DE PERE — Paper Transport Inc. of Ashwaubenon and Integrys Transportation Fuels Inc. are building a compressed natural gas fueling station in De Pere.

The companies formed a joint venture, called TrilliumHD, which plans to open two or three compressed natural gas stations in 2012.

Integrys owns about 50 CNG fueling stations, which it got through acquisition. They are in California, in Texas and on the East Coast. The De Pere station is the first it is building.

“Natural gas makes good economic sense as a transportation fuel for our country,” said Charles Koonce, managing director of strategic business development for Integrys Transportation, which like Green Bay-based Wisconsin Public Service Corp. is a subsidiary of Integrys Energy Group of Chicago.

The station is under construction at 1501 W. Main Ave. It will sell to anyone with a CNG vehicle, though its primary customers will be heavy-duty trucking- and transportation-fleet owners.

Paper Transport is its first contract customer. Eighteen of the regional shipper’s 320 trucks are CNG-powered, said Jeff Shefchik, president.

“We’ve been running natural gas trucks for two years,” he said. “The benefits are it’s a cleaner fuel, it’s lower cost and it’s an American fuel versus foreign oil.”

The market for compressed natural gas is growing. Roughly 20 percent of all transit buses are CNG-powered. About 8 percent of garbage trucks are CNG-powered, though in 2010 half of all new garbage trucks were, Koonce said. CNG’s efficiency is especially useful for vehicles that make a lot of stops and starts, which produces pollution and low fuel economy.

The International Association of Natural Gas Vehicles estimates 9 percent of the world’s transportation fleets will be natural gas-powered within 10 years.

There are 100,000 gasoline stations in the country and 2,000 CNG stations, Koonce said.

CNG trucks are about 20 percent, or $50,000, more expensive than gas or diesel trucks, in large part because of the larger storage tanks required, Koonce said.

“Sixty to 80 percent of the cost difference is driven by the tanks. More manufacturers making tanks will bring the price down,” he said.

Cummins Westport is the manufacturer of CNG engines in the United States.

Engine maintenance is about the same as for other engines, Shefchik said. The engine is quieter than diesel or gas, which appeals to drivers.

New stations will be built where they are needed. Paper Transport is looking to expand the routes on which it can use the trucks.

“A network isn’t out there and that’s what we are working on with Integrys,” Shefchik said. “We can only run those trucks on certain lanes.”

Natural gas prices have fallen since peaking in 2008, and are expected to remain low because of abundant reserves in the United States. Even so, it would require natural gas prices of $20 a decatherm to equal $100 a barrel oil, Koonce said. At its peak, natural gas was around $13 a decatherm.

At about $2 a gallon, CNG is half the cost of diesel. Range on a CNG truck is about 300 miles, while diesel trucks run about 1,200 miles before refueling.

Shefchik said GNC mpg is close enough to diesel-fuel mileage that with the lower cost, it is a better alternative.

Integrys paired with Paper Transport because Shefchik is a leader in adopting new technology, Koonce said.

“A lot look to him and his company. That’s reason for us to be in a joint venture with them.”

Koonce said Integrys has a fairly sizeable CNG-powered fleet of its own, especially in the Chicago area.

He said it’s important for Integrys to remain relevant as alternative fuel sources are found.

“We have $11 billion in assets. I don’t expect we’ll have $4 billion in CNG in my lifetime, but it will be a significant part of growth for Integrys,” he said.

The fueling station, located at the De Pere Superstore, is scheduled to open in March.

As part of the project, De Pere Superstore owner Matt Olson said he expanded facilities for heavy-duty trucking, including 40 new parking stalls, a CAT scale and overnight parking.

“We hope to attract fleets from other areas or states, and we anticipate other local businesses converting to natural gas vehicles,” Olson said.

 

See the original Green Bay Press-Gazette article here: http://www.greenbaypressgazette.com/article/20120202/GPG03/202020547/Joint-venture-builds-natural-gas-station