ABINGDON, Va. – When Josh Price fuels up his work truck, he doesn’t pump unleaded into the tank.
Instead, he hooks up a pressurized hose and fills a tank on the back of his pickup with compressed natural gas.
Price, a compressor technician for Range Resources, drives one of the newly purchased trucks to fill out Range Resources’ fleet of dual-fuel vehicles that run mostly on natural gas. The company, an oil and gas producer with an office in Abingdon, unveiled its local fleet Tuesday morning.
“In 2012, Range Resources made the commitment to effectively walk the walk, and switch the fleet from gas to dual-fuel vehicles,” said Jerry Grantham, vice president of the local division. “Last year, Range had the largest order of dual-fuel vehicles in the nation – 150 vehicles.”
He said one of the most exciting aspects of using natural gas to power vehicles in Southwest Virginia is that natural gas is drilled here.
“It’s really exciting we’re using that gas locally,” he said. “Natural gas burns much cleaner than gas or diesel … but at the end of the day what it’s about is economics.”
He said the equivalent of a gallon of natural gas costs $1 per gallon, as compared with the average $3.46 per gallon of gasoline this week in Bristol.
The payout of the project – buying about a dozen pickup trucks specifically made to accommodate both natural gas and gasoline, as well as the cost of installing the fueling station – will be paid for in about a year, Grantham said. The cost to add the natural gas component to each pickup was about $11,000, Price said.
The truck has separate fuel tanks and can switch between the two at the push of a button. Price said it is difficult to tell which fuel source is being used while driving the pickup.
The gas at the Abingdon fuel station is provided by Atmos Energy, and Price said the main difference between it and natural gas used to heat a home is that it is at a higher pressure for the vehicles.
Local politicians were on hand Tuesday to praise the initiative.
“This is an important event in Southwest Virginia and [shows] how much the gas industry can do for the area,” said state Sen. Bill Carrico, R-Independence.
Range Resources should be commended for its step to use the technology, said state Sen. Phillip Puckett, D-Lebanon.
“This is a Southwest Virginia fuel, a domestic fuel and a clean fuel,” added Delegate Israel O’Quinn, R-Bristol. “This is an exciting day.”
Grantham pointed out several other local businesses that have stepped onto the natural gas vehicle train, including Tri-State Energy Services in Cedar Bluff, Va., which converts vehicles to run on natural gas.
“Over the past few years, it’s become more viable economically,” said Josh Boyd, president of operations for Tri-State, adding that the company deals mostly with businesses that convert their fleets to natural gas. “In the next few years, natural gas will be a popular source of fuel, and our goal is to bring it to this area.”