Clean fuel station puts GJ in vanguard

Compressed natural gas received a rousing welcome in Grand Junction on Saturday as local officials celebrated the opening of stations designed to fuel personal vehicles and fleet vehicles.

“What’s happening here in Mesa County is a little example of what could be happening all over Colorado,” Gov. John Hickenlooper told a crowd of about 50 people, mostly politicians and local leaders, during the opening ceremony.

Besides a station in Rifle, Grand Junction had been a missing link between Denver and Salt Lake City where motorists could fill CNG-powered vehicles. But that changed Saturday.

Right on schedule, a band of politicians from Garfield County and natural gas representatives arrived from Rifle, traveling in their CNG vehicles after fueling up at a station there. They drove vehicles that included converted GMC Yukons and the only vehicle currently manufactured to run on CNG, a Honda Civic GX.

“This project is one more thing we can do in our community to help maintain our clean air,” Grand Junction Mayor Teresa Coons said during the opening.

The city of Grand Junction purchased four CNG trash trucks and expects to purchase more as they replace aging vehicles. Mesa County purchased two CNG buses to add to the Grand Valley Transit fleet and is looking to replace other fleet vehicles with CNG vehicles, Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said.

“We have a lot of vehicles,” he said. “The opportunity to convert to compressed natural gas, a locally supplied fuel, is very attractive.”

The stations are located off the Riverside Parkway near the city shops. Fleet vehicles will be fueled by a slow-fill station. Private-consumer vehicles can access a fast-fill station that looks similar to a traditional gasoline pump.

Operator Paul Brown of Monument Fuels Co. said the site soon will have a marquee, and the station’s presence in Grand Junction has been posted on websites that cater to drivers looking to fuel up on CNG.

Its price was listed Saturday at $1.99 a gallon.

Brown said the price would be kept low for a time to market the Grand Junction station, but he probably will have to sell the alternative fuel at a higher, market rate.

“It’s not going to be $3.99 (a gallon) when gas is $3.49 (a gallon),” he said.

CNG generally is considered to be more reasonably priced than gasoline or diesel and is heralded as a cleaner-burning fuel. With an octane level of 130, it gives off significantly less carbon dioxide than diesel or gasoline-powered vehicles. Consumers can receive tax credits for purchasing or converting vehicles to run on CNG. It also is viewed as an alternative to importing gasoline from other countries.

Demand for CNG will have to rise, though, to keep prices low for private consumers at the pump, said Kirk Swallow, who sells CNG from his Shell station, 101 Railroad Ave. in Rifle.

Swallow’s station, like the Grand Junction stations, were subsidized in part with grants from the Governor’s Energy Office.

Swallow said he is selling CNG for $3.35 a gallon, but he may be able to lower the price in the future if costs to compress natural gas come down, and if he can increase the efficiency of the pumps. He serves about two CNG customers a day.

“I’m really struggling with what the price is going to be,” he said.


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