Industry, elected leaders meet, talk about natural gas’ potential
By Matt Mikus email@example.com June 18, 2013 4:30PM
Updated: July 20, 2013 6:41AM
HAMMOND — Industry leaders and local elected officials met Tuesday at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond to talk about the potential and challenges facing an alternative energy that’s gaining momentum: compressed natural gas.
Sponsored by a grant from the Indiana Department of Energy Development, the meeting was held by South Shore Clean Cities to encourage government officials to consider natural gas for municipal vehicles.
Compressed natural gas is often considered as a strong potential to replace gasoline. With lower greenhouse gas emissions, lower cost compared to diesel and an abundance of natural gas produced within the United States, transit companies are paying closer attention.
“The event was designed to start a conversation with decision makers to start using natural gas,” said Donna George of South Shore Clean Cities. “We got a lot more business people than we expected, but we just want to start the conversation.”
South Shore Clean Cities asked cement company Ozinga of Chicago to talk about its transition from diesel to natural gas.
Ozinga’s co-owner and communication director Tim Ozinga said the concrete and materials company began the switch from diesel to compressed natural gas in 2011. Ozinga started to look at alternatives to power their fleet.
“Natural gas came out as the clear winner,” Ozinga said, “it exceeds current and future emissions standards, we save a lot on fuel, and it’s an American energy source.”
The company purchased its first two trucks running on natural gas in spring 2011. In summer 2012, they opened their own fueling station for their fleet and third-party vehicles they contract for at their operations in Chicago and Mokena, Ill.
Ozinga said the company sees more than 40 percent in savings over conventional diesel, and has an 80% reduction in carbon emissions and 23 precent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
The fuel has also inspired the company to expand its own infrastructure. By the end of 2013, the company plans to install a compressed natural gas fueling station in Gary and Des Plaines, Ill. Those stations will also be open for public fuel services.
They hope to convert the entire fleet of 500 vehicles to natural gas by 2020.
Randy Niemeyer of Cedar Lake said he was interested about natural gas as both a business owner and a local government official. He serves on the Cedar Lake Town Council, but asked more questions from a business perspective.
His company, Niemeyer Milk Transfer Inc., is considering new trucks that would run on a mixture of diesel and natural gas simultaneously. While he’s interested in the potential of natural gas, he said the infrastructure just isn’t there yet to support a complete switch.
“The reason diesel worked so well is it’s been cheap and widely available,” Niemeyer said, “I can see the network start to happen with natural gas. I think we’re at a critical point.”
He added that with so many changes in recent years, he wants to be involved with its potential now.
South Shore Clean Cities plans to continue to host educational conferences about the possibility of natural gas for transportation.