, , ,

A recap of Hydrogen @ Scale in Utah

Hydrogen @ Scale in Utah is a turning point for Utah’s energy sector by highlighting various renewable hydrogen related projects. Our statewide partnerships are truly leading the way in implementing clean transportation options that make sense for both our urban and rural communities.  We are excited to be a part of this opportunity to highlight the innovation and high profile projects currently energizing our state. Utah Clean Cities, Lancer Energy and our close working network of energy sector partners and clean air advocates are focusing on advanced fuel and energy options to propel Utah into the future of clean transportation.

 

 

, , , ,

Why Utah aims to be the ‘hydrogen hub for the crossroads of the West’

Posted on October 19, 2021

By Carter Williams with KSL Radio

Article 

SALT LAKE CITY — As a trailer holding a hydrogen-power generator remained open parked next to the steps of the Utah Capitol, an attendee of a Utah event highlighting the future of the alternative fuel sources peered in to see how it worked.

“This is impressive,” he muttered, staring at one of the hydrogen storage devices inside the trailer.

The scene may have looked futuristic to some. The hydrogen-powered generator was hauled in by a truck powered by methane-captured natural gas and the zero-emission device was also being used to power an electric vehicle.

But the scene wasn’t futuristic at all. It was very much in the present — and all three power sources are growing in Utah.

“The future of (advanced) fuels is here … those are all fuels that are here in Utah,” said Scott Brandeberry, the CEO of Lancer Energy, a Utah-based company that focuses on turning hydrogen and methane into energy, referencing the three energy sources of the items parked outside of the building.

Tuesday’s event — hosted by Lancer Energy and the Utah Clean Cities Coalition — showcased how Utah is making massive strides in hydrogen and other advanced fuel sources. Hydrogen, renewable natural gas (methane), and electric vehicles can all drastically improve Utah’s air quality not just in the future but now, the event organizers said.

It brought in dozens of energy investors from all over the country to Utah so they could see firsthand how hydrogen and other advanced fuels can reshape the future of transportation and energy.

As Rep. Melissa Ballard, R-North Salt Lake, put it: “We’re going to be the hydrogen hub for the crossroads of the West.”

“We have the opportunity at utility-scale to produce and distribute from many applications and we have Utah manufacturers who are making these applications for Utahns and also to be distributed across the country,” she continued.

Attendees of an event highlighting the future of the alternative fuel check out a display of renewable natural gas, hydrogen and electric vehicles Tuesday.
Tuesday’s event also highlighted efforts within the renewable natural gas (converting methane into energy) and electric vehicle fields, which can also help reduce vehicle emissions. For instance, Ballard pointed to projects in Utah that have the ability to capture methane from hog farms and wastewater and turn it into energy.

However, hydrogen was the star of the show.

All in on hydrogen

Tammie Bostick, the executive director for Utah Clean Cities Coalition, said the Beehive State is now among the leader of the nation in hydrogen fuel deployment. There are a handful of current and future projects across the state aimed at producing, storing and utilizing hydrogen.

So how did Utah get here and why?

First, hydrogen has actually been classified as an alternative fuel for nearly three decades now. It was included in that category under the Energy Policy Act of 1992, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Bostick said hydrogen wasn’t exactly a forgotten alternative fuel source all these years but it was certainly underutilized in the energy sector.

“I think we were so heavily dependent on two fuels, gas and diesel, and all of our national interests were invested in that. So hydrogen was just essentially part of the drilling process but wasted or captured and used in a small way,” she said. “But it is a very strong and powerful fuel.”

The Department of Energy points out that a hydrogen fuel cell paired with an electric motor is “two to three times more efficient” than a traditional internal combustion engine that runs on gasoline. It also only emits water vapor and warm air, so it is considered a zero-emission source.

That captured the attention of Utah lawmakers in recent years, especially members of the bipartisan Utah Clean Air Caucus, as they searched for solutions on how to reduce carbon emissions and improve the state’s air quality. Per a report from the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute published last year, Utah emitted about 59 tons of carbon dioxide in 2016 and averages about 19.3 metric tons per person annually. Researchers say vehicles account for roughly half of the pollution produced.

There have been a handful of bills proposed and even passed in the Utah Legislature regarding hydrogen in recent years, with a push to increase production and fueling stations in the state. Ballard said Utah will open its first hydrogen fueling station early next year; there are currently just three states that currently have stations.

