Municipalities eye use of compressed natural gas
Several central Ohio municipalities are pursuing a state Local Government Innovation Fund grant to study the feasibility of using compressed natural gas (CNG) to fuel their vehicles.
According to Natural Gas Vehicles of America (NGVA), an advocate for CNG, the fuel is cheaper to use and releases less harmful emissions than traditional gasoline or diesel fuel.
The Local Government Innovation Fund can provide up to $100,000 for feasibility studies on projects expected to "create more efficient and effective service delivery within a specific discipline of government services for one or more entities," according to the Ohio Department of Development. The grants are awarded twice a year.
New Albany City Council on July 10 authorized City Manager Joseph Stefanov to apply for the $100,000 grant.
Service Director Mark Nemec said New Albany will work with the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) to submit the application. The grant requires a 10-percent match that would be shared by all parties involved.
New Albany is working on the study with Columbus, Dublin, Gahanna, Worthington, Jefferson Township, the Central Ohio Transit Authority, Columbus City Schools and Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools.
The study is intended to show "the feasibility of investing in CNG service vehicles, sharing CNG fueling infrastructure and vehicle maintenance, cooperative CNG vehicle purchasing and employee training," according to the resolution passed by New Albany City Council.
Dublin and Columbus already are using some CNG in vehicles.
Columbus has a CNG fueling station on Groves Road and Dublin opened a CNG fueling station June 28, Dublin spokeswoman Sue Burness said.
Burness said Dublin already has a contract with Columbus allowing Columbus vehicles to refuel in Dublin as needed. She said the city could sign an agreement with other municipalities, as well.
"We're always looking for ways to become more efficient," said Dottie Franey, Gahanna's director of public service. "CNG fueling is one of those options."
Franey said the grant would help the organizations determine the costs associated with converting vehicles to run on CNG and determine the bes location for a fueling site. According to the NGVA, it can cost between $12,000 and $18,000 to convert a vehicle to use CNG. That does not include vehicles that weigh 14,000 pounds or more, such as buses.
Clayton King, owner of Coshocton-based Royalty Enterprises Inc. that installed a CNG fueling station in Newark and owns the one on Alum Creek Drive in Columbus, said the CNG fuel tank is five-and-a-half times bigger than a gasoline tank, which adds to the conversion cost. But, he said, the cost of CNG per gallon right now is about half the cost of diesel fuel.
"It runs cleaner and the (CNG) engines last longer," King said.
He said he has been driving vehicles powered by CNG for more than 15 years.
Nemec said there may also be challenges in storing vehicles filled with CNG.
King said if the vehicles are stored in a closed building that is heated, the building owner would have to have a methane detector on site and an exhaust fan that would kick on if a certain amount of methane is detected from fuel leaks.
Rob Chandler, assistant to Worthington's service director, said Worthington already uses vehicles powered by gasoline, diesel and a combination of gasoline and electricity. He said the city is interested in seeing the costs of converting large dump trucks, off-road equipment and buses used by the parks and recreation department.
"We're supportive (of the study)," Worthington City Manager Matt Greeson said.
Gahanna City Council was expected to consider legislation July 23 authorizing its city manager to sign the grant application, with first and second readings of the legislation in August, Franey said.
Greeson said Worthington is anticipated to consider similar legislation in the next month.
According to the American Public Transportation Association, one-fifth of all transit buses were powered by CNG or liquid natural gas in 2011. The NGVA reports that more than 40 percent of trash trucks purchased in 2011 were powered by CNG.