FILL UP THE TANK WITH NATURAL GAS

National Grid expands alternative fuel fleet with new pump station

LARRY RULISON BUSINESS WRITER
Section: Business,  Page: D1

Date: Tuesday, November 23, 2010

ALBANY -- Do you drive a compressed natural gas vehicle?


There is a new gas station for you in North Albany.


National Grid unveiled a new compressed natural gas pump station at its regional headquarters on Broadway that it will use to fuel its expanding natural gas fleet.


The project was paid for in part with $2.5 million in federal stimulus funding from the U.S. Department of Energy. National Grid applied for the grant along with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.


The station will also be available to the general public, although very few consumers own cars that run on compressed natural gas. Most of the market demand so far has been driven by government and corporate fleets.


There are two main advantages to vehicles that run on natural gas. Their greenhouse gas emissions are much lower than those of cars that run on traditional gasoline, and natural gas is also cheaper, with a gallon-of-gas equivalent of compressed natural gas costing about $2.30.


Susan Crossett, vice president of economic development and community investment for National Grid, said that the British utility has 620 compressed natural gas vehicles in its U.S. fleet, and the company is adding 33 in its Capital Region territory as part of the stimulus funding.


The new pump station is fueled by natural gas right from National Grid's distribution system. The company also has a plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 45 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.


"It's up to us to make these commitments," Crossett said.


A company called Beaver Petroleum of Horseheads in Chemung County installed the storage tanks and compressor that feeds National Grid's pump station. The utility also set up 10 additional pumps that will fuel vehicles overnight. Beaver Petroleum has built 40 such stations in New York and Pennsylvania.


NYSERDA has given out $67 million in government money since 1996 to support the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles and required infrastructure. Its Clean Cities program that was used to get the National Grid funding also secured $2.1 million for various alternative vehicle projects locally. For instance, the City of Albany was awarded $102,214 to purchase 12 hybrid-electric vehicles. Hudson Valley Community College also received $112,000 to purchase equipment for a new alternative fuel vehicle training program.


Lia Honda in Albany sells the Honda Civic GX, which is powered by compressed natural gas. It retails for about $26,000, compared with roughly $19,000 for a typical Civic.


NYSERDA President Frank Murray said after Monday's announcement that his agency will let the market decide which alternative fuel ultimately gets adopted by consumers, be it natural gas, electricity or hydrogen, which is why NYSERDA funds go to a wide variety of technologies.


Larry Rulison can be reached at 454-5504 or by e-mail at lrulison@timesunion.com.