Clean Fuels Ohio hosts natural gas vehicle learning event

Posted on:

< < Back to

A group of local business owners, Hocking County employees and residents attended the Natural Gas Vehicle Lunch, Learn and Do on Thursday to learn about the benefits and possibilities of using natural gas in the area.

Hocking College President Ron Erickson started the event by talking about Hocking College’s history of working with natural gas, especially at the Logan Campus. The Hocking College Energy Institute opened in 2009 and mostly worked with alternative energy sources, such as solar and water.

“In 2011, everything seemed to change overnight,” Erickson said. “It was made both possible and profitable to reach deep into the Earth and the remains of ancient sea beds to extract oil and gas.”

Erickson said he knows natural gas and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is controversial and needs a “tipping point,” when society starts to accept natural gas usage as normal.

“There is a common ground where those who care about protecting the environment and those who care about economic progress can come together, put down their weapons and shake hands. And it is right here, it's natural gas vehicles,” Erickson said.

Jerry Hutton, director of gaseous fuels transportation partnership for Clean Fuels Ohio, which organized the event, explained how natural gas vehicles work and how they are being implemented in Ohio.

He has worked in the natural gas industry for 40 years and said natural gas is starting to gain popularity in the country again. He added that showing natural gas is profitable is important.

Hutton noted it can cut down on the amount of gasoline that is imported, creates jobs and also can reduce fuel costs.

“I can take my converted Honda Civic for 300 miles on one fill, the cost being about $1.89 to $2.11 per gallon,” he said.

Fuel stations are starting to be built throughout the state, but he said natural gas is commonly used for transport companies that have a fleet of trucks. Hutton said their comparable cost per gallon would be less because the natural gas would come through its own pipeline.

Hutton noted that natural gas vehicles can be filled in two ways. The first is a time-fill, which is done by plugging the vehicle into the station for about six to eight hours. The second is a fast-fill, which is pumped the same as at a gasoline station, and takes the same amount of time.

Erickson said he wanted to address the “do” part of the Lunch, Learn and Do event and explained that most students who drop out of Hocking College do so because of financial and transportation issues.

“A lot of our students never finish because their car breaks down or they can’t afford gas. What if we could help them?” Erickson said.

Erickson said the college has the resources to convert cars to natural gas and create a public natural gas fill station, which could make them a small profit.

Many attendants at the meeting asked about the possibility of converting school buses to natural gas. Hutton said it is very common for transit buses, but most school buses are choosing to switch to propane over natural gas. 

Hutton said the upfront cost of converting a bus to natural gas, which could be about $6,000, usually turns off school districts. But, he said the cost is an investment and will make up for itself after a few years.