The $150 million public infrastructure district that the Utah Inland Port Authority passed last week also includes funding for a future hydrogen refueling station. Jack Hedge, the executive director of the Utah Inland Port Authority, spoke briefly on the Utah Inland Port refueling station project. The plan calls for it to include renewable natural gas and electric vehicle stations, in addition to hydrogen.

Hedge referred to trucks as the “lifeblood of the economy” because 90% of all goods are transported by them; however, he pointed out that diesel-fueled trucks produce a heavy amount of carbon emissions among the vehicles on Utah roads. He said it’s why the port authority sought funding for alternative fuels.

In a somewhat similar context, Ballard said there’s a bill in the works for the 2022 legislative session that will “strongly encourage” Utah freight switchers — trains that move goods around railyards — to convert to zero-emission sources beginning in 2025. Some companies are already looking at hydrogen as an alternative for freight trains.

An electric vehicle is charged by a hydrogen power generator during an event outside of the Utah Capitol Tuesday.

In addition to freight, Bostick said she’s thrilled about a future plant in Kane County that will capture methane from wastewater and turn it into hydrogen. The byproduct will then be converted into electricity that will run electric vehicle shuttles at the east entrance of Zion National Park.

Kim Frost, the executive director for Utah Clean Air Partnership, otherwise known as UCAIR, said it’s “exciting” to learn about the potential of hydrogen. That’s because she believes it can aid the key reason that got Utah interested in the first place.

“Using hydrogen along with other alternative fuel vehicles, such as electric and hybrid, for transportation, has the potential to be incredibly beneficial to improving our air here in Utah,” she said.

A ‘promising new future’

Hydrogen has also captured the attention of national leaders for the same reason Utah leaders zeroed in on it. President Joe Biden earlier this year set a target for the U.S. to cut its greenhouse gas pollution in half by 2030 and hydrogen was listed as one of the ways to do it.

“The United States can address carbon pollution from industrial processes by supporting carbon capture as well as new sources of hydrogen — produced from renewable energy, nuclear energy, or waste — to power industrial facilities,” White House officials wrote in April. “The government can use its procurement power to support early markets for these very low- and zero-carbon industrial goods.”

Producers of hydrogen energy feel also confident about its future. Mauricio Vargas, the CEO of New Mexico-based energy company Bayotech, which manufactures the hydrogen-powered generator that was on display Tuesday and will oversee that future hydrogen refueling station at the Inland Port, said the company’s hydrogen technology is already “at parity” with diesel in cost.

Hydrogen fuel cells, Bostick added, aren’t just a possible solution to emissions challenges; they can also help overcome barriers to other alternative sources. Case in point, it can be paired with solar electricity to help run battery cells at night.

All of these are helping the industry grow. Bayotech, for example, received an investment of up to $157 million earlier this year, allowing it to drastically upscale its business. In addition to Lancer and Bayotech, Big Navajo Energy, Dominion Energy, Renewable Innovations and Stadler Rail are all companies with ties in Utah to produce hydrogen or build products with it, according to Utah Clean Cities.

For Vargas, his business’s growth is proof that energy innovation can be both impactful and lucrative.

“Clean energy products like this provide tens of millions of dollars in direct investment and create high-value jobs,” he said. “It offers opportunities for a state to pivot to a promising new future.”

 

, , ,

A Beginners Guide to Hydrogen Energy in Utah

Utah Clean Cities and Lancer Energy is hosting Hydrogen @ Scale in Utah, an Advanced Fuels event focusing on hydrogen projects throughout the state. 

The event is on October 19, 2021 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the south steps of the Utah State Capitol. If you are interested in attending, please register here. 

 

A Beginners Guide to Hydrogen Energy in Utah 

Over the last decade, Hydrogen has become a major consideration in the realm of advanced and cleaner energy options, with the Bidens administration prioritizing the enhancement of hydrogen technologies and projects that acknowledge the “role that hydrogen must play, providing an incredible opportunity for innovation, development and market proliferation internationally” (FCHEA, 2021)

What is Hydrogen? 

Hydrogen (H2) is the simplest and most abundant element in the universe. It exists in water, hydrocarbons (such as methane), and organic matter and as an invisible gas, hydrogen can be used in a variety of technologies to harvest its energy. 

