WEATHERSFIELD - Local enthusiasm about the natural gas industry and a location that is midway between New York and Chicago are what spurred IGS Energy-CNG Services to choose Weathersfield for one of its first Ohio compressed natural gas filling stations, a company official said Wednesday.
Dave Mrowzinski, CNG program manager for IGS-CNG, was in town for the official start of construction on the new $2 million compressed natural gas, or CNG, filling station at Mr. Fuel on Salt Springs Road off Interstate 80. It is expected to be operating by June.
As interest in natural gas as a motor vehicle fuel increases, so too will the number of filling stations around the area, Mrowzinski said.
Right now there are about 10 CNG stations in the state, and this one will be IGS-CNG's fifth station.
"Our goal is to develop a CNG infrastructure in the Midwest that serves businesses and individuals utilizing CNG," said Scott White, president of IGS Energy. "Our plan responds to the emerging market demand for fast, convenient refueling of CNG vehicles. We want to create the opportunity to travel all over the region without a worry of whether you can find a spot to fuel up with compressed natural gas."
Mrowzinski declined to talk about specific future locations, but hinted that more will be on the way to the Valley in the distant future.
"In the long term, we do think this area can probably support multiple stations," Mrowzinski said.
Also looking to the future, Mrowzinski said he believes compressed natural gas will remain well below gasoline and diesel fuel at the pumps.
Based on the national average, CNG is priced around $2.10 to $2.30 per "gasoline gallon equivalent."
"If (natural gas) were to double in cost, we would would only anticipate a 30 to 40 cent increase," Mrowzinski said.
However, converting to a CNG system costs about $6,000 to $7,000 for a passenger vehicle, or about $10,000 to $12,000 for a pickup truck. Add about $50,000 to $70,000 to convert a semi truck.
Legislation hoping to soften the blow of those costs and encourage alternate fuel conversion adds incentives and tax breaks to purchasers of conversion kits. The bill is pending in the Ohio House.
Wednesday's CNG filling station groundbreaking came one day after Columbus legislators voted to move that alternative transportation fuels bill out of the Ohio House Finance and Appropriations Committee to the full House for consideration.
The bill, sponsored in part by state Rep. Sean O'Brien, D-Bazetta, also would establish fuel taxes equivalent to that on gasoline.
Mrowzinski said IGS-CNG company officials are pleased to see the bi-partisan-backed bill move to the next step.
"We have nothing against the addition of the motor vehicle tax. CNG motorists use the roads as much as drivers of vehicles using other fuels," Mrowzinski said. "Our company believes that CNG can stand on its own without the tax incentives, but certainly it accelerates the interest in CNG."
O'Brien agreed with that assessment.
"We believe the government may help to start this process," O'Brien said. "However, it is ultimately up to the private sector and market forces to dictate the future of alternative fuels in Ohio."
Tucked well in the back of Mr. Fuel, Mrowzinski wasn't worried that motorists would have difficulty locating the station. Signage and smart phone apps will easily route drivers right to the location.