EnCana to convert vehicles to run on compressed natural gas | AspenTimes.com

EnCana to convert vehicles to run on compressed natural gas

John ColsonGlenwood Springs correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

DENVER – EnCana Oil & Gas (USA), the Canada-based industrial giant that is active in Colorado’s natural gas fields, this week announced that it is putting its money where its vehicle fleet is … in a public relations sense.The company plans to convert a number of its Colorado vehicles to run on compressed natural gas, or CNG, both as a way of ultimately reducing its environmental footprint and to encourage the public to look more favorably on CNG as a viable alternative for gasoline in the U.S. transportation market.According to a company statement, the conversion program, named “Drive Natural Gas Vehicles,” will be the subject of a public meeting in Rifle today, starting at noon at the CMC Rifle facility, as part of the company’s “consumer- and industry-focused education campaign about natural gas as a transportation fuel.” Although this first meeting is intended more for corporate and government operators of vehicle fleets, company officials said no one will be turned away and that there will be future meetings where the public will be the target audience.The company has started converting its fleet of F-250 pickup trucks to run on natural gas, and has bought eight Honda Civic GX sedans for employees not signed up to use the pickups. The Hondas are to be used across the company’s regional territory – four in Denver, one in Parachute, two in Texas, and one in Wyoming – and employees are being trained in the use of the cars before they can take them out.The plan is to have 52 “bi-fuel” vehicles, running either on CNG or gasoline, by the end of 2011, according to Wendy Wiedenbeck, community relations advisor for EnCana, and David Hill, who is leading the conversion program. Hill said that would amount to about 30 percent of the company’s fleet in the “Southern Rockies” region, and 10 percent of its entire U.S. fleet.Wiedenbeck stated that CNG vehicles produce between 20 and 40 percent lower greenhouse-gas emissions than standard gasoline-powered vehicles, and she termed CNG fuel to be “a reliable, lower-cost, environmentally friendly alternative to traditional fuel.”Hill said EnCana, aside from its internal efforts, is trying to encourage other gas-well operators, contractors, trucking companies and operators of vehicle fleets in general in the area to make the change to CNG.”It’s hard to do this alone,” Hill remarked, explaining that without high-volume demand, area fuel suppliers and retailers are reluctant to spend the money to enable them to sell CNG at the pump.In fact, Hill admitted, it is likely that most of EnCana’s Western Slope fleet will not be converted until there is sufficient demand to warrant the installation of CNG pumps at local service stations. He said the company has no plans to put together its own refueling operation, with the exception of a small “slow-fueling” tank that “takes almost a whole day to fill up one vehicle” and is therefore of limited use.The company already has four F-250s and a couple of Hondas on the road along the Front Range, where there are a dozen public CNG outlets to choose from, he said.”It is a capital intensive process,” Hill said, explaining that it costs $10,000 to $12,000 per truck to do the conversion.But, he continued, “It’s definitely a cleaner-burning fuel,” and it costs less than half the price of gasoline at the pump.The program, Wiedenbeck said, is “part of a broad strategy” to encourage the public to see natural gas as an “alternative fuel,” as it already does with ethanol and biofuels.As U.S. consumers wean themselves from overdependence on foreign oil, she predicted, “natural gas will play an important role” as the economy reorients itself to a greater reliance on renewable energy resources.jcolson@aspentimes.com

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