Depending on the source, hydrogen fuel may contain low levels of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Experts say, producing hydrogen from these compounds is one of the challenges of using hydrogen as a fuel.

 

How is Hydrogen Produced?

Hydrogen can be produced from fossil fuels, biomass, and water electrolysis with electricity. The environmental impact and energy efficiency of hydrogen depends on how it is produced. 

Natural Gas Reforming/Gasification: 

  •  Synthesis gas is a mixture of hydrogen, carbon monoxide, and a small amount of carbon dioxide. Syn gas is created by reacting natural gas with high-temperature steam. The carbon monoxide is reacted with water to produce additional hydrogen. A synthesis gas can also be created by reacting coal or biomass with high-temperature steam and oxygen in a pressurized gasifier. This converts the coal or biomass into gaseous components—a process called gasification. The resulting synthesis gas contains hydrogen and carbon monoxide, which is reacted with steam to separate the hydrogen (AFDC). 

Electrolysis: 

  • An electric current splits water into hydrogen and oxygen. If the electricity comes from a renewable source like solar or wind, the result will be considered renewable. (AFDC).
  • Renewable Liquid Reforming: Renewable liquid fuels, such as ethanol, are reacted with high-temperature steam to produce hydrogen near the point of end use (AFDC
  • Fermentation (Biomass): Biomass is converted into sugar-rich feedstocks that can be fermented to produce hydrogen (AFDC).

The U.S. The Department of Energy says hydrogen could help the United States transition to a more advanced energy option but the way hydrogen is produced must reduce overall emissions and provide a renewable and cleaner energy option from well-to-wheel. 

Below are projects that are currently underway in Utah to help explain the different types of hydrogen and how its energy is produced. 

Renewable Hydrogen is produced with no harmful greenhouse gases. Green hydrogen is made by using clean electricity from surplus renewable energy sources, like solar or wind power, to electrolyse water. Electrolysers use an electrochemical reaction to split water into its components of hydrogen and oxygen, emitting zero-carbon dioxide in the process.

The Advanced Clean Energy Storage (ACES) project is located 130 miles south of Salt Lake City. The project is a geological formation called the Salt Dome. The Salt Dome is considered by some to be the largest renewable energy reservoir in the world. 

The project aims to build a storage facility for 1,000 megawatts of clean power, partly by putting hydrogen into underground salt caverns. The owners, Mitsubishi Power say the project is scheduled to be completed by the year 2025 and would combine renewable hydrogen, solid-oxide fuel cells, and compressed air energy storage to produce enough energy to power 150,000 households. There are other forms of hydrogen capture happening across the state.

Carbon Captured Hydrogen is produced by SMR (steam methane reforming) using natural gas. All carbon is captured (99%) then sequestered or used in industrial applications. 

In Utah, AVF Energy is looking at a project that would use Invasive Tree species for a 99% carbon capture.  AVF Energy plans to convert the invasive wood into biochar which has multiple end uses from Green Coal replacement in Steel production to high quality fertiliser and soil amendment. Experts say the renewable hydrogen produced from this technology can be used in transportation applications as a future carbon negative energy source. The Carbon gas captured can be used for Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) in oil wells in Eastern Utah or in Sequestration projects.  

Low Carbon Hydrogen is produced by SMR  (steam methane reforming) using natural gas. This capture requires a combination of renewable and carbon captured hydrogen.  

Located in the Utah Inland Port territory of Salt Lake City, Lancer Energy is building the state’s first super station. Lancer Energy says the station is going to be an SMR unit taking renewable natural gas to hydrogen and then taking the hydrogen through a fuel cell for DC fast charging. 

Lancer Energy is in negotiations for a second super station to be located in Southern Utah. Lancer Energy says this station would connect the ports in Long Beach, California to the Inland Port in Salt Lake City all on renewable fuels. 

Zero Carbon Hydrogen is produced by electrolyzing water using electricity from nuclear power. In the electrolyser, electric energy is used to split water into Hydrogen and oxygen gases. 

Right now, there are no current projects designated as Zero Carbon. This process consumes massive amounts of water and due to the state’s severe drought conditions has been frowned upon by some at the state level. 

