BANGOR, Maine — Bangor Natural Gas plans to build a compressed natural gas fueling station, the first one of its kind that will be open to the public in the state.
“This is the road to energy independence we talk about,” Jonathan Kunz, manager of marketing and sales for Bangor Gas, said Tuesday afternoon.
During a Monday night meeting, the Bangor City Council unanimously approved the lease of a 5-acre lot at the corner of Maine Avenue and Godfrey Boulevard, just down the road from Bangor Gas’ new Maine Avenue headquarters, in order to build a CNG fueling station.
Under the terms of that lease, the city will get $26,000 per year from Bangor Gas for five years, with a five-year renewal option. Bangor Gas officials did not have the cost of the project available on Tuesday.
At first, the station will be used to help Bangor Gas fuel its fleet of CNG-fueled vehicles and fill trucks to transport CNG used for heating to customers locally and in other parts of the state. Kunz said he couldn’t provide a list of potential customers, as deals are still in the works.
Bangor Gas hopes to have the station operational in May, Kunz said.
So far, Bangor’s CNG fleet is made up of three Honda Civics, a new Ford van, and the company also is eyeing a new line of Ford F150s that use CNG. The city has expressed interest in acquiring CNG-powered buses and there also have been talks at Bangor International Airport about converting the airport’s vehicles to CNG, according to Kunz.
Kunz said the facility also could be used to provide CNG to customers along the Loring pipeline, a 200-mile-long pipeline that extends from the Mack Point port facility in Searsport to the former Loring Air Force Base in Limestone, to tide them over until the pipeline is completed.
Portland has a CNG station that fuels city vehicles, but it is not open to the public. The city, which started its CNG conversion in 2006, hopes to have a fully CNG-powered bus fleet by 2022, Steve Kirby, director of finance for the Greater Portland Transit District has said.
Boston-based Xpress Natural Gas owns a large-scale indoor CNG compression station in Baileyville in Washington county along the Canadian Border. That company has deals with The Aroostook Medical Center and several paper and tissue mills to deliver CNG for heating. The facility is scheduled to be operational in the next 30 days, according to Xpress’ Matt Smith, head of sales and marketing.
The Baileyville facility is built to dispatch one delivery truck every hour, and its location could open up the Canadian Maritimes as a market, Smith said. The company has no plans in the next two to three months to open its refueling site the the public, but Smith said it could be an option for the future.
The next closest station to Maine is in Nashua, N.H.
City officials and councilors say having a CNG fueling station in Bangor will set the city up to become a regional leader in the compressed natural gas industry.
“High energy costs result in a dampening effect on economic activity in the region, and if Bangor can be a hub for natural gas it’s a potential game changer,” Councilor Ben Sprague said. “I hope we can get all our city vehicles running on natural gas in the next few years.”
Bangor Gas is the first company in the state to announce that its fueling station will be open to public vehicles, though privately owned cars that run on CNG are rare in Maine, but Kunz said he believes they will come in time.
“It’s not putting the cart before the horse, because there is a demand for [CNG],” Kunz said.
Natural gas is cleaner than oil, and the United States has more than a century’s worth of supply. After the infrastructure is available to fuel CNG cars, automakers will begin building more of them and costs will fall, Kunz argued. He said Bangor Gas’ Honda Civics cost around $24,000.
Kunz said that as refueling stations become more available and oil prices continue to rise in the next five years or so, more people will begin converting to CNG cars and heating sources.
“It’s going to happen,” Kunz said. “It’s just a matter of how you can pinpoint the time.”
A map of the nation’s CNG stations and more information about the fuel source and vehicles that run on it is available at www.cngnow.com.