Newest CNG fueling station opens to fleet demand

Posted February 4, 2016

Michael Bradwell
Observer Reporter

Washington County officially received its latest compressed natural gas fueling station Thursday, an indication that demand from area company fleets remains strong despite CNG’s price parity with unleaded regular gasoline.

During a brief ceremony at a recently reopened Sunoco station at the intersection of Route 519 and the Houston exit of Interstate 79, officials from Sunoco, Columbia Natural Gas of Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Clean Cities Program and Range Resources discussed the latest alternative fuel offering for area motorists.

While acknowledging the current price parity between CNG and a gallon of unleaded gasoline – both were listed at $1.99 on the station’s electronic price display Thursday – Sunoco spokesman Jeff Shields said corporate fleets of CNG-equipped vehicles continue to provide the demand for more locations to refuel with natural gas.

The main driver behind the newest location was Range Resources, which is also one of the region’s largest producers of natural gas from Marcellus Shale.

Range spokesman Mike Mackin noted the station was closed several years ago, “just at the time Range was launching its fleet of CNG vehicles, which is now at around 200 vehicles. It made for a perfect location, right in the middle of our core operating area.”

Shields said the Houston location is Sunoco’s third in Western Pennsylvania. It also operates one on the Pennsylvania Turnpike at New Stanton and another at Pittsburgh International Airport. He said adding more locations is a “chicken and egg” proposition.

“You have to have suppliers ready to take a chance,” he said, adding with customers like Range that added CNG fleets eases that risk for suppliers.

A similar scenario was played out a few years ago when Waste Management Inc. converted its fleet of refuse hauling trucks to CNG, including those at its operations in Arden. That resulted in the county’s first public CNG station being built here.

At the Houston site, Sunoco also worked with some other area companies that have a stake in the natural gas business.

Shields said Fyda Freightliner, which offers CNG trucks and retrofits vehicles for CNG use from its operations on a hill above the Sunoco station, sold a necessary piece of land adjacent to it to enable the placement of storage tanks for CNG.

Columbia Gas ran a supply pipeline for the project.

Shields also credited the Pittsburgh chapter of Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Program with helping to facilitate Sunoco’s newest CNG station.

Pittsburgh Clean Cities’ Rick Price said there are now 10 public CNG stations in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Price said the newest addition at Houston “allows us to work along the corridors” of major highways to provide easy access to the fuel.