Engineer and commissioners hoping for CNG filling station

WARREN — Trumbull County commissioners are hoping funds from the state’s 2018 capital budget bill will help pay for a multimillion dollar compressed natural gas fill-up station.

The station would be located on Trumbull County Engineer’s Office property rich in natural gas — where there are already several natural gas wells — and has been in the sights of county officials for a few years.

The CNG station could cost more than $2 million, said Jack Simon, director of governmental affairs and special projects for Engineer Randy Smith. But if the station is installed, the fuel is likely to cost about $1 per unit, known as GGE, or gasoline gallon equivalent.

The engineer’s office has four CNG-powered dump trucks that cost the county $193,167 of the $943,765 bill. The rest was paid for with congestion mitigation and air quality program funds offered through the Federal Highway Administration. The office is expecting four more.

The vehicles have similar gas mileage, but run much more efficiently and CNG exhaust is better for the environment than gasoline-powered vehicles, Simon said. The savings to the county comes from cheaper fill-ups and lower maintenance costs because CNG burns cleaner and is better for the engine, Simon said. A county mechanic is being trained to work on the vehicles. Emissions are about 90 percent less than gas-powered vehicles, according to www.CNGnow.com.

Shawn Davis, Trumbull County highway supervisor, said the 2012 CNG pickup truck he drives is great.

“But it will be even better if we get this station,” Davis said.

The only CNG station in Trumbull County now is at Mr. Fuel, 2840 Salt Springs Road, Girard. The cost for a gallon Wednesday was $2.35, according to www.cngnow.com, a website that connects CNG users to fill stations. At American Bulk Gas CNG, 8110 Southern Blvd., Youngstown, the price was $1.70 per gallon. Gasoline was about $2.40 per gallon.

Trumbull County consultant Michael Verich said the county should know by mid-May if the Ohio General Assembly will include the project in the state capital bill it presents to the governor. Verich said he has introduced the project in meetings with Tim Keen, director of the Office of Budget and Management, and legislators. He has plans to talk with them in the near future to help the project move along in the process. Verich said the amount he is shooting for is $1.250 million.

“We lead the nation in natural gas; it makes a lot of sense. It is the cost-efficient and environmentally sound, clean way, to fuel as many county vehicles as we can,” Verich said.

Verich said he would be in touch with Ohio Reps. Michael O’Brien, D-Warren, and Glenn Holmes, D-McDonald, and Ohio Sen. Sean O’Brien, D-Bazetta, and communicate with commissioners to discuss the best strategy to get the project — and others — included in the bill.

“We will approach this as a team, a unified front,” Verich said.

Simon said vehicles that spend a lot of time on the road realize the most benefits of CNG conversion and some Ohio communities, including Columbus and Canton, have switched most or all their fleet.

The more communities in Trumbull County that have CNG vehicles, the more likely agencies are to award grants to the area for CNG stations, vehicle storage buildings, maintenance and conversion, Simon said.

Warren, Weathersfield, Howland and Newton Falls joined the county in a CNG feasibility study and are interested in participating, Simon said.

“It’s a chicken-and-egg situation,” Simon said. “People will get the vehicles when there are more stations, and we are more likely to get a station when there are more CNG vehicles.”

rfox@tribtoday.com

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