Commonwealth Journal

December 12, 2012

Natural gas station almost ready to open

Mayor Girdler expects fuel pump to draw 200-300 cars daily

by Bill Mardis
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset —  

A credit card reading device, now on order, is the only thing standing in the way of Somerset having one of the first compressed natural gas fueling stations open 24/7 for public use in Kentucky.
It should happen within a couple of weeks, according to Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler. The pump, located at the City of Somerset Fuel Center on Chappell’s Dairy Road, will be similar to any service station pump and will take credit cards.
“Compressed natural gas is available now at the fueling center, but people want to use their credit cards,” Girdler said. Fill-ups with a single pole dispenser that require an attendant are done by appointment. Nonetheless, the mayor says a “steady stream” of vehicles are filling up with compressed natural gas at the fuel center during daytime business hours.
Lack of fueling stations is the current problem with natural gas powered vehicles. For example, when Somerset took delivery of its first Honda Civic, city officials had to take it to Wartburg, Tennessee for a fill-up. 
Not only are vehicles powered by compressed natural gas more environmentally friendly, a real savings is realized at the pump.
“I drove a Honda Civic to Louisville on less than $10 worth of natural gas,” Girdler noted. A full cylinder of compressed natural gas at about $1.50 a gallon will power a Honda Civic between 250 and 300 miles. The Honda Civic gets about 37 mph and performs exactly as a gasoline-powered car. 
When the compressed natural gas pump that accepts credit cards is ready, Girdler expects between 200 and 300 cars daily to fill up their natural gas-powered vehicles here.
“These are new people coming to Somerset that will eat at our restaurants and shop in our stores,” the mayor said. He expects Somerset to be a focal point for supplies of compressed natural gas until similar facilities are developed along interstate highways sometime in the future.
Consumer Energy Center, a division of California Energy Commission, says natural gas powers more than 12 million vehicles around the world, but only about 250,000 are in the United States. However, the number of natural gas powered vehicles in the United States has been increasing by 3.7 percent each year.
Somerset is replacing its 75-vehicle fleet with cars and trucks that use compressed natural gas. At last report the city has three Honda Civic cars and two F-150 Ford pickups, all of which use compressed natural gas. A new Dodge truck was on order and the city has just purchased for $225,000 a new compressed natural gas sanitation truck to replace one of its large garbage collection vehicles.
Compressed natural gas, a readily available alternative to gasoline, is made by compressing natural gas to less than 1 percent of its volume at standard atmospheric pressure. Somerset, with its abundance of natural gas, is trying to take advantage of what city officials believe is the energy source of the future.
The current problem is fueling stations. There are 12,000 around the world, but only 500 public stations in the United States. The Somerset fueling station, when operative, will be one of the first, if not the first, in Kentucky. 
A recent report on CNN detailed efforts to fuel diesel trucks on interstates with compressed natural gas. The report noted scarcity of fueling stations as the biggest obstacle.
Obviously, Somerset’s fueling station is a bit off the beaten track for interstate traffic. However, Girdler, noting the recently purchased sanitation vehicle, said a bigger compressor has been installed at the fuel center and the local compressed natural gas pump will accommodate large trucks.
And, with Somerset located between I-65 and !-75, a relatively short detour east on Cumberland Parkway, south along Ky. 461 or west along Ky. 80 might be better than an empty tank.