Natural Gas Vehicles

Staff and two trucks webThe Westmoreland Conservation District, an organization that promotes the wise use of our natural resources, uses two clean-burning bi-fuel natural gas vehicles and installed a “slow-fill” station on its campus to fuel them.

The Vehicles

The vehicles – two Ford F150 pickup trucks – are being used by the conservation district’s technical staff, who travel to farms, forests, and commercial and residential development sites throughout Westmoreland County to ensure that work being done there includes measures to protect our natural resources.

“Our staff drive a total of about 18,000 miles every year in the course of our work, and so when we had a chance to reduce the impact of that travel, improve air quality, and reduce dependence on imported fuel – all of which the natural gas vehicles do – we were all for it,” said Greg Phillips, Westmoreland Conservation District manager/CEO.  “Natural gas vehicles are a perfect fit with our mission of protecting the environment and conserving resources.”

The vehicles were purchased locally as traditional gasoline-powered pickup trucks and converted at a cost of $9,500 each by Alternative Fuel Solutions of Mehaffey, Pennsylvania to also run on natural gas.

Each truck’s natural gas capacity is equivalent to 21.5 gallons of gasoline, which the organization estimates will provide about 450 miles of travel per fill-up.

“We’ve had the vehicles in operation only a short amount of time, but we anticipate that using compressed natural gas will result in significant fuel cost savings for our organization – perhaps as much as $1,500 a year.  We also expect to save on some of the traditional vehicle operating expenses because there is less wear and tear on the engines with compressed natural gas, and less need for preventative maintenance (oil changes and general engine service),” Phillips said.

Using compressed natural gas also benefits the environment, avoiding possible fuel spills into waterways and significantly reducing emissions, including a 29% reduction in greenhouse gases compared to comparable gasoline vehicles, and reductions in NOx, volatile organic compounds, and particulates.

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The Slow-fill Station

The station that fills the vehicles with natural gas is very compact, about 3 feet by 3 feet by 5 feet, which is the size that a homeowner with a natural gas vehicle might some day have.

The station uses a dryer to remove any excess moisture from the gas and a compressor that fills the vehicles over a period of about eight hours.

“This is a pioneering effort for us, marking the first slow-fill station that Peoples Natural Gas has donated to an organization in our 18-county service territory,” explained Barry Kukovich, the company’s manager of Communications and Community Affairs.

Compressed natural gas fueling stations also made a debut in another part of Westmoreland County just a few weeks before the Westmoreland Conservation District acquired its station.  In November 2014, Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission officials unveiled three “fast-fill” compressed natural gas fueling stations at the New Stanton service plaza, making it the first of the turnpike’s 17 plazas to offer the alternative fuel.

More than 112,000 vehicles in the U.S. run on compressed natural gas, according to the Department of Energy.

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