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Archive for Wednesday, December 14, 2011

City interested in switching to vehicles that run on natural gas

December 14, 2011

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Bills this winter

As long as the weather cooperates, natural gas bills for Lawrence residents should be about the same or lower than they were last winter.

Officials with Black Hills Energy, the city’s largest natural-gas utility, said the price of natural gas is at about the same level it was a year ago. That means that a customer’s heating bill will be determined more by how much gas they use rather than the price of gas this season.

Curt Floerchinger, a Black Hills spokesman, said forecasting services the utility subscribes to predict winter temperatures to be below normal from January through March.

Natural gas prices are down about 70 percent from levels in 2008 as more domestic supplies have been tapped using new extraction technologies.

City leaders on Tuesday were told that there is a big difference between gasoline and gas these days. At a luncheon hosted by Black Hills Energy, the city’s natural gas utility, city commissioners were told that compressed natural gas currently is selling for about 40 percent less than a gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel.

“There is a high level of interest in compressed natural gas right now from cities and other operators of vehicle fleets,” said Tim Hess, manager of Black Hills’ gas marketing program.

Count Lawrence City Hall among those interested. The city already has confirmed that it plans to convert one standard pickup in its Public Works Department to a natural gas vehicle in 2012 to test the technology.

But on Tuesday, City Commissioner Bob Schumm said he wanted the city to be open to an even larger test of the alternative fuel source. Schumm said the city should have serious discussions with the city of Kansas City, Mo., which has more than 200 compressed-natural-gas vehicles in its fleet.

“If the information we get from them looks good, I think we should proceed with buying one new trash truck and see how it really works for us,” Schumm said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, leaders with Black Hills Energy said they were ready to work with the city on a pilot project. Black Hills has a compressed-natural-gas fueling station at its east Lawrence operations facility. The fueling station is not open to the public, but Black Hills officials said they were willing to open the facility to the city and other organizations that want to test the feasibility of compressed-natural-gas vehicles.

Scott Zaremba, an owner of the Lawrence-based Zarco convenience store chain, has filed plans at City Hall to build a retail compressed-natural-gas fueling station as part of a remodeling of his convenience store properties at Ninth and Iowa streets.

Zaremba has city approval to build the station, but he said having a major fleet operator like the city become a customer would make it easier for the approximately $1 million station to proceed.

Not surprisingly, Black Hills officials are bullish on the future of compressed natural gas for vehicles. Hess said fueling stations already are prevalent on parts of the West Coast. The trend is making it way to the Midwest with about 30 retail stations currently in Oklahoma, and stations have opened recently in Lincoln and Omaha, Neb.

“I don’t think it is going to take 10 or 20 years to see major changes,” Hess said. “I think in the next three to five years you will be able to buy natural gas about anywhere.”

Officials at Kansas University’s Transportation Research Institute said it was too soon to say whether such an aggressive time line would prove to be true for compressed-natural-gas vehicles. But Ilya Tabakh, a research associate at the institute, said the technology was getting a lot of discussion in the transportation industry.

“There is definitely potential because you have a ready fuel supply,” Tabakh said. “It all kind of depends on how you get the gas, how you get it to the stations, how you use it in vehicles. You’ll need to do a cradle-to-grave type of analysis to really understand its benefits and drawbacks.”

Natural gas supplies have been on a steady rise since 2008, when “fracking,” a new type of extraction technology, became more prevalent in the industry. As a result, natural gas prices are down about 70 percent from 2008 levels. Fracking, though, has drawn concern from some environmentalists over worries that it can contaminate groundwater supplies.

Currently it costs about $10,000 to convert a standard vehicle to operate on compressed natural gas. But Schumm said research suggests that for fuel-guzzling vehicles, such as trash trucks, the payback can be about three years.

“I think it is a technology that has a future,” Schumm said.

Comments

softsun 1 year, 10 months ago

How is the road tax paid for vehicles using compressed natural gas? I was told this Is this really a scheme to get out of paying the fuel tax? I know business and the city can do no wrong, but how will roads be repaired if we all find schemes to get out of paying road tax in the name of seeking "alternate fuels." It is not an alternate fuel. It just comes from a pipeline not having to report gallons for the collection of road tax. Pretty slick. Department of Revenue really needs to get on this

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Richard Heckler 2 years, 4 months ago

Iran has a ton of natural gas which means if the USA creates a huge need for Natural Gas we will go to war for Natural Gas = dumb idea.

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nut_case 2 years, 4 months ago

I guess this 'change' only makes sense in the fact that it doesn't make sense...and that is what I'd expect from government...not making sense.

You already have half dozen (or more) E85 pumps in town and dozens more in near-by cities. You're surrounded by farmers looking to sell a crop and there is hundreds if not thousands of tons of municipal garden waste (cellulose) collected which can also be converted to ethanol.

