Acadiana Business

CNG vehicles slowly gaining ground

by Heather Miller

Energy companies with large stakes in the natural gas industry say Louisiana could be leading the nation in natural gas use. Lafayette has been pegged as the "state's most aggressive" mover toward compressed natural gas as a viable alternative fuel for vehicles. And as other cities and parishes look to Lafayette as a leader for reducing fuel costs and curbing harmful emissions, some industry leaders say Louisiana could be tops in the nation for its natural gas use.

According to a report from The Advocate, Louisiana Oil and Gas Association Vice President Gifford Briggs says major American motor companies are finally investing in mass-produced trucks that run on both natural gas and gasoline. But like Lafayette's CNG success story, the CNG movement is largely based on local governments using CNG for public fleets and the incentives offered for making the conversion.

As IND Monthly reported in June, Lafayette has used state and federal grant money to convert five of its buses to run on CNG. The end goal is to have more than 100 city-owned vehicles converted to CNG within two years, while also working with UL Lafayette and the Lafayette Parish School System to have their transit buses running on the clean-burning fuel within the same time frame.

The Advocate notes that Louisiana is home to 10 CNG public fueling stations, two of which are up and running in the Hub City. Privately owned Apache opened the city's first public station on Verot School Road in July, while LCG's public works facility has its own fueling station. LCG is also slated to open another CNG fueling station soon on North University Avenue, with long-term plans calling for a fourth station in the next few years along I-49 or I-10:
Louisiana has seen CNG advances because of its Haynesville Shale natural gas formation, LOGA, the energy industry, and companies like Chesapeake Energy Corp., Encana Corp., Petrohawk Energy Corp. and Apache Corp., Briggs said. But trying to get Mississippi, Alabama and Florida and other states that don't have the energy infrastructure to support CNG has been more challenging.

That may be changing. Twenty-two states are part of an effort, led by the governors of Oklahoma and Colorado, to encourage automakers to make more affordable CNG vehicles for state fleets. Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has said the governors hope their efforts will help overcome some of the obstacles automakers face in producing a wider variety of CNG vehicles.

State government buys only about 40 percent of the public-sector vehicle purchases, Ming said. Municipalities and other political subdivisions account for 60 percent of sales.

If the municipalities - city and parish governments - tag along, the CNG sales could be significantly higher, Ming said.
Read more from The Advocate here.

Click here for more IND Monthly coverage of Lafayette's CNG movement.