Natural gas station coming soon
by Rick DeClue · News · December 24, 2013

West Branch will soon add another link to the clean energy movement, due to a planned liquid natural gas distribution station to be built at 126 Tidewater Drive.

The city council approved a final site plan for the facility on Dec. 16. Construction is expected to start early next year, with a six-month timeline.

The operator, Clean Energy Fuels Corporation of Newport Beach, Calif., has a system of approximately 70 stations across trucking routes in the U.S. Another 35 are expected to come online in 2014, Project Manager Ben Steckler of the Fielder Group said. The company has focused on major southern routes and expanded north. They are currently trying to fill in along I-80.

According to Steckler, LNG burns 30 percent cleaner than diesel fuel, costs approximately 40 percent less and mileage efficiency is equal to or greater than diesel, depending on the vehicle. He said that engines fueled by LNG also run quieter than diesel engines.

Steckler said the nearest stations to West Branch are Altoona to the west and Peoria to the east. The goal is to have stations every 200 miles, with availability coast to coast; many truck refueling stations are attached to Pilot-Flying J truck stops.

The West Branch facility will house a fuel-only station with a storage capacity of 18,000 gallons, expandable to 36,000 gallons. The two distribution islands, expandable to four, plus turnaround space will occupy most of the 1.5-acre site east of the Presidential Inn. The station will be able to serve up to 400 trucks per day — double with the expansion.

Mayor Mark Worrell asked about truck parking, noting that the planned Casey’s store at Tidewater Street and Baker Avenue will have no truck parking. Alternatively, he wondered whether drivers would wander across Tidewater to the new Casey’s store when it is completed next year.

Steckler said that truck drivers will be made aware that the station is limited service. He added that they are required to stay with their vehicle at all times during the dispensing process.

The drivers have to pass a certification process to be able to use the facilities. They have various checks and responses to prompts while filling up. Safety requirements include protective gloves and eyewear.

Steckler discussed the various monitoring, detectors, alarms and emergency shutoffs in the event of a problem during fueling; safeguards have been developed in conjunction with the National Fire Protection Association.

LNG is stored at a temperature of minus 259 degrees Fahrenheit. Lines at the station will have shutoffs leaving no more than seven feet of line at risk. If the liquid gas strikes the atmosphere, it essentially boils immediately, turns to vapor and dissipates. There is a risk of combustion between a density of 5 and 15 percent, but this is limited by the various system shut downs, he said.

The unmanned station will be connected to the city’s fire department. At the city’s request, Clean Energy will send a safety engineer to train local fire personnel, or will pay for up to two people to attend a semiannual training program at Texas A&M University.

Steckler said that a fire chief once stated simply, “If your house could be heated by gasoline or natural gas, what would you want?” — meaning that it is safer than gasoline.

The city council also approved an agreement with the developer to cover $30,370 in road improvements for its frontage along Tidewater Drive. The city and Casey’s will share the rest of the costs for improvements up to and including Baker Avenue.

Clean Energy also provides compressed natural gas fueling sites for municipal and commercial vehicles in the U.S. and Canada, converts trash to fuel and is developing ways to use LNG for maritime shipping, he said.

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