There are no natural gas pumps around - at least that I have ever seen. Natural gas is cheap due to the new process of 'fracking' which requires injecting toxic / secret chemicals deep underground - which have the possibility (or probability, depending on who you believe) to leach out into groundwater at best, or set off underground earthquakes at worst.

If you believe in 'Global Warming' (as we recover from two severely cold winters) methane has 25 times the greenhouse gas potential of the dreaded carbon diodixe, so even small spills or leaks in the supply chain can easily overwhelm any savings in CO2 emissions during the final burning. Plus, once again, ALL that methane/CO2 is pulled directly from underground where it has been for millions of year and put back into the air today. If you look at cellulose or even corn ethanol, ALL of that carbon was pulled from the air in the current years growth - or at worst in the past 20-50 years if you consider wood from an average tree.

So yet again, government ignores obvious savings and efficiencies of a fuel/supply chain which is already in place and can be used by anyone, today. Yet they chase of some 'dream fuel' which virtually no-one has access to and has serious issues all along the supply chain.

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LogicMan 2 years, 4 months ago

"city commissioners were told that compressed natural gas currently is selling for about 40 percent less than a gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel"

Were they also "told" that the MPG is much less, and the refueling process is different and requires a well-trained attendant for safety. The Fire Department should research this too, and give their opinion on safety and whether they are prepared to do rescues in and fight intense compressed gas fires.

But using CNG in buses, garbage trucks, and other municipal vehicles does make the most sense versus private vehicles.

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FalseHopeNoChange 2 years, 4 months ago

No brainer. WM waste management is developing gas from its garbage dumps to fuel it's thousand or so trucks.

Westport natural gas engines along with Cummins is building fleets of engines worldwide.

No brainer.

Anyone hear of Chile? Check out what they are doing and have done with natural gas

No brainer

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sierraclub 2 years, 4 months ago

So, we here on Earth have an unlimited supply of natural gas, but oil is not? But, each producer of the oil, natural gas, and coal say they are unlimited. Solor seems to be the one resource that is unlimited. Even with the high price of gas and diesel, it is still the cheapest option.

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just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 2 years, 4 months ago

The projections of unlimited natural gas supplies rely on the assumption that the "fracking" that's required to recover it can continue unabated. And for those of you who don't know, it's a process that requires the injection of massive quantities of toxic chemicals into the ground in order to dislodge the methane gas.

There isn't enough data yet on just how badly this process pollutes groundwater and surface waters vital as both drinking water and agricultural purposes, but enough is known at this point to be able to say that methane is not going to be a miracle replacement for other fossil-fuels.

And melott is right-- methane is among the most potent of greenhouse gases. When it's burned, it releases CO2, and when it escapes unburnt into the atmosphere, it's even worse.

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melott 2 years, 4 months ago

Methane is a greenhouse gas-- a very bad one. If you burn it you make carbon dioxide, also a greenhouse gas.

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thirdplanet 2 years, 4 months ago

Methane is a great renewable energy and could power cars and trucks cleaner than even natural gas but will run in a natural gas combustion engine. And we could all make it ourselves right here in the local economy.

The Republic of Lawrence should build a feces collection station, maybe at the recycling plant they're trying to shut down, where the goods citizens can take their waste for it to be converted into renewable and clean energy. The process is simple, take maybe your weeks worth of personal waste to the center where they'll let it simmer in a huge pool, and then they'll capture the methane from the waste. The neighbors complaining about the current recycling center surely will support this facility, accepting that its environmental benefits outweigh any bothersome smells.

After they convert their trucks, they would get the fuel absolutely free, powered with the good hearts of Lawrencians. Everyday when you flush your bodily wastes down the toilet, you're flushing cold hard cash and an opportunity to save the planet from global warming with it.

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Number_1_Grandma 2 years, 4 months ago

Great Idea!! The sooner the better!

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Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 4 months ago

"Honda Civic Natural Gas Named 2012 Green Car of the Year"

Clipped from: http://www.honda.com/newsandviews/article.aspx?id=6415-en

"The all-new 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas – the only factory-built, CNG-powered car produced in America – was named 2012 Green Car of the Year® at the Los Angeles Auto Show today. The award was presented to Honda by the editors of Green Car Journal representing a diverse panel of environmental experts and automotive enthusiasts who annually select a single vehicle for its outstanding environmental performance.

To support growing consumer interest in alternative-fuel vehicles, Honda is expanding its retail network of Civic Natural Gas retail outlets to 200 dealers in 36 states. Previously, retail sales of the natural gas-powered Civic had been limited to four states – California, New York, Utah and Oklahoma. The 2012 Civic Natural Gas went on sale on October 18 with a manufacturer's suggested retail price1 (MSRP) starting at $26,155."

More info on the Honda Civic Natural Gas: http://automobiles.honda.com/civic-natural-gas/

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