Utility Petitions BPU to Build Compressed Natural Gas Refueling Stations

Tom Johnson | September 9, 2013 | Energy & Environment
Refueling infrastructure could help get CNG vehicles on road faster, cut down pollution from gas- and diesel-fueled cars and trucks

cng refueling station
Elizabethtown Gas is asking the state to allow it to build compressed natural gas stations to enable its diesel-burning vehicles to run on the cleaner and less costly fossil fuel.

In a petition filed with the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities last week, the utility proposed a plan to allow both public and commercial vehicles access to the so-called CNG stations as a viable option to the gasoline- and diesel-fueled fleets operating in the state.

The proposal is aligned with a key recommendation in a relatively new state Energy Master Plan, which proposes developing CNG stations as a way of converting companies with large fleets of diesel-burning vehicles to run on natural gas.

The utility developed the plan following a comprehensive study that concluded the market for compressed natural gas is largely constrained due to the limited availability of infrastructure to support vehicles.

A similar issue is issue facing plug-in electric vehicles in the state. Not many plug-in charging stations have been installed in New Jersey. There are some at train stations, like Trenton, a dozen or so at a Newark parking lot at Public Service Electric & Gas — the state’s largest utility — and the rest are scattered, including one at a restaurant in Montclair.

How to promote the use of cleaner-running vehicles is a big issue among clean energy advocates. They say the state will never meet its aggressive goals for reducing emissions that contribute to global climate change unless it addresses the pollution from vehicles, which spew large amounts of greenhouse gases.

“There are only six public CNG fueling stations in New Jersey, and five of them are located in the southern part of the state. We strongly believe state utilities have an important role to play to stimulate private investment in CNG stations and vehicles, and our proposal will help bring additional stations to other parts of the state,’’ said Brian MacLean, the vice president of operations at Elizabethtown Gas.

CNG, a product of natural gas, is a cost-effective and more environmentally friendly alternative to petroleum-based fuels. The average price of CNG in the Mid-Atlantic is $2.10 per gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE), compared to $3.61 per gallon for gasoline and $3.98 per gallon for diesel, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Elizabethtown is not the only utility seeking to convert fleets to run on compressed natural gas. Last year, the BPU approved a $10 million plan by New Jersey Natural Gas (NJNG) to build natural gas refueling stations in its territory, largely located in central Jersey and portions of the coastal counties.

Natural gas-fueled vehicles produce up to 30 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum-fueled ones. Converting just one refuse truck from diesel to natural has an emissions reduction impact equivalent to taking 325 petroleum-fueled vehicles off the road.

Elizabethtown has been operating natural gas pumps at its facility in Union County since the 1990s.

“Elizabethtown Gas is committed to promoting the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel,’’ MacClean said. “Not only is CNG a cost-effective fuel, but it also is a greener energy choice that can help companies reduce their reliance on petroleum-based fuels and meet sustainability requirements and goals.’’