Stimulus cash to boost Utah's CNG network
The Salt Lake Tribuen
August 27, 2009
Nearly $15 million in federal stimulus funding will allow Utah to ramp up its already-expanding network of natural-gas fueling stations.
The compressed natural gas [CNG] outlets operated by Questar and the state will swell from 25 to 41, giving motorists broader coverage of the state and faster refills.
The Department of Energy grant to Utah Clean Cities also will buy three new liquid natural gas stations, three new biodiesel stations and 678 alternative-fueled vehicles for state and local government fleets.
The money will pay for an upgrade in compression at Utah's existing public-access CNG stations -- 19 operated by Questar Gas and six by the state -- enabling people to pump quickly regardless of demand at the stations.
"It's going to be huge for Utah," said Robin Erickson, executive director of the nonprofit coalition Utah Clean Cities.
DOE estimates that Utah's grant -- from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act -- will offset 1.1 million gallons of gasoline.
"This directly displaces gasoline, refined petroleum and imports that, of course, become a significant area of focus," said Dianne Nielson, the governor's energy adviser.
Former Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. pushed to widen the statewide network to improve air quality and use fuels produced in the state. Questar participated in his initiative, agreeing last winter to bolster compression at its stations. The federal money gives the program a much larger bounce.
"It takes us so much further so much faster than we could have gone without the funding," Nielson said. "The planned new CNG stations are almost entirely in the core of the Wasatch Front -- Ogden to Salt Lake City to Orem -- where air pollution is worst. The rest are planned for Beaver, Hurricane and Washington.
Upgrades are planned at stations from Perry to St. George, and away from the Interstate 15 corridor in Logan, Price and Richfield.
The money goes to a mix of private and public sources, including Questar and service stations that sell biodiesel, Erickson said. Questar spokesman Darren Shephard said the utility is eager to keep up the expansion.
"If this is the direction the state is going," Shephard said, "we certainly support them 100 percent."
The grant will not solve one problem for Utah CNG vehicle drivers: having to stick close to the I-15 corridor for refueling. The state is working on future expansions along I-80, I-70 and in the Uinta Basin, but not immediately and not with this money.
Still, the nationwide grant program does hold some promise for drivers who want to get farther from home and still make it back. Treasure Valley Clean Cities, in the Boise area, got $5.5 million to install CNG fueling stations. That puts more of Idaho within reach on a full tank.
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