Georgetown may go green with switch to natural gas

  • Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The City of Georgetown is looking to go green. Well, at least greener than it is currently.

City Administrator Chris Carter said as a way to help the environment - and to save money for taxpayers, his office is exploring the possibility of switching the fuel used by many city vehicles from diesel and gasoline to natural gas.

Norman Scott Jr., a partner with Nuovo Energy Solutions, spoke with city council during a recent meeting about the benefits of natural gas.

Carter said the reason the switch is being considered is two-fold.

“Natural gas is available here and its getting less expensive,” he said, adding the cost per gallon for natural gas is sometimes $1.50 to $1.80 less than diesel and gasoline.

“Needless to say that is substantially less,” he said.

He said the other reason is because vehicles used in the city are constantly stopping and going which makes the vehicles difficult to maintain.

“The fairly new diesel emissions requirements mean fairly frequent failure of the systems installed that are meant to reduce these diesel emissions,” Carter said. “Our mechanics are having a hard time keeping them up and running because in essence they become ‘gummed up’ over a period of time. Compressed Natural Gas I(CNG) is a much cleaner burning fuel.”

During Scott’s presentation, council was told there are about 112,000 vehicles in the United States currently using natural gas but there are about 14 million worldwide.

“We are 10-15 years behind Europe,” he said.

Scott said garbage trucks and other public service vehicles are good for natural gas use because they are the right size to hold the tanks needed.

He said natural gas is better for the environment because a smaller amount of carbon monoxide is released into the atmosphere.

One downside is the expense of converting vehicles to use natural gas. Depending on the size and type of vehicle, that cost can range from $7,000 to $35,000 per vehicle.

Carter said the city is going to “seriously consider moving away from diesel to natural gas” for the city’s big trucks and heavy equipment vehicles.

He said the switch would work better if some local company also makes the transition because then the city can partner with the private company in building pumps for the distribution of the fuel.

If that were to happen, the process would begin to convert all city-owned vehicles to natural gas through attrition.

The cost would prohibit converting most vehicles the city currently owns but, Carter said, when new and replacement vehicles are purchased, they will come equipped to use natural gas.

Jonathan Heald, the city’s public service director, said one of the garbage trucks needs to be replaced next year so it can be ordered to use natural gas.

Carter said now that council has seen the presentation, discussion on the matter will continue during the 2014-15 budget process.

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