Chris Lallier with the Greater Houston Natural Gas Alliance
Friday, August 15, 2014
by Jeffrey Nielsen
The Houston Contractors Association was pleased to welcome Chris Lallier and a panel of four representatives from the Greater Houston Natural Gas Alliance to speak on the financial benefits of owning a fleet of natural gas powered vehicles. The focus of the Greater Houston Natural Gas Vehicle Alliance is on developing new and expanding natural gas transportation markets and refueling stations in the Greater Houston area using industry initiatives, government programs, energy education and community relations.
Mr. Lallier started off the presentation by introducing the attendees from his organization saying that the Alliance was formed 2009 by four major players in the industry; Anadarko Petroleum, Apache Corporation, Southwestern Energy and Centerpoint Energy along with a partnership with the University of Houston. The Alliance is dedicated to raising the awareness of natural gas vehicles and providing leadership on the evolving natural gas vehicle marketplace and the corresponding infrastructure needs.
Mr. Lallier introduced the four members of the panel starting with Bill Morris with Morris & Associates, Balu Balagopal with Nat G CNG Solutions, Heather Oglesby with Parkway NGV Conversions, and Heather Ball with the Railroad Commission of Texas.
Mr. Lallier started off with some industry facts stating that by 2040 the world’s population will grow by 2 billion people. The world is predicted to become more and more urbanized and therefore require more energy. Energy consumption will increase by 35% during that time. Energy efficiencies will be realized in vehicles, appliances and power generation plants and electricity generation will grow by 90% by 2040. Mr. Lallier stated that natural gas will become the biggest player in electrical generation, overtaking coal worldwide.
At this time Balu Balagopal came to the podium and stated that the numbers that Mr. Lallier referenced are considered very conservative. He stated that the United States currently has approximately 750 vehicles per 1,000 residents. China is currently around fifteen per thousand. He then asked what happens when China and India decide that they want to be like the U.S.? The United States is blessed with large quantities of both gas and oil and our message to the politicians should be burn the gas and ship the oil. Mr. Balagopal said that the math is simple, if you are a fleet operator with ten trucks running on bi-fuel (which means the vehicle can run on either natural gas or diesel), working 250 work days at $1.35 per gallon savings and driving 50,000 miles a year your monthly fuel savings is between $4,500 to $5,000. After paying for all the equipment your monthly extra income will be around $2,500. The more gas you burn the more money you will save. Mr. Balagopal stated that the good news is there are a growing number of vehicles being made available by the automakers that can run on natural gas. The technology is at such a state that you cannot tell the difference when you are running on gasoline or on natural gas, and more filling stations are coming on line as fleet managers begin converting over to natural gas. The technology is here today and can save you lots of money.
The next speaker was Heather Oglesby with Parkway NGV Conversions. Mrs. Oglesby stated that there are more than just trucks being made available for fleets. She stated that the Chevrolet Impala would be coming out as an OEM in 2015 along with the Chevy Cruise and Honda Civic. Mrs. Oglesby said that you may be asking yourself why use CNG. The answer is because CNG is clean and Houston has a big problem with its air. Going to CNG is comparable to removing 300 conventional vehicles from the streets. CNG is safer than gasoline when considering accidents, CNG does not pool like gasoline, but disperses into the air reducing the risk of fire or explosion. CNG is abundant, the United States has over a 200 year supply in storage and more is being found every day. It’s economical, you can fill up at home for roughly 87 cents a gallon. Prices at stations vary between one and three dollars under the price of diesel. CNG vehicles are also superior to electric powered cars in that electric car batteries are lithium which is not found in the U.S. Mrs. Oglesby stated that for companies that are interested in not only converting over to a CNG fleet but also putting in their own refueling station, their group can help you with that, figuring out what your need is, whether you can do dedicated vehicles, maintenance and installation of the infrastructure.
Bill Morris with Morris & Associates was the next presenter and he designs and permits fueling stations all over the world. Mr. Morris started by saying that as a fleet operator your first question should be, is this right for me. There are several tools available to help you make that determination, one of which is on-line offered by the Department of Transportation and there are also consultants that can help you evaluate your needs. For those that decide to put in a fueling station there are several things to keep in mind. Even if you are building a fleet facility there are advantages to having a public option to your fueling infrastructure. When building your station, you will need a nearby high pressure, high volume gas flow. You will also need adequate electrical service to maintain the compressors necissary to run the station. A bonus of having a public component is that you may be eligible for government incentives and grants.
Heather Ball with the Railroad Commission of Texas was the final presenter for the day. Mrs. Ball stated that the Railroad Commission has nothing to do anymore with railroads, but does regulate oil and gas, uranium, coal and all energy industry in the state. Mrs. Ball stated that she is the one that would help you with funding opportunities. Mrs. Ball stated that there are multiple grant opportunities for funding in the Houston area for light duty and medium duty vehicles as well as refueling infrastructure.