St. Johns County turning to natural gas for vehicles

Officials say move could save $4.5M a year

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – St. Johns County is preparing to say goodbye to some of its gas guzzlers and instead plan on powering its county vehicles with compressed natural gas.

It's a proposal that could save the county millions of dollars a year, and over the next 30 days officials will be deciding which natural gas company they'll do business with.

One natural gas company is proposing to build a $2 million natural gas fueling station near the Public Works Department, which would provide natural gas for public and private vehicles starting in spring 2015.

"The benefits are much cheaper fuel, domestic, $1.50 a gallon, saving, and we're moving on to a cleaner fuel," said Jorge Herrera of Nopetro, the first natural gas company to present its proposal to St. Johns County.

Convert the county's vehicles to being powered by compressed natural gas would be $1.33 cents cheaper per gallon to fill up. Herrera said natural gas is the wave of the future.

"Last year, 80 percent of all refuge trucks were compressed natural gas, 50 percent of all the transit trucks were compressed natural gas," Herrera said. "So what we're seeing is a heavy transition of heavy sections, garbage trucks."

County officials say converting each vehicle to natural gas will cost them $6,000 to $10,000, depending on the car or truck. But in the end, county officials said the savings add up to about $4.5 million a year.

"The county's focused on our fleet, utility trucks, Public Works trucks, vehicles, equipment," Public Works Director Neal Shinkre said.

He said officials are soliciting bids from other natural gas companies to get the most competitive price. But Nopetro is also offering to fill up 100 private vehicles a day in its own venture to promote what it says is a cleaner, cheaper fuel.

"The private vehicles is a venture they bring to the table," Shinkre said. "They have a marketing plan that has shown the county the ability to market the other fleets."

About the Author: