Natural gas fueling station opened to public in Lafayette

Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Bobby Cormier, assistant to City-Parish President Joey Durel, checks out the new compressed natural gas pump station Friday morning at the Public Works Complex on University Avenue. The station is now open to the public.
Advocate staff photo by BRYAN TUCK -- Bobby Cormier, assistant to City-Parish President Joey Durel, checks out the new compressed natural gas pump station Friday morning at the Public Works Complex on University Avenue. The station is now open to the public.

City-parish government on Friday opened its new natural gas fueling station to the public.

The station has been used since last year by Lafayette’s fleet of natural gas-powered cars, trucks and buses and is part of local government’s ongoing initiative to transition away from gasoline.

“The use of compressed natural gas is better for our environment and cost less for city-parish government,” City-Parish Director of Traffic and Transportation Tony Tramel said.

The announcement Friday means the special fueling station is now open to people and businesses outside of government.

The main market at this time are local companies that are switching to natural gas vehicles to take advantage of the savings, Tramel said.

The price at the city’s natural gas station on Friday was $1.46 for what’s equivalent to a gallon of gasoline, according to a city-parish fact sheet. That compares with gas selling locally for more than $3 a gallon.

David Mann, who oversees the vehicle fleet for Knight Oil Tools nearby, said the oilfield service company has converted two trucks to run off natural gas and plans to convert four more this year.

The fuel savings are expected to be significant, considering that some of the company’s fleet vehicles log more than 3,000 miles a month, he said.

“We see a great benefit from using natural gas as an alternative,” Mann said.

The city-parish government’s natural gas station is on University Avenue, one of two in Lafayette.

Apache Corp., a Houston-based energy company that has been promoting natural gas as a vehicle fuel, opened a public natural gas fueling station last year on East Verot School Road.

Tramel said that he expects the general public to take more of an interest in natural gas as major car companies roll out more natural gas models and as more natural gas fueling stations come online.

City-parish government began a shift to natural gas vehicles in 2011 with the purchase of five new natural gas-powered buses to replace older diesel models, and the entire fleet is expected to be powered by natural gas by 2020.

City-parish government has also converted 68 cars and trucks in its fleet to run on natural gas, according to figures from Tramel.

The fueling station is located at the public works facility at 1505 East University Avenue and is open 24 hours a day.

The natural gas pumps operate much like a conventional gasoline pump and accept credit cards.

Though unusual in Louisiana, natural gas fueling stations have long been commonplace in other countries that have been searching for alternatives to gasoline, Tramel said.

“The technology and what goes on here, it has been around for a long, long time,” he said.