Compressed natural gas station a link between Denver, Salt Lake

TIM BARKER, fleet supervisor for the city of Grand Junction, holds the nozzle at the slow-fill pump that city trash trucks will use at the new compressed natural gas station on Riverside Parkway near the city shops.



Jay Valentine wasn’t sure what kind of response he’d garner by hanging a sign with his office number on the still-under-construction compressed natural gas station in Grand Junction a couple of months ago.

Judging by the phone calls to Valentine, the city’s assistant financial operations manager, it appears more than a few residents are ready to start filling their vehicles with an alternative fuel.

They’ll be able to do so by the end of this month, when the city opens a $1 million slow-fill and fast-fill station along Riverside Parkway west of the city shops. The first publicly accessible CNG station in western Colorado will give the city, Grand Valley Transit, the private industry and the general public a cleaner, cheaper fuel alternative to gasoline and diesel. It also bridges a fueling gap between Salt Lake City and Denver that should make owners of CNG vehicles less reluctant to travel longer distances.

“The interest is a lot more widespread than I thought it would be,” Valentine said.

He said he heard from a few motorists who own trucks that take CNG.

Fuoco Motor Co. owner Bob Fuoco said he is applying to Honda to become a CNG vehicle dealer — certification he can’t get until he can prove that buyers can fill up at a station in town — and has taken a deposit on the first Civic GX, the only passenger car currently available that’s powered by CNG.

The dealership also plans to send a few mechanics to a school to receive training on servicing CNG vehicles.

The station will receive immediate use.

The city purchased four CNG trash trucks and will soon solicit bids for a fifth trash truck and a dump truck. The first four trucks cost roughly $1 million, an average of $28,000 per truck more than diesel trucks, but city officials say they expect to recoup that additional expense in two or three years through the savings they’ll realize from purchasing CNG rather than diesel.

Mesa County last year purchased two CNG buses to add to Grand Valley Transit’s fleet. Those buses should arrive by the end of this year or first half of 2012. Grand Valley Transit expects to eventually convert its entire fleet to run on CNG.

The city’s and county’s vehicles will fill up overnight on the slow-fill side of the station, while the general public will use the fast-fill side. Just like at the gas pump, motorists will be able to swipe a credit card. The city will contract with Monument Oil Co. to run the fast-fill station.

Compared to the $4 the city was coughing up for a gallon of diesel a few years ago, the city’s trash trucks and any other CNG vehicles they acquire will be able to fill up for around $1 for a gallon of gasoline equivalent, Valentine said.

“We’re seeing ($4 diesel) again, or it’s heading that way,” he said. “Right away with these trash trucks we’ll be able to benefit tremendously.”

The city is negotiating with Monument Oil to determine the price at which CNG will sell to the public.

For the time being, the city will tap into an Xcel Energy line for CNG. Eventually, officials plan to convert methane that is being flared off from the Persigo Wastewater Treatment Plant into use for vehicles, allowing the city to realize additional savings.


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