Appalachian Basin

Natural Gas Vehicle Summit Helps Businesses, Municipalities Consider Transition to CNG

This week, Energy in Depth – Ohio visited Ohio State University for the Ohio Natural Gas Vehicle Summit. The event was put on by America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) in coordination with Governor John Kasich’s office and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.  The purpose of the summit was to bring together experts on energy and transportation to discuss strategies for increased use and manufacturing of natural gas vehicles.  At Governor Kasich’s energy summit last year, he explained the goal of expanding the use of NGVs because of their low emissions and lower cost of operating.  Yesterday’s summit aimed to aid in that goal.

A common theme among the event’s speakers was the timing of widespread transition to natural gas vehicles.  Many expressed that there have been several attempts over the past couple decades, but because of low natural gas prices due to shale development, now is the time. ANGA provided some statistics to the event’s guests that show the incredible benefits of natural gas.  According to a 2012 analysis by IHS Global Insight, the unconventional gas in Ohio is responsible for 31,462 total jobs in 2010 and that number is projected to increase to 81,349 by 2035.  It’s also responsible for $2.03 billion in total labor income in 2010 and projected to increase to $5.2 billion for Ohio workers by 2035.  The analysis also showed that between 2010 and 2015, the top 10 states producing unconventional natural gas, which includes Ohio, will experience a compound annual job growth of nearly 8%, while total U.S. employment is expected to grow at a significantly lower rate of 1.6% during the same period.

Jimmy Stewart, President of the Ohio Gas Association took a few minutes to chat with us about the state of natural gas prices and the benefits and obstacles of transitioning to compressed natural gas:

Well I actually have been driving a natural gas vehicle since February. There are a lot of benefits to it.  Obviously the fuel is much cheaper and in the handful of stations here in central Ohio, prices tend to range anywhere from about $1.80 a gallon equivalent to about $2.00 a gallon equivalent. The fuel burns a lot cleaner and the fuel is all from North America, almost exclusively from the United States, so there’s something to be said for that as well—Jimmy Stewart, President Ohio Gas Association (:21)

The day included numerous panels from the “Heavy and Light Duty Panel” and the “Vehicle Technology Panel” to the “CNG Fueling Infrastructure and Regulation Panel” and the “State Policy Takeaway Panel”.  Between panel discussions, the Keynote address was given by Todd Snitchler, Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. In his speech, Snitchler said PUCO has pushed for increased use of NGVs through several avenues.  He said they’ve reached out to states to see what they’ve put in place and if they’ve used incentives and are reaching out to dealers of both heavy and light duty NGVs. Snitchler says municipalities and companies are ideal to make a switch to natural gas because they operate in fleets and use central fueling locations.  He also expressed the importance of making sure fueling stations are equally distributed around Ohio to encourage transitions.  Snitchler stepped out of the summit to chat with Energy in Depth:

This summit today is kind of the outcome of a lot of what we’ve learned in an effort to try to make sure that the industry partners who are already working in this space can further develop that relationship and also offer education about how we can get from here to where there is a greater adoption of natural gas vehicles going forward—Todd Snitchler, PUCO Chairman (:38)

Guests of the summit were also treated to an address by a surprise special guest: Ohio Governor John Kasich.  He encouraged business to consider making the switch to NGVs and said the state will help when they can.  Columbus Business First captured some of his remarks:

“The state can do what we can to jump-start this with vehicles in our fleets, but it’s going to be the business leaders. (They) have to show this is something they care about.—“Kasich: Businesses should embrace natural gas vehicles” (10/9/12)

Energy in Depth was able to catch some of Governor Kasich’s speech on video:

Frankly, we want laws in Ohio to be our greatest advocates, because they want their sons and daughters to have jobs. This whole industry is about jobs—Governor John Kasich (7:06)

Near the end of the day, the crowd perked up for the “Success Story Panel Discussion” featuring five groups that made a successful switch to CNG vehicles, plan to switch, or benefitted from those switching.  Chuck Diehl of Smith Dairy moderated the panel and explained how the company decided to transition some of its vehicles and open a fueling station to the public in Orrville.  First, they looked at it from an environmental standpoint. The leadership at Smith Dairy knew natural gas emissions were significantly lower than those from diesel.  Second, their economic findings encouraged them.  Third, they liked the idea of increased involvement with the community.  By opening a public fueling station, they were a positive presence in the area for something other than their excellent dairy products.  Another success story came from Kirt Conrad of the Stark Area Regional Transit Authority.  Not only did they convert their fleet to CNG, but they also had one of the first public fueling stations in Ohio.  The other success stories came from the Central Ohio Transit Authority, whom plans to have 30 CNG buses running in May 2013; the City of Hamilton, whom partnered with Clean Fuels Ohio to convert 4 city vehicles to CNG and open a station in 2013; and Ariel Corp whom is providing compressors to those making the transition, making the company the world’s largest manufacturer of compressors utilized by the energy industry.

The NGV Summit made it clear that Ohio is making strides in the use of natural gas vehicles.  Shale development has created steady, low natural gas prices, encouraging businesses, municipalities, public transits, and individuals to choose a vehicle that runs on cheaper and more environmentally friendly fuel.  I will be exciting to watch development over the coming years as Ohio takes the lead in this growing industry.

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