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Natural gas filling stations coming to W.Va.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- An Ohio-based company plans to construct three natural gas filling stations along Interstate 79 in West Virginia, starting with one in Charleston.

IGS Energy-CNG Services announced that it would build the first station next to the Spring Street Foodland in the coming months.

T.J. Meadows, West Virginia operations manager for the company, estimated that the Charleston facility would cost about $2.5 million to construct.

The company also plans to build stations in Jane Lew in Lewis County and Bridgeport in Harrison, he said. A fueling station will also be built in Mount Morris, Pa.

The entire project is estimated to cost about $10 million.

The Charleston location will be the first compressed natural gas fueling station in the state, Meadows said.

The investment comes as a result of an initiative to encourage businesses, as well as local and state agencies, to convert fleets of vehicles to natural gas.

Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin created a task force in 2011 to study the feasibility of switching the state's fleet to natural gas. He praised the filling station project Thursday morning, saying it was the first step in creating the infrastructure necessary for conversion.

"West Virginia has been blessed with an abundance of natural gas, and I'm extremely appreciative of the many dedicated folks who are working hard to find the best way for our state to use it as a cost-saving means of transportation," Tomblin said.

The gas used in the fueling stations will be extracted from wells within the state, Meadows noted.

The West Virginia Department of Highways has committed to fueling 20 compressed natural gas vehicles at stations along I-79 once they are completed, Tomblin said. The stations would also be open to members of the public who have natural gas-powered vehicles.  

Legislation granting tax credits to organizations that convert vehicles to compressed natural gas will be introduced during this Legislative session.

Tax credits for the conversion of vehicles and the construction of compressed natural gas infrastructure in the area could also be transferred under the legislation. 

Companies can then purchase those tax credits from the agencies, thus providing capital to pay for the conversion of the vehicles.

Construction of the stations should begin in the first quarter of this year, Meadows said, and the Charleston filling station should be completed by fall.

"All of the stations should be done by the end of 2013," he said.

The Charleston station, which will be built in an empty lot next to the Foodland near the Elk River, will have two dispensers and two pumps per dispenser.

And governmental agencies won't be the only ones to benefit from converting vehicles to compressed natural gas, he said. Companies will reap the financial windfall generated by the cheaper form of fuel as well.

Representatives from Antero Resources, Chesapeake Energy Corporation and EQT Corporation have already committed to fueling their compressed natural gas vehicles at the stations along what has been dubbed the Compressed Natural Gas Fueling Corridor, Meadows said.

"Antero Resources believes that natural gas presents an unprecedented opportunity for providing a clean, domestic and abundant fuel for this country, thanks in large part to resources in West Virginia," said Paul Rady, chairman and CEO. "We are committed to converting our own vehicle fleet to run on CNG."

Compressed natural gas is about 30 percent to 50 percent cheaper than conventional fuels such as gasoline and diesel, Meadows said, and it is also a cleaner burning fuel.

Compressed natural gas produces 30 percent less carbon dioxide than traditional fuels and 75 less carbon monoxide.

"It just really makes sense for companies and agencies to convert," he said.

Another benefit of converting vehicles to compressed natural gas is that the fuel is produced in the Mountain State, Kanawha County Commission President Kent Carper said.

The conversion of vehicles will mean that more natural gas is used, which will mean production will increase, creating more jobs in the natural gas field around the state, Carper said.

Kanawha County has been at the forefront of pushing for conversion of fleets and has even purchased a sport utility vehicle that uses compressed natural gas. The Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority has also agreed to purchase eight buses powered by compressed natural gas.

Carper has committed to fueling the SUV at the Charleston station and is looking into whether the buses can fill their tanks there as well, even though he expects to have a compressed natural gas fueling station built at the transportation authority site in the near future.

He is also hoping to purchase more compressed natural gas vehicles for the county in the months to come.

"We hope to have vehicles used for prisoner transports and mental hygiene checks powered by compressed natural gas," he said.

The county is also looking at purchasing a compressed natural gas-powered pickup truck for the maintenance department in the near future, Carper said.

Charleston officials are also exploring natural gas options.

"We've been talking about either converting some of our vehicles or buying some," Mayor Danny Jones said, noting that the conversion of the city fleet would take some time.

"Charleston will begin to convert, but I don't think it we'll completely switch over in my lifetime," Jones said. "It has to work financially for us because we deal with the people's money."

Carper said it could cost $6,000 to $8,000 to convert a vehicle to run off compressed natural gas. 

Jones added that the conversion makes sense for businesses and governmental agencies because it is cheaper in the long run, even though it does cost money to convert existing vehicles.

It is also good for national security because it lessens the country's dependence on foreign oil.

"It's good for our national security and our own personal financial security," he said.       

Contact writer Paul Fallon at paul.fallon@dailymail.com or 304-348-4817. Follow him at www.twitter.com/PaulBFallon. ;; 


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