ARDEN – Hannah McAvoy often starts her workday by filling up a Range Resources pickup truck with compressed natural gas at the Waste Management Inc. filling station in Arden.
McAvoy, an environmental technician, said she usually drives between 50 and 150 miles each day to inspect well sites and impoundments as part of her weekly inspections that are required by the state Department of Environmental Resources.
Her work takes her to sites in Cross Creek, Smith, Robinson and Mt. Pleasant townships in Washington County.
The Chevrolet Silverado she drives, which is leased by Range, can use either CNG or gasoline, but since receiving the truck in February, McAvoy almost always fills up with CNG.
“We’re supposed to run them on CNG as much as possible,” she said.
There’s good reason for that.
On the day in early August when McAvoy was filling up with CNG, its price per equivalent gallon at the Arden WMI station was $2.04, while a gallon of unleaded regular gasoline in the Washington area was going for an average of $3.70, according to the mobile application GasBuddy.com
That $1.66 per gallon savings is making the Arden station a popular fueling site for those whose vehicles can use CNG.
In the few minutes it took McAvoy to fuel her truck, two other Range trucks pulled up to the pumps, while another from competitor EQT waited in line.
Trucks like the one McAvoy uses will now be more numerous on the area’s highways, thanks to a major commitment announced by her company on Aug. 7.
During a ceremony at its Southern Marcellus Shale division headquarters in Southpointe, Range Resources Vice President John Applegath said the company’s recent purchase of pickup trucks from Chevrolet and Chrysler will make its fleet nearly 100 percent CNG-driven.
Standing before several neat rows of white Chevrolet and Dodge dual-fuel pickup trucks, Applegath said the company now has 180 CNG trucks companywide, with 100 of them operating out of its Southpointe headquarters and its service center in Arden.
While Range didn’t disclose what it paid for the vehicles, Applegath noted that in addition to the environmental benefits of driving vehicles with cleaner-burning engines, the company estimates that the payback for the investment is approximately two years.
Representatives from General Motors and Chrysler said Range’s fleet purchase represented the largest single order of factory-engineered CNG pickups for each of the automakers.
More CNG models
Bob Johnson, regional account executive for Chrysler’s Group Fleet, noted that his company is owned by Italy’s Fiat, which is the world’s largest producer of natural gas vehicles.
“You will be seeing future offerings (from Chrysler) that are CNG-dedicated vehicles,” Johnson told the audience.
Mark Karney, alternative fuels director for GM’s fleet and commercial division, said GM, which had produced natural gas vehicles for 20 years before exiting the market, re-entered it three years ago with a commercial cargo van and has seen growing customer demand since then. He said GM would be bringing more natural gas vehicles to market in the near future.
According to Karney, natural gas vehicles appeal to companies because they can save between 40 and 50 percent in daily operating costs while producing between 20 and 30 percent fewer emissions than gasoline models.
While GM is seeing increased interest from customers, Karney said the natural gas vehicle market is nascent in the U.S., with less than 1 percent of the 300 million cars and trucks on the road running on natural gas.
But there is evidence that the fueling infrastructure needed to grow the natural gas vehicle market is developing rapidly.
Dan Lapato of the state Department of Environmental Protection said that by the end of the year, there will be more than 100 natural gas fueling stations across Pennsylvania.
Some officials who spoke Wednesday noted the pivotal role domestically produced natural gas as a transportation fuel can play in ensuring the country’s national security.
County Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan noted that she recently saw her husband, a U.S. Army Reserve officer, leave for his sixth deployment to the Middle East, where the U.S. has purchased much of its oil for decades.
“Energy independence is what we really must work for,” she said, adding that the use of domestically produced fuel like natural gas will keep the country from again “fighting a war for our dependence on their energy resources.”