City’s compressed natural gas station project moving forward

Work is progressing on construction of Hamilton’s $1.5 million compressed natural gas station on South Erie Highway, which is slated to be operational by the end of the year.

“We are completing the site survey and preparing specifications for bids to take down the old muffler shop that currently sits on the site,” said Mark Murray, the city’s project manager. “In addition, construction drawings are being drafted for review. Once those are approved, we will accept quotes for the construction of the station/parking project through a formal bidding process.”

Hamilton’s CNG fueling station would be one of 13 in the state once completed. Use of compressed natural gas would drop the price of a gallon of gas for the city from about $3.50 per gallon to $1.50 per gallon, officials said. CNG, as it is known, is used in traditional gasoline internal combustion engine cars that have been converted into bi-fuel vehicles.

City Manager Joshua Smith has said the city’s focus over the next two years will be to leverage its green potential as a tool to attract new businesses and drive job growth.

Hamilton received a $700,000 federal grant last year through the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments to build the fueling station next to the municipal garage. The city is providing another $800,000 for the project.

Murray said the current plan is to build a two-pump/two-dispenser fueling station that could be expanded to four pumps and four dispensers.

“We’re building this with an eye to the future,” he said.

Murray said the plan would also enable the city to expand its fleet to take advantage of the fuel savings. While the cost of a CNG or electric-hybrid vehicle is often more than a gasoline-fueled vehicle, he said the fuel savings more than makes up for the difference.

Murray also noted there are federal grants available to help cities reduce the cost of acquiring such vehicles. Hamilton currently owners four CNG vehicles, he said.

Initially, the filling station will only be used by the city’s CNG-fueled vehicles in the public service and public utilities departments. Tim Werdmann, deputy city manager for utilities, said eventually allowing the public and private sectors access to the fueling station is also “a big part of our plan.”

Murray said the Butler County Regional Transit Authority and the Hamilton City School District have already expressed a willingness to invest in CNG-fueled vehicles. He said operating a CNG station will open up a whole other market for the city.

Murray said a CNG fueling station off Interstate 70, owned by the city of Columbus, charges a government rate of $1.70 gallon and a public rate of $2.07 a gallon.

City officials said natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel available today and the U.S. has more than a 100- year supply. In addition, it reduces the dependence on foreign oil and has lower emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases. For residents, it extends the time between tune-ups and oil changes.

A number of cities across the state are making investments in CNG stations. Columbus already operates one and will be constructing two more. The city of Dublin has a CNG fueling station in operation, and Vectren Energy Delivery of Ohio recently received approval to construct a CNG fueling station in Fairborn.