Work on natural-gas vehicles rolling along
Plans to upgrade and develop the state's CNG corridor are well under way, according to an executive with Utah's largest natural-gas utility.
Speaking Wednesday to the Public Utilities and Technology Interim Committee at the state Capitol, Craig Wagstaff, Questar Gas Co. general manager of customer relations, said the utility plans to spend $12.1 million over the next 18 months on infrastructure for natural-gas vehicles.
"We're in the process of currently laying out our upgrades of 18 stations," he said.
"We plan to move ahead aggressively over the next 18 months upgrading existing stations and bringing on several more," he said.
Today, the state and utility own and operate 25 NGV fueling stations that are open to the public.
Earlier this month, the Utah Clean Cities Coalition's Clean Cities Transportation Sector Petroleum Reduction Technologies Program was awarded $14.9 million to help build 16 new compressed natural gas public fueling stations across the state, pay for upgrades to 24 CNG public fueling facilities, create three new liquefied natural gas fueling stations and three new biodiesel public refueling stations, and increase the number of natural-gas vehicles operating in Utah by 678, a coalition news release stated.
Questar is among 23 partners involved in alternative fuel development in the state, Utah Clean Cities' executive director, Robin Erickson, told the committee.
"We also want to be of assistance, if necessary, in getting natural-gas service to the other recipients of the grant funding," Wagstaff said.
He noted that work has already begun on two new southern Utah stations, as well as stations in Woods Cross and Orem. In addition, increased capacity at four existing stations will result in a 47 percent increase in overall system-wide capacity in Utah, he said.
Both Wagstaff and Erickson urged the state to continue providing incentives to promote the increased use of natural-gas vehicles and other environmentally friendly alternative-fuel vehicles. Currently, natural-gas-vehicle drivers pay about 97 cents per gallon equivalent, compared to nearly $3 for gasoline.
During his presentation, Wagstaff noted that over the past nine years, the United States has lagged far behind other industrialized nations in developing its use of natural-gas-powered vehicles.
"Since 2000, there has been a 30 percent increase in natural-gas vehicle growth (internationally), and just in '07 and '08, a 38 percent growth," he said.
Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil and Iran have more than 1 million natural-gas vehicles on the roads of their respective countries, while the U.S. reports 110,000, he said.
He said that by making the commitment to improve the local natural-gas infrastructure, Utah could become a leader in the move away from petroleum-based fuels produced abroad to domestically produced, clean-burning alternative fuels like natural gas.
"This is about cleaner air and less dependence on foreign oil," Wagstaff said.
© 2009 Deseret News Publishing Company