Fueling Progress: Natural gas drives up revenue, alternative vehicles

Published on Wednesday, 27 August 2014 23:38 - Written by Casey Murphy, cmurphy@tylerpaper.com

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Clay Clemmer filled up his company’s Chevrolet truck with compressed natural gas on Wednesday at Tyler’s new fueling station — First Alt Fuel.

Clemmer, 50, co-owner of the Granite Division Inc. in Tyler, bought the company’s first compressed natural gas (CNG) truck in December in anticipation of the fueling station opening in Tyler.

“We’re trying it out to see how it works,” Clemmer said. “It’s been good so far.”

The Granite Division is one of several businesses converting to vehicles that run on natural gas for efficiency and to save money.

Tax revenue earned by the state from sales of CNG and liquefied natural gas (LNG) motor fuel for fiscal year 2014 exceeded projections by 220 percent. As of July 31, revenues totaled $2,178,199, the Texas Comptroller’s Office reported.  

“These collections are more than double the estimated amount,” Texas Railroad Commissioner David Porter said in a statement. “At 15 cents per gallon equivalent, $2,178,199 of motor fuel tax equals sales of 14,521,326 gallon equivalents of natural gas.” 

A gallon equivalent is the amount of CNG or LNG, with the same energy content as a gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel.

In October, Porter launched his Natural Gas Initiative to increase the use of natural gas motor fuel in Texas. State forecasters projected fiscal 2014 to end in tax revenue of $992,000, equal to sales of 6.6 million gallon equivalents. The July 31 total was 220 percent of that estimate, Porter reported.

Clemmer said they decided to buy a used CNG truck for Granite Division because of its cost efficiency and because the motors typically last longer.

The service truck runs all day every day and hauls granite and other equipment as good as a regular truck, but they save more than 35 percent in fuel costs, he said.

Jamal Moharer in July celebrated the grand opening of his First Alt Fuel Station — the first public access compressed natural gas refueling station in Tyler.

“It’s not just that Tyler needs it. ... We as Americans need it,” Moharer, president of First Alt Fuel Inc., said, adding that CNG is a safe, clean fuel that makes economic sense because of its abundance in the country.

“Consumption has maintained a steady climb, and we continue to see positive gain on a week-by-week basis,” Moharer said. “Our client base continues to grow as more and more contractors and companies purchase CNG vehicles. Since opening, we have had zero days of down time due to the proper pre-planning and implantation of the station, making it a reliable station that consistently delivers the demanded fuel to our clients and customers.”

The compressors used at the fueling stations are fabricated and serviced by J-W Energy Co., of Longview. There are storage tanks to transfer the CNG to the pumps and two generators, including a backup because local businesses depend on the only natural gas fueling station in the area.

“We have to have redundancy,” Moharer said on Wednesday, adding that if the station goes down, people could be stranded.

By the time Moharer celebrated the grand opening of his Tyler fueling station on July 9, business had surpassed his expectations. During the first month, the general public used 4,000 gallons of gas equivalent. That includes businesses and personal vehicles, as well as visitors passing through Tyler, he said.

Moharer said there are fewer than a dozen area businesses that use CNG in company vehicles, but it continues to grow. He plans to open other stations in East Texas, most likely starting with Texarkana. He also is looking at opening a station for LNG, used for long-distance truckers, along the interstate, he said.

Porter said natural gas vehicles are becoming mainstream faster than expected and there’s plenty of room for growth.

“These excellent sales figures represent only a fraction of potential sales, as more and more fleet operators take advantage of the cost savings, lower emissions and energy-security benefits of Texas natural gas.”

Porter, who was elected to the Texas Railroad Commission in 2010, is coordinating the first Texas Natural Gas Summit on Oct. 23 at the Palmer Events Center in Austin. The summit will connect industry employers with job seekers, showcase advanced natural gas technology and offer workshops for fleet managers and exploration and production operators.

To find out where to find natural gas fueling stations in Texas and around the country, check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fueling Station Locator App, or CNG Now LLC’s CNG Fuel Finder App.