The University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension office added a bi-fuel vehicle to the fleet this week, which can run on both gasoline and Compressed Natural Gas, or CNG.
Encana Oil & Gas, one of North America’s largest producers of natural gas, awarded a $13,000 grant for the UW office to convert a 2012 Ford F-150 to run on CNG. The grant fully covered the addition of aftermarket CNG components, which was completed in Pinedale, Wyo.
Milton Geiger, the energy extension coordinator for the Cooperative Extension Office, said natural gas is cheap and plentiful in Wyoming. Fueling stations can be installed at natural gas pipelines that crisscross the state. The cost of an equivalent gallon of gasoline is about $2 more and natural gas produces fewer emissions, he said.
Geiger also said the technology is not new. Countries like Pakistan and Italy have been using CNG vehicles for some time, but this is the first one acquired for university use.
The project began when the office’s director, Glen Whipple, approached Encana about funding for a new truck they were planning to purchase.
“Encana has been a strong supporter of natural gas fueling. It was in their best interest and, hey, we’re in the education business,” Geiger said.
The UW extension office will use the vehicle the same as the other 31 vehicles in the fleet—for supervising extension offices in counties around the state and providing education resources to the people.
The availability of filling stations is still an obstacle for these kinds of vehicles. The four-wheel drive pickup will be used primarily in the Western side of the state due to better availability of CNG filling stations, where the fuel is more often used to power fleets. There are currently no CNG filling stations in Laramie.
More CNG fueling stations are likely to pop up around the state due to advocacy by groups like the Wyoming Natural Gas Fuel Coalition, said Geiger.
Geiger said there are not many noticeable differences between a CNG-powered truck and a normal truck. A full tank of CNG will last the truck 150 to 200 miles, a slightly shorter driving range, but a flip of switch changes the engine over to regular gasoline.
As for safety issues associated with having a pressurized tank on board, Geiger said he was not concerned. He said the system is crash-tested and, in some ways, may be safer than gasoline tanks.
“If we didn’t tell you it ran on natural gas, you wouldn’t know,” Geiger said. “This first one is sort of a test.”