Gassing up CNG effort

Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca, second form left, explains the benefits of compressed natural gas vehicles Wednesday during the monthly energy forum at the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce. New pickups that can run on compressed natural gas or gasoline were on display.

An effort to attract another compressed natural gas location in the Grand Valley kicked off Wednesday as organizers pitched a plan to encourage CNG for fleets.

With luck, said Mike Ogburn, the plan will “solve the chicken-and-egg problem with alternative fuels.”

Ogburn, who heads the clean-vehicle technology program for Clean Energy Economy for the Region, said commitments by fleet owners to purchase CNG-powered vehicles could attract federal money that would help build another Grand Valley filling station.

Colorado is to receive $7 million in a Congestion Management and Air Quality grant later this summer, Ogburn said.

Organizers hope to capture $500,000 from the grant for Mesa County, which, combined with commitments for fuel purchases, could lure a CNG supplier, Ogburn said.

Once the state is ready to seek grant applications, he’s hoping Mesa County will be ready to pounce, Ogburn said, but, “This has to be a community-led effort.”

The Mesa County working group for the grant already has several members and is looking for more.

“It’s a no-brainer for us to show leadership” to attract a new filling station, said David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

Ogburn spoke to the Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce energy briefing on Wednesday. His CLEER organization also showed two pickups, one a Ford and the other a Chevrolet, that can run on compressed natural gas or gasoline.

The focus is on fleet vehicles, but the Big Three domestic automakers all are working on expanding their offerings beyond pickups.

A CNG-powered Chevrolet Impala is to be introduced later this year and Ford also is working to develop several CNG vehicles, Ogburn said.

There are some 15 million CNG-powered vehicles on the road around the world, about 10 percent of them in the United States, so there is a market waiting to be served, Ogburn said.

The city of Grand Junction and Monument Clean Fuels jointly operate the CNG filling station at 2553 Riverside Parkway.

The city, which operates 19 vehicles that run on compressed natural gas, is planning to add 10 pumps to the 10 it already uses at the station, said Jay Valentine, internal services manager.

The city would welcome a second CNG station, Valentine said, noting that it would provide backup should there be a problem with the Riverside station.

Through 2013, the city used an average of 1,500 gallons a month, saving $2.37 a gallon over diesel, Valentine said.

A Love’s station under construction in the Grand Valley is listed as being “feasible” for CNG, said Clinton Cripe, director of the Energy Management program at Colorado Mesa University.

Love’s stations already provide CNG filling capabilities in Oklahoma and Texas along with diesel and gasoline, Cripe said.


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