Natural gas fueling station eyed in Dunbar
Author: Bob Stiles
Date: February 15, 2015
Fayette County would get a big boost if a compressed natural gas fueling station is built at the bus transit headquarters in Dunbar Township, county transportation officials said.
“It would be huge for Fayette County,” said Kim Renze, Fayette Area Coordinated Transportation operational manager.
“We are interested, and they have contacted us as one of the potential sites,” added Lori Groover-Smith, county transit authority director.
The state and PennDOT want to set up 37 fueling stations at transit agencies across the state. They would supply fuel to commercial and passenger vehicles to use abundant compressed natural gas, or CNG, which costs less than diesel or gasoline and is generally regarded as a better alternative from an environmental standpoint.
The Fayette transit group will benefit from lower fuel costs, and county residents will have a place to get the natural gas as its use becomes more popular, both big pluses, Renze said.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike's New Stanton plaza in Westmoreland County is the closest public natural gas fueling site to Fayette County, Renze said. The plaza is the first on the 360-mile toll road to offer commercial and public natural gas fueling.
In January, PennDOT invited four teams from across the nation — most with ties to Pennsylvania — to submit proposals to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the fueling depots at transit sites. PennDOT expects to select the vendor by late summer or early fall.
Westmoreland County Transit Authority jumped at being one of the 37 sites, said Alan Blahovec, executive director.
“We said, ‘Yes, absolutely,' ” he said.
Westmoreland will have to renovate its maintenance center in Hempfield to be able to become a natural gas fueling depot, Blahovec said.
Like Renze, Blahovec said he likes that the transit authority can use the fuel at a lower cost and the buses will have less effect on the environment.
Some royalties from fuel sales will go to PennDOT and then back to transit agencies to help pay costs for buses that use natural gas, another plus, Blahovec said.
Fayette has 10 large buses that can carry 22 or more passengers. Six of the 10 could be converted to CNG — if Renze's group wants — at a total cost of $40,000 to $50,000, he said.
Twenty-two small transit buses are used for the shared-ride program and carry 12 to 14 passengers. Eighteen of them could be converted to CNG at a total cost between $60,000 and $70,000, Renze said. The remaining four buses are near the end of their usefulness, he explained.
Conversion of diesel-powered buses is “significantly more” than changing a gasoline-powered bus engine, Renze said.
Groover-Smith anticipated her agency, which receives funding from federal, state and county governments, as does the Westmoreland group, might convert some buses and buy new natural gas-fueled buses when replacing members of its current fleet.
None of Westmoreland's 41 vehicles can be converted, Blahovec said. But several are due for replacement next year, and CNG-powered vehicles could be purchased, he said.