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Front Page » December 20, 2012 » Local News » Gas hits $1.49/gal
Published 705 days ago

Gas hits $1.49/gal


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

Remember the days of $1.49 a gallon gas?

Well it isn't gasoline, but that is what a gallon of compressed natural gas costs at the pump as of Tuesday.

That may not mean much to some, but to others it is a boon.

"I had construction trucks that we were expending $300-400 per month in fuel to do the work we had assigned to them," said Gopher Kiahtipes, who owns Circle K Construction. "We had them converted to CNG and we are now spending between $100-200 per month."

The conversion of vehicles is an expensive proposition; about $8,000 by many estimates. It takes some time to pay this back with the lower prices. But there are manufacturers out there that make vehicles ready to run on CNG; however most are trucks or vans. The only factory built car that is built is a version of the Honda Civic. However, according to the website CNGnow, there are now versions of the Chevy Silverado 2500, the Dodge Ram 2500 and the Ford F-250 that are available.

The biggest complaint most people have had about going CNG in their vehicles is the conversion cost and the availability of CNG a variety of places.

Fueling stations are few in rural areas, but a recent upgrade of the one at the Market Express convenience center (also owned by Kiahtipes) on south Carbon Avenue has made things a lot better. While not yet totally completed (a canopy has to be put over the fueling area and a couple of other additions) it is ready to go. And there is more to come for those with CNG powered vehicles.

"With a new compressed natural gas (CNG) station opening in Moab at the end of the month, the Price station will be fueling more vehicles," said Darren Shepherd, a spokesman for Questar. "It's also expected that more larger trucks and fleet vehicles will be on the road over the next few years."

For those in the know, CNG has been available at this site in Price for over a decade, but the new fueling facility will make filling up a CNG vehicles tank a lot easier and less time consuming.

"It used to be like filling up a tire when you filled a CNG tank at the station," said Kiahtipes. "The closer to full you got to full the slower the gas went into the tank."

Consequently filling up completely took considerably more time that filling a vehicle with conventional fuel. But that has changed. It was also a single hose design; now the station has a two hose system.

"The old system ran with a diesel engine for powering it up and the pressure wasn't as high," stated Kiahtipes. "Now they have installed new equipment including a 200 horsepower electric motor that keeps the pressure up. It takes about the same amount of time to fill a CNG vehicle as it does a conventional one now."

Shepherd says the new facility will make CNG more attractive to those wanting those kinds of vehicles.

"The Market Express Sinclair station now offers two dispensers and four hoses," stated Shepherd. "The station offers two different filling pressures depending on the capacity of a person's NGV (Natural Gas Vehicle): 3,000 pounds per square inch (psi) for older model NGVs and 3,600 psi for newer model vehicles."

According to Shepherd, Questar Gas operates 27 CNG stations in the state. These stations are located along Utah's I-15 corridor, making it easy for NGV motorists to travel that north-south corridor in the state. The fueling stations are now selling more than 400,000 gallons equivalent of natural gas per month. There are also more than 50 other Utah businesses and organizations that own and operate CNG stations located at their places of business for private fleet fueling.

With the Moab addition, people with NGV can travel to the southeastern part of the state as well.

Shepherd says that in 2000, there were 2 million NGVs on the road. By the end of 2011 there were more than 14 million worldwide. By region there are 8.8 million NGVs in Asia and the Middle East; 4.3 million are in South America; 1.6 million are in Europe; and 159,000 are in Africa. That doesn't leave many for the United States. In North America, there are less than 140,000 NGVs.

"How is it that the U.S. can have more natural gas than Saudi Arabia has oil and only have a few NGVs?" asks Shepherd. "It's a question a lot of people are beginning to ask, and I believe we will see significant changes in the next few years."

He says that right now about 60 percent of all refuse trucks being purchased in the U.S. run on natural gas. Nearly 30 percent of all transit bus purchases are natural-gas powered. Now that we're seeing more horsepower in medium-duty engines, the heavy-duty truck industry is turning to CNG as well.

Besides the low per gallon cost there are also other advantages to owning a NGV. For vehicles bought after Jan. 1. 2009 Utah provides an income tax credit of 35 percent of the vehicle purchase price, up to $2,500, for an original equipment manufacturer compressed natural gas vehicle registered in Utah. Other new clean fuel vehicles that meet air quality and fuel economy standards may be eligible for a credit of $605. The state also provides a credit of up to $1,000 for special equipment converted to operate using a clean fuel, including propane, natural gas, or electricity. Those claiming the credit must provide required documentation. However these incentives expire the end of 2013.

Some in the past have worried about CNG as a power source for internal combustion engines both in terms of power and maintenance. NGVs are similar to gasoline or diesel vehicles with regard to power, acceleration, and cruising speed. However the driving range of NGVs is generally less than that of comparable gasoline and diesel vehicles because, with natural gas, less overall energy content can be stored in the same size tank as the more energy-dense gasoline or diesel fuels. Extra natural gas storage tanks or the use of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) can help increase the range for larger vehicles.

"With new drilling technologies, it's estimated the U.S. has enough natural gas to last more than 100 years at current production," said Shepherd noting that energy security is important to the country. "With this abundant supply of natural gas, and more fueling stations throughout Utah, we can expect to see more NGVs on the road."

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