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Alternative fueling options come to Charleston

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Workers broke ground on Charleston's first compressed natural gas fueling station Tuesday morning.

Contractors for IGS Energy will remove grass and add dirt before leveling the land to begin site preparation for two 250-horsepower natural gas compressor stations that will fuel the state's second alternative energy fueling station.

Located next to Foodland on Spring Street, Charleston's station is the second compressed natural gas fueling station project for IGS Energy. In January, the company announced a $10 million Interstate 79 Corridor project that would build four alternative fueling stations.

"We want to build in our home state," said TJ Meadows, business manager for IGS Energy's CNG Services. "We're looking all over the state and really have a desire to put these anywhere we can find that makes strategic sense."

By Sept. 1, IGS's Bridgeport compressed natural gas station should be up and running. Charleston's station is set to finish by Sept. 1 and the Jane Lew station by late October or early November, Meadows said.

Charleston's station will tap into a Mountaineer Gas line running alongside Spring Street. The station will house what is known as a "dyer package" that will transform the gas into a viable fuel source and from wet to dry gas.

"We'll first dry it and get all the moisture and water content out of it," Meadows said.

Then the natural gas will be compressed by one of two on-site compressor stations. Having two compressors onsite will allow for a backup compressor if one malfunctions, Meadows added.

After the gas is compressed, its last stop before fueling a vehicle will be one of two long-storage cylinders that will house compressed natural gas on site.

An average compressor station may cost anywhere between $500,000 and $1 million. Because of that cost, there is no available inventory for purchase and much of the construction is timed around the delivery of the compressors, Meadows explained. The entire fueling station cost roughly $2 to $3 million.

The station is expected to fuel cars in roughly the same amount of time as traditional fueling stations. Also, if storage cylinders run out of pre-compressed gas, vehicles can hook up directly to the compressors for fuel.

Meadows hopes the additional fueling stations in the state trigger folks to think of using natural gas in more ways than just heat and general electricity.

"I think this market will be like many other markets that we've seen emerge in America," Meadows said. It often starts with businesses demonstrating the viability of the model and tangible cost-savings.

Once customers see businesses successfully using the model, more and more customers will follow, Meadows explained.

Meadows sees the stations' advantages as threefold. The energy resource is cheap, abundant and domestic.

"You're talking about a 30 to 50 percent difference over traditional flues," he said. "That's huge for consumers and businesses alike."

In February, the governor's Natural Gas Task Force recommended the state convert 25 percent of its 7,811 fleet vehicles to natural gas in the next four years. The state offers a $7,500 tax credit for compressed natural gas car and light-truck purchases, as well as tax credits of up to $400,000 for companies willing to build new natural gas fueling stations.

The Bridgeport station will be West Virginia's first operating public alternative fueling station. Neighboring Pennsylvania currently has 20 stations while Ohio has 13 and Virginia five.

"People want to use the product they work every day to bring out of the ground," Meadows added.

IGS Energy partnered with Antero Resources, Chesapeake Energy and EQT Corporation. Additionally, the West Virginia Division of Highways committed to fuel state-owned compressed natural gas-powered vehicles at stations along I-79.

"You can't move forward on a project like this without moving forward together with other entities," Meadows said. "What you have is a good example of market-driven, public-private partnership that makes something a reality."

Reach Caitlin Cook at caitlin.cook@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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