Hamilton breaks ground on natural gas station

Source: Journal – News

HAMILTON — The city of Hamilton broke ground on the region’s first compressed natural gas station Friday morning at the municipal garage on Route 4.

In September 2011, the city passed a resolution to develop a full-service compressed natural gas (CNG) filling station to increase the speed and service of boosting its fleet of natural gas vehicles (they currently possess four, with a goal of exchanging up to 40 city vehicles to CNG in three years), and become the first CNG station south of Columbus.

CNG is a lighter, safer, and more sustainable alternative to gasoline that fuels approximately 142,000 natural gas vehicles nationally and more than 15.2 million vehicles worldwide, according to the organization Natural Gas Vehicles for America.

It is especially efficient for high mileage vehicles, and the city in conjunction with the school district is currently applying for grants to expand the fleet of city vehicles, as well as convert several school buses to CNG power. According to city director of public utilities Doug Childs, a CNG-powered vehicle is 30 percent cleaner on the tailpipe than a traditional gasoline vehicle.

Hamilton’s CNG station will cost approximately $1.8 million to build, according to city officials. The Ohio Department of Transportation issued a $700,000 grant to help mitigate pollution on Ohio highways, and the remaining $1.1 million is funded entirely by utility customers, and uses no general fund dollars. Lot improvements, including safety and aesthetic efforts, will cost approximately $692,000, using gas funds and contributions in-kind by the city’s electric utilities.

The construction will be handled by Columbus-based building company R.W. Setterlin. It is expected to open for business in September .

“This is another example of Hamilton being aggressive and progressive for our citizens,” Mayor Pat Moeller said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

According to Childs, the gas comes from two pipelines, Texas Gas and Texas Eastern Transmission, that will pump the gas from Oklahoma and Arkansas primarily, and Eastern Ohio secondarily. The station’s location enables reliable gas sources and cheaper prices. Childs is anticipating about $1.75 per gallon, and notes that while the upfront cost of a CNG vehicle is higher, the operating costs are lower than a car run on gasoline.

The CNG station will also have aesthetic and financial benefits, Childs said, by providing visiting or prospective businesses with a sustainable fuel alternative and displaying the city’s commitment to initiatives that provide better service for a lower price. It is anticipated to generate revenue by being one of the only CNG providers in Ohio.

“We can’t ask businesses to upgrade if we’re not willing to do so ourselves,” Childs said.

The Butler County Regional Transit Authority Executive Director Carla Lakatos said that as a result of the station being built, the authority is in the process of replacing 15 of its 45 vehicles with CNG.

Ohio House Representative Wes Retherford noted the passing of House Bill 336 on March 26 to create the Gaseous Fuel Vehicle Conversion Program, which would allow a credit against the income or commercial activity tax for the purchase of an alternative fuel vehicle.

“Now we need the CNG stations up and going,” he said.

“We were able to really take a vision of having a clean, sustainable community to the very next level,” said City Manager Joshua Smith at the ceremony.

The CNG station will be a self-service, commercial, fast-filling facility, able to service up to eight vehicles at one time, and anyone with a CNG-powered vehicle can just swipe their card and fuel up. It is one of several green initiatives the city of Hamilton is engaged in.

Childs noted the cost savings for residents and visitors with CNG-powered vehicles would accompany Hamilton’s already record-low gas prices.

“Last year, we kept $7 million in the pockets of residents because of our low gas rates,” he said. “For only six months in the last 19 years have we not had the lowest gas rates in Ohio.”