Carbon Negative Hydrogen that uses renewable sources and utilized carbon capture technology to remove more carbon than it produces to make a Green, low cost Hydrogen. 

Although hydrogen is a cleaner, more reliable source of energy that can be produced domestically, its long term impacts on the environment are unclear. The federal government is focusing on hydrogen to help address the impacts of harmful emissions, creating the next generation of workforce opportunity, and reducing our impacts to the changing climate. Utah Clean Cities and its partner Lancer Energy supports clean and renewable hydrogen and advanced fuels projects in Utah. 

To learn more about Hydrogen, visit: 

Department of Energy Hydrogen Program 

Alternative Fuels Data Center – Hydrogen Production and Distribution

EERE – Hydrogen Delivery 

White House Fact Sheet: President Biden sets 2030 Greenhouse Gas Pollution Reduction Target Aimed at Creating Good-Paying Untion Jobs and Securing U.S. Leadership on Clean Energy Technologies (April 2021)

 

, ,

Utah Clean Cities Awarded $1.8 Million in Federal Funding for Electric Vehicle Adoption

  MAY 16, 2021

Salt Lake City-based nonprofit Utah Clean Cities was awarded $1.8 million in federal funding last month for the advancement of electric vehicles in the state.

The $1.8 million comes from a partnership between Utah Clean Cities and the U.S. Department of Energy Clean Cities Vehicle Technologies program.

According to Utah Clean Cities, the money will go towards efforts to further the adoption of electric vehicles in the state for both personal and commercial uses.

In a prepared statement, Utah Clean Cities said the infrastructure and education for the transition to electric vehicle technology must be in place for large scale adoption of electric vehicles to be successful.

Executive Director of Utah Clean Cities, Tammie Bostick said: “This project will allow Utah Clean Cities to further develop the electrification movement for both passenger vehicles and fleet vehicles within our state while sharing valuable expertise with our regional and national partners.”

The Park City City Council formally adopted new regulations regarding their electric vehicle infrastructure last November. The changes now require dedicated parking, infrastructure, and charging stations to support electric vehicles in new development and redevelopment projects.

Going forward, 20% of all new off-street parking in the city must be electric vehicle friendly with pre-installed underground wiring in place to support future charging stations. Additionally, 5% of new parking spaces must now have an electric vehicle charging station installed.

More information on Utah Clean Cities and the Department of Energy grant can be found here.

KPCW news reports on climate change issues are brought to you by the Park City Climate Fund at the Park City Community Foundation, an initiative that engages Park City in implementing local, high-impact climate solutions that have potential to be effective in similar communities.

Persuasive Art to Care for our Air

“Ms. Kim, I didn’t know this was a problem before today,” said one student at the end of our art lesson on persuasive art to raise awareness about air pollution and change behavior to reduce it.

Before COVID-19 caused a lockdown in March 2020, we had started an ambitious art project to create a large mural to encourage families to stop idling at pickup and drop off at our school, Mountain West Montessori Academy in South Jordan. This was designed to support Principal Angie Johnson’s kind requests sent through e-mail to families to stop idling as it was harming the health of children and staff at the entrance each day, twice a day. When I asked the 1st, 2nd and 3rd grade students in Lower Elementary (approximately 160 total) if they thought their voices, through art, could successfully change behavior and reduce idling, the response was loud and clear: yes!

Although we were able to put up the “Turn Your Key, Be Idle Free” signs at school that were generously donated by Utah Clean Cities, we had to wait until April 2021 to reintroduce the persuasive art project in a different way that was more adapted to schedule changes and social distancing. Instead of making the large mural, students made individual persuasive artworks to show families the problems that air pollution creates, to educate others about idling, and to suggest various ways we can all reduce air pollution.

The lesson introduced winter inversion, summer ozone, causes and effects, idling, and many ways we can all make a difference to reduce air pollution. It also showcased the artwork of environmental artists such as John Sabraw, Aida Sulova, and Chris Jordan to show students that art can be a powerful tool to help raise awareness and change behavior. Students gave their opinions about what messages the artists were trying to convey, using evidence and reasoning. They also looked at photographs of inversion in the Salt Lake Valley and of children in other cities where air pollution is a major problem, such as Beijing and Los Angeles, expressing complex feelings and empathy for both the air and the people.

