Compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles have been on the rise during the past several years as gas prices continue to remain high. The CNG equivalent to one gallon of gasoline costs around $1, compared to the current pump prices.
However, because of the high costs to purchase CNG vehicles, retrofit gasoline vehicles to run on CNG and build a CNG fueling facility, the market for the fuel remains small.
Generally, having a CNG facility and vehicles is only economically feasible for companies or governments with large fleets. Covington could fit that bill. And if it had a facility, it could let the county, school system and the general public use the facility if they chose.
The council unanimously voted to fund a design for a fueling station. Utilities Director Bill Meecham expected the design to cost around $50,000. City Manager Steve Horton said the city has $300,000 budgeted this year for design and potential preliminary site work for a CNG fueling station.
Because of its abundance in North America, natural gas is being used for more and more purposes; however, costs remain high in the vehicle world.
Scott Tolleson, an employee the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia, told the council that a fueling station could cost between $500,000 and $1.1 million. He also noted that a pickup truck costs around $10,000 to retrofit, while buying a new CNG-powered dump truck would cost an additional $35,000 or so above the traditional price.
Currently, the only CNG-fueled passenger car is the Honda Civic, and home CNG-fueling units cost around $4,500, Tolleson said. However, General Motors is planning to unveil a CNG-fueled pickup truck within the next year.
City to sell off old propane, storage tanks
The ease of access to natural gas is one reason that Utilities Director Bill Meecham believes the city should decommission an old plant that housed propane.
The Gas Peak Shaving plant was built in the 1970s and used a method whereby propane could be altered so that it would bun similar to natural gas and could, therefore, be used in natural gas' place. It is located behind the Covington Housing Authority, which is off Alcovy Road.
Because the city no longer experiences shortages of natural gas, Meecham recommended shutting down the plant and selling off its assets instead of paying to bring the keep the plant in operating shape.
The plant contains about 100,000 gallons of propane and multiple storage tanks.
The council approved spending $5,000 to have Southeastern Gas Engineering inventory the assets and take bids for them.