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Charleston's natural gas filling station up and running

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Charleston's new natural gas fueling station had a low-key opening last month and is now providing 24/7 access to fill up vehicles that run on compressed natural gas.

"We are fully functional," said IGS Energy CNG Services General Manager T.J. Meadows. "Everything has been fully permitted, signed off on and we are now open to the public."

The Charleston location, in front of the Foodland along Spring Street, is the second of three compressed natural gas filling stations to be built by the company along the Interstate 79 corridor this year. The first, in Bridgeport, opened in October with the third site in Jane Lew expected to be operational by the end of the month.

Contractors with Charlotte, N.C.-based energy infrastructure firm Jones & Frank began work on the $2.5 million project in Charleston in August. The facility was built by the beginning of November, with final equipment testing and state approvals occurring in the middle of the month.

Meadows said the company has been trying to set up a grand opening ceremony to mark the station's opening in a public fashion. But he said the holiday season has made it difficult to coordinate the schedules of all the executives and public officials who would like to attend. 

That hasn't stopped the company from bringing the station online though.

"We officially soft opened the station on Tuesday, November 19th," Meadows said.

County and state vehicles, as well as fleet vehicles from the company's partners, including Antero Resources, Chesapeake Energy, Nova Rubber and EQT Corp., have all been using the filling station since that time.

The station is the larger of the two facilities the company has opened so far this year.

The Bridgeport station features one 150-horsepower compressor feeding compressed natural gas to one dispenser with two pump hoses.

The Charleston station has two 250-horsepower compressors feeding two dispensers that have two pump hoses each. That allows the Charleston station to fill up four vehicles at one time, whereas the Bridgeport location can only handle two.

A criticism of using natural gas as a vehicle fuel has been the amount of time it can take to fill up a tank. But Meadows said the company's stations have all been designed to fill up tanks in about the same amount of time it would take to fill up a regular gasoline tank.

"It's a robust station capable of handling a lot of customers and we feel we can fuel a lot of vehicles," he said.

He said as part of the equipment testing process for the Charleston station, they lined up more than two dozen vehicles to see how quickly they could get them in, filled up and back on the road.

"We ran 28 vehicles through here in a matter of about 40 minutes," Meadows said. "To fill 28 vehicles in 40 minutes, that's pretty extraordinary."

He said the vehicles could have been filled faster, but there were some bottlenecks maneuvering some of the larger trucks off of the property and back onto Spring Street.

The station is fully automated, so it is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Pumps accept all major debit, credit and fleet cards for payment.

The company is selling compressed natural gas fuel for $2.19 per gasoline-equivalent gallon. The price for regular gas at the Foodland next door was $3.29 a gallon as of noon Wednesday.

In addition to the company's government and business partners, Meadows said he has already seen a number of regular people drop in to fill up their natural gas or bi-fuel powered vehicles.

"People have been following the news, and they tend to stop by and check in at the site," he said. "I think a lot of people are considering purchasing a vehicle that can run on natural gas."

He said he thinks seeing the station's canvas with it's bright blue "$2.19" display next to the red "$3.29" display next door might encourage more people to consider buying natural gas-powered vehicles in the near future.

Contact writer Jared Hunt at business@dailymail.com or 304-348-4836.


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