Utilities company opens alternative fuel station in Dover

DOVER — The newly opened Chesapeake Utilities compressed natural gas (CNG) public fueling station is a far cry from the company’s old one — originally built in the 1990s — on Queen Street in Dover.

Hugging Del. 1, the more spacious and accessible station can fuel fleet vehicles in mere minutes and have them on their way again.

Chesapeake Utilities hosted a ribbon-cutting at the now-open-to-the-public CNG station on Tuesday morning at their new 500 Energy Lane Campus in Dover — itself a recent addition to the Blue Hen Corporate Center back in September of last year.

The CNG station is the only one of its kind on the peninsula, managers say.

Former Dover Mayor Carleton Carey — who was in attendance — got a special thank you from Shane Breakie, assistant vice president of Chesapeake Utilities during the event.

“It’s great that we have this brand new fueling station out here just opened today, but we actually had a fueling station at our Queen Street office that we opened back in the mid-90s — that was Carleton’s baby,” said Mr. Breakie. “He was the visionary behind all this. He helped get things initiated and kick started the Clean Cities program. He’s been pushing for alternative fuel vehicles on the state and federal side for awhile. He’s done a lot for us.”

Clean Cities coalitions claim to support the “nation’s energy and economic security by building local partnerships to advance affordable, domestic transportation fuels and technologies.”

Made possible in part by a $500,000 “Alternative Fueling Infrastructure Grant,” DNREC’s secretary Shawn Garvin was also on hand to cheer the project.

“We’re extremely proud that through our grant program, we were able to help invest in this project,” he said. “In addition to this program, we have 10 electric charging stations throughout Kent and Sussex counties. We’re looking at this type of model where we can continue to move the entire state and region toward being able to use more renewable fuels for our vehicles. In Delaware, we are the lowest lying state in the nation, so we’re feeling the impacts of climate change right now. We have responsibility to both look at adaptation and resilience, but also to do our part as it relates to climate change, greenhouse gas reductions and trying to be a leader throughout the country.”

DNREC notes that the Alternative Fueling Infrastructure Grant funds were provided by Delaware’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative – a mandatory cap-and-trade program imposed to limit carbon dioxide (CO2) from the power sector.

Natural gas-powered vehicles are claimed to be an alternative to gasoline and diesel vehicles that allegedly reduce “greenhouse gas” emissions by 30 percent.

Cost and abundance are also considerations. American Gas Association research states that driving with natural gas can cut costs by approximately 50 percent.

The national average cost of CNG is about $2 per gasoline gallon equivalent. Additionally, it’s said that the natural gas supply is abundant in the U.S., which allegedly boasts a “100-year” supply.

While at the moment it’s not a profit center for the Chesapeake Utilities, managers have said that the station is important because it both supports businesses and individuals who’ve converted fleet or personal vehicles to use CNG and also helps introduce the “environmentally-friendly” fuel alternative to the area.

“The station is a showpiece right now that we hope that it becomes a revenue generator in the future,” Mr. Breakie has said. “There are a few truck drivers that work with Kraft that use CNG that refuel with us regularly and more long-haul trucks and even waste-haulers are starting to convert.

Chesapeake Utilities has already converted about a dozen of their service vehicles to use natural gas and even sponsored the Kent County Tourism Corporation’s mobile visitor center — called “The Villager.”

The Villager was on site Tuesday as well to help usher in the station’s opening. The F-250 Ford Transit, which puts in a fair amount of dashboard time, runs on natural gas.

The ribbon-cutting was the highlight of Chesapeake Utilities’ Fleet Management Summit on Environmental Responsibility, also held on Tuesday, to “educate, promote and expand the use of alternative fuels in commercial freight vehicles and fleets” with the goal of improving air quality in the region.

The event drew several dozen business owners, investors and government partners together to discuss Delaware as an “Alternative Fuel Corridor.”

Speakers from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Delaware Motor Transport Association, Clean Cities Delaware, Mid-Atlantic Regional Air Management Association were on hand to give presentations of the state’s future prospects in alternative fuels and provide information on grants.

DelDOT representatives also gave an accounting of their recent vehicle conversions. Secretary Jennifer Cohan noted that through several partnerships with local providers like Chesapeake Utilities and Sharp Energy, the agency has been able to add a lot of “environmentally conscious and fuel efficient” vehicles to their fleet.

“We’re continuing to transfer over our DART transit fleet to run on propane,” she said. “Right now we’re converted about 70 percent, but by 2021 our entire 300 paratransit bus fleet will run on propane.

“We’re very much behind the concept of Delaware being a clean fuels corridor. We even have 16 all-electric large busses being delivered shortly, with the first one coming next week.”

Staff writer Ian Gronau can be reached at 741-8272 or igronau@newszap.com

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