S. Forest Service has also said it would convert some of its local fleet to CNG, and Garfield County currently has seven CNG vehicles in its government fleet, he said.

One other CNG station is currently being operated in Garfield County, in Parachute. That station is owned and operated by natural gas producer Encana, which has also converted its own fleet to CNG vehicles. A second station, located at the Rifle Shell station, recently ceased operations, however.

Shmigelsky said existing tax credits are making it easier for fleet operators to convert to CNG vehicles, and are also available to individual consumers.

"We've been mostly focused on the bigger fleets, which tend to turn their vehicles over more rapidly," he said. Several new passenger vehicles are also now being offered in CNG models, including a new "bi-fuel" Chevrolet Impala that will run on both gasoline and CNG.

Nate Watters, spokesman for the Colorado Energy Office, said the state's Alt Fuels grant program will eventually distribute $30 million in new fueling station grants over four years. The first round included $4 million in grants, he said.

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