Some students were not aware of an air pollution problem in the Salt Lake Valley and others did not know what idling was before the lesson. Some students shared that they had asthma and wanted to ask their neighbors who idle to please stop because it makes it harder for them to breathe. Many students came up with great ideas for how to convey their sadness to see air pollution, their anger when people pollute, their concern for the environment, and their suggestions for improvements (electric cars and tools, no more idling, using other modes of transportation that pollute less, such as biking or horseback riding to school!). Informed and inspired, they created their own art using discarded paper to persuade people to care more about the air.

All artwork was displayed in the school entrance on Earth Day so that everyone could see their messages, either from the car or by walking in to drop off or pick up students. When noticing everyone stopping to look at their art, they saw firsthand that their voices matter and are being heard. “Be Idle Free” posters were hung alongside their work and educational brochures with “Turn Your Key, Be Idle Free” decals were left in the entrance for students, families, and staff to help spread the word. Nearly everything was gone by the end of the day!

The generous donation of educational material and signs for our school has certainly helped students send out their message and has had an impact on our school community, as well as our air quality! I am very proud of the students for using their voices through art to help bring about change that will help Utah, and the world. It is my hope that their artwork can inspire other schools to make efforts to reduce air pollution. We greatly appreciate the support of Utah Clean Cities and believe that, thanks to their participation in our efforts, we have taken a true step forward in reducing air pollution at our school.

See the artwork below!

, ,

Utah joins 14-state partnership to advance infrastructure for electric vehicles

Posted at 12:02 PM, May 03, 2021 and last updated 12:12 PM, May 03, 2021

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah is joining 13 other states, the Department of Energy, and special interest groups to advance the infrastructure for electric vehicles in the United States.

The “Drive Electric USA” group aims to “engage individuals, utilities, legislators, dealerships and others towards removing adoption barriers and accelerating plug-in electric vehicle use in our states,” according to the organization’s website.

According to Utah Clean Cities, another group involved in the initiative, Utah is already ahead of the curve with its EV infrastructure. The state has more than 50 DC fast-charge stations.

“Utah’s focus will be building out rural and state highways. So, we’ll be focusing on gateway communities around national parks, and state and scenic byways, so that’s really exciting,” said Tammie Bostick, Executive Director, Utah Clean Cities.

Drive Electric USA’s plans include setting up EV “chapters” in the participating states, educating utilities and regulation officials, engaging in EV infrastructure planning, increasing the adoption of electric vehicle-based fleets, and working dealers to develop preferred dealer programs.

NASEO Releases Electric Vehicle Charging Needs Assessment

Utah Clean Cities Coalition and National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO) release the “Electric Vehicle Charging Needs Assessment,” a report that identifies needs and opportunities for electric vehicle (EV) fast charging in rural and underserved areas of the intermountain west.

The Assessment was developed in partnership with the CORWest project, a three-year initiative to support EV infrastructure investment and educational opportunities in rural and underserved areas of the intermountain west, with an emphasis on gateway communities to national parks and other recreational destinations in the region. The CORWest project is a collaboration of the REV West states and Clean Cities Coalitions throughout the region. 

The Assessment summarizes key findings from a questionnaire administered to over 500 local governments, electric service providers, and parks or tourism representatives in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, and also reviews EV registration and mapping data to identify infrastructure gaps and other challenges to EV charging deployment in the region. The questionnaire results confirmed that “range anxiety,” lack of infrastructure near recreation sites, and the cost of the vehicles and stations remain significant barriers to EV infrastructure investment. In addition, respondents across the region cited the need for information and education campaigns, including highway signage, EV-focused tourism campaigns, and ride-and-drives. The report includes a summary of potential actions state agencies and Clean Cities Coalitions in the west can take to address these barriers and advance EV deployment.

To download the Assessment, click here.

Natural Gas School Buses Reward District with Fuel Savings & Breathing Cleaner Air

Every day, Utah’s fleet of 2,987 school buses provide transportation to 195,000 children. Out of this amount, which includes 41 school districts and charter schools, the vast majority run on diesel. To reduce emissions and adopt alternative sources of fuels, school districts are integrating compressed natural gas (CNG) buses that emit 40 to 86% less particulate matter into the air than diesel buses. Jordan School District (JSD) is an example of a school district that is making this transition. The district, which serves over 56,400 children living in the communities of Bluffdale, Copperton, Herriman, Riverton, South Jordan and West Jordan, began integrating CNG buses into its fleet 15 years ago. This led JSD to become the largest fleet of CNG buses in the state, with 120 (and actively growing) CNG school buses representing nearly 45% of its fleet and has reduced the use of 60,282 gallons of diesel a year. 

