Florida’s Emerald Coast Utilities Authority (ECUA), based in the city of Pensacola, is purchasing 50 new natural gas refuse trucks and partnering with local natural gas provider Energy Services of Pensacola (ESP) to provide fuel, reports NorthEscambia.com. ESP is to construct a fast-fill compressed natural gas (CNG) station at ECUA’s Sanitation Department depot, expected to be completed by July 2012 when the new trucks are also to be delivered. Under the terms of the agreement, ECUA will pay ESP a monthly transportation charge as well as an indexed price per diesel gallon equivalent of CNG fuel used by ECUA vehicles.
Steve Sorrell, ECUA Executive director, projects annual maintenance cost savings in excess of $350,000 and over $1 million in annual fuel costs.
In October ECUA finalized a 10-year CNG agreement with ESP as part of the region’s drive to transition City and ECUA vehicle fleets to natural gas-powered vehicles (NGVs).
The agreement provides for the construction of up to three compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations throughout the greater Pensacola area, including the one for the ECUA Sanitation Department. Initially, the stations will be used to fuel ECUA and City of Pensacola vehicles, but ESP will market the fueling stations to private fleets that may be considering converting to NGVs.
At that time Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward said, “I’ve committed to finding new non-tax revenue sources for the City. Conversion to NGVs means lower fuel and maintenance costs for ECUA and City vehicles, and these fueling stations represent a new potential revenue stream for ESP. With this agreement, we’ll begin building the infrastructure of fueling stations that we can expand to other fleets and eventually, perhaps even residential vehicles.”
Natural gas-powered vehicles have a substantially lower fuel cost than vehicles using gasoline or diesel fuel. The national average for a gallon of diesel fuel is $3.84, while the average price for a diesel gallon equivalent of CNG is only $2.20. Additionally, CNG prices have remained stable over the past several years as gasoline and diesel prices have risen.
Mayor Hayward also pointed out the environmental benefits of using natural gas-powered vehicles. “Moving as many as 275 ECUA trucks from diesel to natural gas over the next ten years – plus all the NGVs the City will be converting – is going to make a huge impact on the overall air quality for the entire region,” said Hayward, noting that he enjoys driving the natural gas-powered Honda Civic that the City of Pensacola has purchased.
ECUA plans to convert 10-15 vehicles in the first year of the agreement, with additional vehicles converted over the next eight years as part of normal vehicle replacement schedules. The move is expected to save ECUA in excess of $250,000 per year in maintenance costs alone, and over $1 million in annual fuel costs.