The Mahoning Valley will fall in line with a growing national trend when a Dublin, Ohio-based company begins construction on the region’s first compressed natural gas filling station before year’s end.
The two-dispenser station, expected to cost up to $2.5 million, will be built at the Mr. Fuel truck stop and gas station at 2840 Salt Springs Road in Weathersfield Township. IGS Energy CNG Services has formed a partnership for its CNG dispensers to sit adjacent to Mr. Fuel’s gasoline pumps.
Nearly 90 percent of the nation’s natural gas is being produced domestically, and the shale gas boom has upended the energy market and made the commodity a competitor in nearly every energy-consuming sector, including transportation, where producers are looking to open new markets.
Compressed natural gas, which is stored onboard a vehicle in cylinders at a pressure of between 3,000 and 3,600 pounds per square inch, has about the same fuel economy as a conventional gasoline vehicle, but it sells for far less. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. national average for CNG on Tuesday was $2.10 per gasoline gallon equivalent — $1.51 less than a gallon of regular-grade gasoline.
In addition to its lower price, commercial fleets, municipalities and a handful of consumers have turned to CNG vehicles because, on average, they produce between 60 percent and 90 percent less smog-producing pollutants.
Dave Mrowzinski, CNG program manager at IGS, said demand for the fuel source is growing in and around Youngstown. He added that the excitement surrounding natural gas in the area made the region a compelling choice for the company’s next station. Most of the gas at the station will come from producers operating in the Utica Shale, and it will be delivered by Dominion East Ohio, the area’s natural gas utility company with pipelines tapped into wells throughout eastern Ohio.
IGS first got involved in CNG facilities when the city of Dublin contracted with the company to allow public access to a filling station it opened last summer for its municipal fleet. The city has estimated that it will save $30,000 per year by filling its vehicles with CNG.
Mrowzinski said he does not yet know if any local municipalities have plans to convert to CNG, but he said part of the challenge is building the infrastructure that would motivate them to do so, which is one reason why IGS is bringing a station to the Valley, he said.
George Wrataric, fleet manager at CNG Solutions of Ohio in McDonald, which converts diesel and gasoline vehicles to run on CNG, said the IGS announcement was “fantastic news” for his business and the region. Wrataric has fleet customers and individual consumers who have said they will convert their vehicles the moment CNG infrastructure becomes available in the area. Ohio is among several states across the country, including Texas, Florida and California, among others, that are promoting more CNG and liquefied natural gas filling stations.
Last summer alone, TravelCenters of America said it would construct 100 LNG filling stations across the country, including many in Ohio, for long-haul freight trucks, while Giant Eagle, Petro Stopping Centers and Shell made similar plans for the state.
IGS and CNG Solutions both confirmed on Tuesday plans for more CNG stations in the Mahoning Valley.