According to JSD Fleet Director Paul Bergera, the motivation to adopt CNG came from the district’s interest in lowering air pollution and improving student and community health.

Research shows that high levels of ozone and PM are linked with increased risks for respiratory issues such as asthma, cardiovascular harm, such as heart disease.  In Utah and in Salt Lake County, the state’s most populous county and where JSD is located, air quality can reach unhealthy levels. This impacts children and other members of the community, including teachers and parents. The air pollutants which are of primary concern include ozone, formed from nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulate matter (PM). In the winter months when the temperature inversion increases, levels of PM rise and air quality issues and health effects can reach unsafe levels. 

PROJECT SCOPE

The initial adoption of CNG buses was made possible by a grant of approximately $14,000 that Utah Clean Cities helped the district acquire. JSD also applied to a series of federal and state cost-share grants which funded 48 of the CNG school buses. In addition to Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) Department of Energy (DOE) funding, JDS has received a clean diesel grant from the federal government, a Volkswagen grant from the Utah State Board of Education and a grant from the State Department of Air Quality.

COALITION PARTICIPATION 

JSD’s adoption of CNG buses has been supported by the Utah Clean Cities Coalition which notifies Utah stakeholders, partners and members of program grants and funding opportunities. According to Fleet Director Paul Bergera, after a grant has been identified the district must request a list of buses from their shop foreman that meet the grant criteria. Next, Bergera gathers the necessary documentation for the application. Once it is completed, he has the district grant writer review the application before submission. After that, it generally takes a couple of months for the district to receive a notification of whether or not they were successful in receiving the grant. If they are successful, Bergeral orders the replacement busses and starts the preparation for the destruction of the old buses. 

COST SAVINGS

The initial cost to acquire one CNG bus is approximately $25,000 to $30,000 more than the cost to acquire a regular school bus. Despite the higher initial cost to acquire CNG buses, JSD has reduced school bus operational costs due to the lower cost per gasoline gallon equivalent of CNG and the acquired rebates. In regards to overall cost savings, JSD said that the school buses were replaced before their normal rotation; however, the grants more than covered the cost difference of purchasing a CNG school bus to replace diesel and have lead to significant fuel savings as CNG can cost as little as 5 to 10 cents per gallon (or less) with the Federal Government’s rebate program. According to JSD, after a 50 cent federal rebate on every gallon of natural gas used in the CNG buses, fuel can at times cost nothing as supply ranges between 50 cents to $1.00 a gallon.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCES 

Fleets such as JSD can examine both the environmental and economic costs and benefits of alternative fuel and advanced vehicles using Argonne National Laboratory’s (Argonne) Alternative Fuel Life-Cycle Environmental and Economic Transportation (AFLEET) Tool. 

ARTICLES ON JSD’S CNG SCHOOL BUS FLEET

Utah Transit Showcases Success with CNG Buses & Plans To Expand with New Garage Facility

The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) provides public transportation throughout the Wasatch Front of Utah, including neighboring communities of Ogden, Park City, Provo, Salt Lake City and Tooele. In 2013, UTA officially adopted alternative sources of energy to their fleet to cut fuel costs, reduce air pollution and increase resiliency within Utah’s public transportation sector. Utah Clean Cities (UCC) was one of the original partners involved in this transition and is proud to support UTA’s adoption of electric powered buses and CNG powered engines. 

“It’s no secret the Wasatch Front’s poor air quality poses significant problems for residents. Utah’s most populous region has many days with pollution reaching dangerous levels. This situation significantly increases the health risks to the breathing-impaired, children and the elderly,” said Kyle Stockley, Vehicle Overhaul & Bus Support Manager at UTA. “Additionally, poor air quality has the potential to negatively impact regional economic growth by making Utah a less attractive place for business relocation and expansion.” 

