Breath of fresh air: Compressed natural gas fleet grows

Compressed natural gas fleet grows

Marcus Kohl, regional director, PA DEP North-central regional office welcomes everyone to the event celebrating the arrival of ten buses fuled by Compressed Natural Gas at River Valley Transit in Williamsport on Tuesday. KAREN VIBERT-KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

River Valley Transit unveiled 10 new compressed natural gas buses Tuesday, adding to a fleet of vehicles that operate on the cleaner-burning fuel.

On hand for the ceremony at 1500 W. Third St. were officials from the state Department of Environmental Protection, River Valley Transit and Gillig, the bus manufacturer.

Use of natural gas as a fuel reduces pollutants such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulates and sulphur oxides, according to Marcus Kohl, DEP regional director of its northcentral office.

DEP Air Quality program officials estimated that the deployment of the 10 compressed natural gas buses into the River Valley Transit fleet will result in reduction of air emissions in the following pollutants:

• Two pounds per day of sulphur oxides;

• Four pounds per day of particulate matter;

• Five pounds per hour of nitrogen oxides;

• Eight pounds per minute of carbon monoxide.

Those gases and pollutants were represented at the ceremony by colored balloons, each of the colors representing the various gases and particulates that are dispersed into the air through combustion in engines that use diesel fuel.

The gases are among those that are contributing to overall air pollution, Kohl said.

Meanwhile, DEP is assisting River Valley Transit with costs for converting the bus fleet by provided a $200,000 grant from its Alternative Fuels Incentive Program, according to Michelle Ferguson, DEP regional energy manager.

River Valley Transit’s compressed natural gas fueling station also was partially funded through a separate DEP grant, she said.

The alternative fuel incentive grant program was established in 1992, Ferguson said. Grants are available to help to create new markets for

alternative fuels by investing in deployment of vehicles, fleets and technologies that use those types of fuels.

The use of natural gas reduces dependency on foreign oil, according to Ferguson, and using local supplies provides jobs and helps the overall economy.

The buses are pleasant for riders who no longer have to smell diesel fumes, according to Kevin Kilpatrick, planning manager for River Valley Transit.

Seven years since conversion, the bus service has saved about $400,000 on fuel, according to William E. Nichols Jr., city finance director and general manager of the bus service.

Scott Schriner, project engineer with Gannett Fleming, showed the tour group the storage areas for the gas. There are commercial fuel stations and one for the public.

The grant for alternative fuel use is creating new markets through investment in deployment of these fuels for vehicles, fleets and technologies.

Jerry Sheehan, regional sales manager for Gillig, said it would take emissions from 400 buses that are converted to compressed natural gas and on the road today to match what was spewing out of a bus that ran on diesel fuel in the year 2000.

Plus, the federal government is on board, providing a 50-cent rebate on each gallon of compressed natural gas, Nichols said.