WESTLAKE — Mayor Bob Hardey is hoping to tap into the fuel market. He reported at the November City Council meeting that the administration has requested $1.5 million in capital outlay funds from the state for the construction of a fast-fill compressed natural gas station, somewhere close to Interstate-10.
The Mayor has invited upwards of 50 companies, such as Francis Drilling Fluids, Dunham Price, Port Aggregates, Kentworth, as well as the Calcasieu Parish School Board and Sheriff’s Department, to Fueling Progress in Westlake: A CNG Workshop for Fleets. At the breakfast workshop, set for Wednesday, Dec. 6, Hardey will lobby companies to install conversion kits in their fleets to allow for the use of CNG. The planned station will also serve the public.
CNG stations nearest to Westlake are located in Lafayette, Hornbeck, Leesville (which opened in April of this year) and Beaumont. There are about a dozen others throughout the state. “The companies already using CNG, that we’ve talked to, are running up and down the interstate and filling up in Beaumont,” Hardey said a recent phone interview.
As to the lure of CNG, Hardey said it’s a clean-burning fuel source without the emissions that come from diesel, gasoline, or propane. It’s also safer in the event of spill because it disperses more quickly than other fuels. Tax credits for CNG use are also an incentive for companies. But two of the big selling points are that it costs less and its abundant in Louisiana.
Hardey said he was told by David Dollar, a representative from Lott Oil out of Natchitoches, that using CNG, “cut fuel costs for their fleet of 18-wheelers by half and cut their maintenance costs by at least one-third.” Dollar will be at the breakfast workshop to attest to this. Ann Vail, with Louisiana Clean Fuels; Kent Meadows, NGV Solutions; and Jim Tilley, Centerpoint Energy, are also scheduled to speak.
The workshop is scheduled from 8-11 a.m., Wednesday, Dec. 6, at Westlake City Hall. Hardey said those interested must register at louisianacleanfuel.org, or call Becky at Westlake City Hall at 337-433-0691 for assistance navigating the process.
According to CNG Now, an industry-sponsored educational site, CNG costs about 50 percent less than gasoline or diesel fuel, and produces up to 90 percent fewer emissions than gasoline.
Currently, there are more than 12 million CNG-powered vehicles on the road worldwide, with only about 250,000 of them in the United States. Since 2000, the U.S. has seen an annual growth in their use of about 3.7 percent. Though natural gas is a nonrenewable fossil fuel, the U.S. Energy Information Administration projects there is enough to last almost a century.
If Westlake’s plan comes to fruition, CNG converter kits will be installed in three of the newest police units. The longterm goal is to have the entire fleet of city vehicles running on the fuel.
CNG stations are either slow or fast-fill. Slow release stations pump CNG into vehicles slowly, after business hours. Hardey wants a fast-fill station, which takes about as much time as a gasoline station. He said their first choice is to purchase land near where the old Conoco station was, along Interstate-10, so “18-wheelers can get off, fill up, and get back on again without having to go into town,” he said. If that’s not possible, it will be built near the Interstate, somewhere on Sampson Street.
In terms of revenue, Hardey said at fill-up, each 18-wheeler requires an amount of natural gas equivalent to the gas requirements of 200 of the city’s natural gas household customers. “If we just had one company convert 22 of their trucks, that’s equal to 4,400 homes,” he said. The city has a total of 4,000 total natural gas customers.
Hardey said he and his staff are considering three funding options. The first is the request for capital outlay funds. An application for the funding was line-item vetoed this year due to state budget constraints, but Hardey hopes it will gain more traction this year.
He has met with the Gov. John Bel Edwards and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, as well as representatives from several legislative committees. In his meetings, Hardey has pointed out that many converted fleets fill up in Beaumont and drive in Louisiana, placing wear and tear on roads without compensating for it with fuel taxes. “We’d like to get the money from the state, because this would be a revenue source for them, too,” he said.
The second funding option is to finance the project at the city level. “If I get enough commitments from enough companies, within the first part of the year, it could be that we just finance this and let it pay for itself,” Hardey said.
The last option is the Mayor’s least favorite — shopping it out to a third party. “Naturally if we build it and we own it, we have a right to the money,” he said.
It’s too soon to know which funding route the city will pursue. “This is just the beginning of it,” Hardey said.