To address this issue and support economic development, energy security and more, UTA has set long term goals to have 1/3 of its fleet include CNG buses, 1/3 electric and 1/3 diesel. To achieve these goals, they are investing over $90 million in the development of a CNG standard garage through a project called the UTA Depot District Clean Fuels Technology Center. When completed, the Depot District will allow UTA to continue to increase its fleet of clean fuel buses such as compressed natural gas (CNG) and electric (EV). Additionally, the Depot District will create jobs, spur economic development and provide sustainable transit options to improve regional air quality and promote public health across the Wasatch Front.

 

PROJECT SCOPE

The motivation behind the Depot District Center includes an increase in energy security, cost savings, emissions reduction and economic development. The total project investment is estimated at approximately $94.8 million, and the facilities should be fully operational by early 2023. 

The site for the Depot District Center, located between 200 South and 400 South, was purchased in 2008 following analysis of other potential locations for a new bus garage that concluded this as the ideal location. In 2012, following the Environmental Analysis, UTA received a “Finding of No Significant Impact” from the Federal Transit Administration and was able to move the project forward. In 2013, 47 CNG buses were purchased by UTA and the Depot District served as garage housing. By 2018, the facility began on-going construction. 

According to UTA’s Benefit-Cost Analysis, due to lack of space in the current antiquated facility that cannot service any additional buses beyond the current 93, there is a need for the new Depot District Center. The facility will be able to maintain 150 buses initially, with the ability to house up to 250 buses by acquiring additional property for bus parking.

 

COALITION PARTICIPATION 

According to Stockley, this project has involved partnerships with many groups on different fronts. The first CNG buses were implemented in partnership with UCC as the coalition worked closely to distribute ARRA funding. Additionally, UTA has worked closely with Salt Lake City on planning for development surrounding the future Depot District and UTA’s Salt Lake Central Station. Furthermore, UTA’s first electric buses were implemented last year in partnership with the University of Utah, New Flyer, CALSTART, Utah State University, Rocky Mountain Power and the Utah Office of Energy Development. 

 

COST SAVINGS 

Project completion will replace the existing aging and undersized bus maintenance facility, saving over $500,000 annually through increased operations and maintenance efficiencies and reduced utility costs. To calculate return on investment and payback period for the project, a 40-year Benefit-Cost Analysis (BCA) was conducted based on a wide range of life-cycle cost savings: fuel cost savings through CNG bus fleet expansion, reduced emission costs through Criteria Air Pollutants (NOx, PM, VOC, SO2), reductions in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) through increased transit ridership from expanded bus service, increased safety (reduced auto crashes, injuries and deaths) and transit-oriented development land value benefits. 

The BCA shows a net present value benefit of $1.88 for every $1 in cost. The itemized breakdown is included below: 

  • $42 million in fuel cost savings through CNG bus fleet expansion
  • $5.7 million in reduced emission costs from CO2 through CNG bus fleet expansion
  • $13 million in reduced emission costs from Criteria Air Pollutants (NOx, PM, VOC, SO2) through CNG bus fleet expansion
  • Savings based on reductions in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) through increased transit ridership from expanded bus service: $74 million in auto fuel savings, $12 million in CO2, NOx, VOCs, PMs and SO2 emission cost savings, and $97 million in increased safety (reduced auto crashes, injuries and deaths)
  • $9.2 million in transit-oriented development land value benefits

 

OUTCOME

Already, the Depot District Center’s CNG fueling facility is supporting 47 CNG buses, which were purchased in 2013 and 2015. The remainder of the facility, currently under construction, is a big step towards formally supporting alternative fuel vehicles as part of UTA’s fleet. With air quality a major concern in Utah this project is essential to increase alternative sources of fuel and lessen dependence on traditional sources of energy.

“The addition of CNG buses results in reduced pollutants of CO2, NO, SO2, Particulates and VOCs. This approves air quality in an area of the country that struggles, because of its geographic formations, with maintaining good air quality,” said UTA. 

The project will also increase fleet resilience and create jobs in an underserved part of the city. The facilities, located west of the railroad tracks and east of Interstate-15, are in a census tract (1025) that qualifies as economically distressed due to its low per capita incomes. More than one-third of the population in this census tract lives below the poverty level and the area houses a significantly higher rate of minorities than Salt Lake County overall. By building a larger Depot District Center in the same neighborhood, jobs will be created in an area that is economically disadvantaged and underserved.