Natural-gas use gains traction on Western Slope

Dallas resident Michael Dawson, who works for Schwob Energy Services, fills his truck with compressed natural gas Wednesday morning at the Monument Fuels CNG fueling station at 2553 Riverside Parkway.

Natural gas is gaining a toehold in Mesa County and elsewhere as a transportation fuel, officials said on a tour of western Colorado that included the opening of a natural-gas filling station in Parachute.

Growth at the natural-gas filling station operated by Monument Clean Fuels in cooperation with Grand Junction has been “pretty steady,” said Jason Farrington of Monument Clean Fuels.

Increases have run at the pace of the equivalent of a couple hundred gallons a month at the station at 2553 Riverside Parkway, Farrington said, noting the station has hit sales peaks of 2,500 gallons per month.

The Grand Junction station is one of four in the area stretching from Glenwood Springs to Grand Junction.

The fourth station, one by Encana Natural Gas Inc. at a conventional Shell service station in Parachute, opened Wednesday as part of a rolling tour of compressed natural gas facilities sponsored by several organizations, including the Western Slope CNG Collaborative, Refuel Colorado Fleets, CLEER: Clean Energy Economy for the Region, the city of Grand Junction, Garfield Clean Energy and others.

The immediate emphasis on expanding the market reach of natural gas is on fleets owned by governments, private businesses or nonprofit organizations, but some private vehicles are evidently using the Grand Junction station, possibly as they pass though town, Farrington said.

Monument Clean Fuels and Mesa County are considering a similar project on the east end of the Grand Valley, so that heavy equipment could be refueled without having travel to the center of the valley, Mesa County Commissioner Steve Acquafresca said.

“The writing’s on the wall to convert our transportation system” to natural gas, Acquafresca said.

Grand Junction and Grand Valley Transit already are well into converting trucks and buses to natural gas.

GVT is now breaking even on its investment in buses that run on natural gas fuel and is looking to making money for several years on the deal, Acquafresca said.

Swallow Oil Co., which has a CNG station in Rifle, sees sales of 3,500 gallons a month, an increasing share of it being from interstate travel, owner Kirk Swallow said.

Three Waste Management trucks filled up with natural gas in Rifle on Wednesday morning on their way to California or Utah, Swallow said.

Until he opened his station, CNG-fueled vehicles couldn’t reach Utah or points west on Interstate 70 because of the lack of fueling stations, Swallow said.

Even if natural-gas prices double, the increase won’t have the same effect on the pump price because the actual fuel costs in the case of natural gas are less than that of diesel, said Mike Ogburn, an engineer with CLEER. The cost of diesel amounts to 64 percent of its price at the pump, while the cost of natural gas accounts for 26 percent of the pump cost, Ogburn said.

Encana Natural Gas Inc., a subsidiary of Encana Corp., one of the two companies most involved in developing the natural gas of the Piceance Basin in northwest Colorado, last year saved nearly $16 million by using natural gas instead of diesel and gasoline, Vice President Matt Most said.

Encana has converted nearly 57 percent of its drilling rigs and about 29 percent of its fleet vehicles to natural gas, Most said.

The implications for the region are significant, according to David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

“Everyone in western Colorado will surely benefit economically as we work together to develop and expand CNG’s use,” Ludlam said.


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