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Page added on December 1, 2013

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Fueling the future

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A compressed natural gas station in Eugene is unique in Oregon

John Anderson has seen the future, and its initials are CNG.

“Compressed natural gas is the transportation energy of the future, for both large and small vehicles,” said Anderson, who is president of the family-owned Eugene Truck Haven, which operates the Truck N’ Travel truck stop in Coburg.

Anderson and his siblings are in the process of building a compressed natural gas fueling station in west Eugene that will, hopefully, be open by the end of the year, and will cost upward of $1 million, he said. The company will receive a 35 percent tax credit for the station, under the state’s program to encourage use of fuels other than petroleum.

It will be the only such station in Oregon designed to serve the public, according to Department of Energy spokesman Cliff Voliva, although there are three stations set up by companies to fuel their own vehicles.

CNG is natural gas that has been compressed to less than 1 percent of its volume while still remaining a gas. But, because it has been compressed, it doesn’t require much space so vehicles can carry enough of it to travel reasonably long distances before they need to refuel. It is a greener, cheaper fuel that bolsters the United States’ goal of increasing energy independence, Anderson said.

When compressed natural gas is readily available, as it is in some parts of the country, it’s the preferred fuel for commercial vehicle fleets, he said.

“We have so much natural gas domestically, and it’s environmentally friendly — 30 percent less greenhouse gases than gasoline or diesel,” he said. Plus, “it’s about $1 a gallon cheaper than gasoline.”

In Oregon, he added, “it’s very high on the governor’s 10-year environmental plan.”

Voliva said the state’s 10-year plan calls for a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, and to at least 75 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

“The transportation sector is the single largest contributor to the state’s carbon dioxide emission,” he noted, “and a significant source of air toxins.”

Municipalities in some parts of the country have already begun switching over to CNG. And commercial trash haulers are switching in droves, Anderson said.

Waste Management Inc., one of the two largest waste haulers in the country, has said that 80 percent of its new vehicles will be powered by CNG. And Waste Connections, which owns local trash hauler Sanipac, recently opened a CNG fueling station in Vancouver, Wash.

Waste Connections Inc. “has a nationwide CNG fueling infrastructure and maintenance program in progress with many locations already on line,” company officials said in a written statement. “We believe CNG has quickly become the alternative fuel that is readily available and demand is growing.”

Because the use of CNG as transportation fuel is still so new to Oregon, the Anderson siblings aren’t anticipating much demand from the average consumer at first. But they are taking a long-term view of the fuel’s prospects.

“I think my nieces and nephews and daughter are going to see more of it than you and I will,” John Anderson said.

Because there is not yet a network of CNG fueling stations in Oregon, Anderson anticipates the first generation of his customers will be commercial fleets operated by area businesses, particularly those that already have CNG-fueled fleets in other parts of the country where the fuel is more common.

Those users will be fueling vehicles based locally that go out for the day and then return to their base at night, he said, because they won’t yet be able to refuel on long trips.

“It will mostly be smaller commercial vehicles — not the big 18-wheelers — and then it will grow from that, kind of mushroom out from that,” Anderson predicted.

“Once people see that it works,” he said, “other people will build stations. Eventually, it will growinto a network of stations. I think we will spend the next 12 years (growing slowly).

“Then from 2025 through the end of the century,” he said, he expects use of CNG will skyrocket. By the end of the century, he said, “that’s what everybody will use. That’s how fast it will grow.”

For now, though, he knows of only one local vehicle using CNG — the delivery vehicle for Togo’s Eateries, which happens to be another of his business ventures.

Unlike some other alternative fuels, CNG doesn’t require buying a new vehicle, Anderson said, as existing vehicles can be modified to use it. It cost about $10,000 to modify the Togo’s vehicle for CNG use, he said.

Anderson expects oil prices to continue rising in the coming years, which will make CNG more attractive as time goes by.

“As oil goes up in price, CNG probably won’t parallel it,” he said. “Only about 60 percent of the cost of CNG is actually the gas itself. The rest is compression costs.”

With plentiful supplies of natural gas in the United States, natural gas prices and supplies also aren’t as subject to outside pressures as is oil, Anderson added.

Northwest Natural Gas Co. will supply the Anderson station with its raw material, which will be compressed and pumped at the station at 65 N. Seneca Road.

The initial capacity of the fueling station there will probably be a couple of hundred gallons an hour, he said, with some storage capacity.

“We can probably do a couple of thousand gallons a day,” he said, “We would have to spread it out throughout the day. If we had five trucks at 8 a.m., the fifth truck may have to wait awhile.”

But the Andersons also can expand the station as demand grows, John Anderson said. Although demand isn’t high yet for CNG fuel, he said, “our belief is that if we build it, they will come.”

“We just really believe in it as an environmentally friendly energy source,” he said. “Maybe there’s kind of some ego in this, but we just really want to do this. You talk to the people at the (Oregon) Department of Energy. They really believe in it, but they’ve struggled with how to get it started, how to get it off the ground. So we’re going to do it.

“We’ve always been in the petroleum business, the energy business for transportation,” Anderson said.

“I started going to some seminars and started believing that we need to find solutions (to energy problems)…Three years ago, I realized how much natural gas we have out there.”

“I followed what they are doing now in the Port of Long Beach — a lot of freight, a lot of our customers, comes from those ports. They have pretty much quit allowing vehicles into the port that run on diesel because of the pollution. They all run on natural gas. Emission standards are quite strict.

“We’re kind of excited as a family about doing this,” Anderson said.

“We believe in stewardship, and that’s what we’re doing with this,” he said.


“We just really believe in it as an environmentally friendly energy source.”

— John Anderson, president of Eugene Truck haven, on compressed natural gas

The Register-Guard



5 Comments on "Fueling the future"

  1. DC on Sun, 1st Dec 2013 4:25 pm 

    LoL! Fool of the future. There were CNG pumps in my (very) northern city in the 1980s. Werent a lot of CNGs running around at that time, a few. Never really took off in a big way despite being very cheap at the time. Propane was a lot more popular. At least it was until the oil companies raised the price of auto-propane dramatically in the early 90s.

    That aside, this makes for a sad read. CNG being marketed as some sort of green savior, for what? Endless motoring I suppose. Any savings will be short-lived. I would be suprised if they even get the 10k conversion cost recovered before price spikes start to kick in.

    No one told Oregon that CNG trash cans wont clean up the omnipresent smog that hangs over all amerikan cities. But, I guess they learn soon enough.

  2. Terry Mcnamie on Sun, 1st Dec 2013 4:36 pm 

    There is loads of gas on the moon, and sun, if we coat it in solar we’ll have the energy we need to mine it and power spaceships to uranus.

  3. BillT on Mon, 2nd Dec 2013 1:01 am 

    The Techie Religion is as pervasive as any other and just as stupid. For all their supposed intelligence, techies seem to have tunnel vision or are just blind. Maybe it is a good thing that tech’s days are numbered?

  4. Kenz300 on Mon, 2nd Dec 2013 1:28 am 

    Quote – “Waste Management Inc., one of the two largest waste haulers in the country, has said that 80 percent of its new vehicles will be powered by CNG”

    ———————–

    Many large companies from Waste Management to Walmart, UPS, FedEx and others are converting their fleets to use more and more CNG and LNG. As the demand for these vehicles increase their prices will fall making them more cost effective even for smaller companies.

    We are slowly diversifying away from the oil monopoly on transportation fuels. That is a good thing.

    Monopolies are only good for the monopoly and not good for the consumer.

  5. DC on Mon, 2nd Dec 2013 9:21 am 

    Ken, do YOU own a CNG fueled trash can?

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