Compressed Natural Gas bus still experiencing engine trouble

They’re working to figure out what’s wrong

By Toni Todd

Rumors of bad gas at Gunnison’s compressed natural gas (CNG) station have been swirling, but appear to be unfounded. The county has been having engine trouble with its new CNG bus, and it was initially thought the gas might be to blame. That has now been ruled out.

“The gas gets tested locally by Atmos Energy, and by Xcel Energy, the company that brings the gas in,” said Gunnison County facilities and grounds director John Cattles.

Cummins, the engine maker, was first to point a finger at the gas. “But that doesn’t seem to be the case,” said Cattles. “We pulled the test results and sent those to them and they now agree the gas is within specs and is not the cause.

“We’re still troubleshooting,” Cattles added. “It just takes a while.”

The county is working to convert its fleet of buses and other vehicles to CNG. “It burns 30 percent cleaner than diesel, with significantly reduced emissions,” Cattles said. Most noticeable is the near-elimination of particulate pollution from burning CNG. “It’s almost zero, so there is no black smoke coming from the exhaust,” said Cattles. Nitrogen oxide pollution is zero from CNG.

“We’ve been able to secure renewable CNG,” Cattles added. Renewable natural gas, also called bio-methane, is derived from non-fossil-fuel sources. The U.S. Department of Energy describes it as, “a pipeline-quality gas that is fully interchangeable with conventional natural gas and thus can be used in natural gas vehicles. It can be used to generate heat or electricity, but must be processed to a high purity standard for use in vehicles.”

Cattles is not sure of the exact source of Gunnison gas, but said it could be coming from livestock production in the Midwest.

“Grand Junction is about 10 years ahead of us,” he said. It took them about three years to put their renewable CNG program together, and for the last two years, they’ve not only been able to fuel their fleet with CNG, but to obtain it from a local source. “It’s renewable, and comes from their own sewage treatment plant,” Cattles says.

Cattles hopes Gunnison County will soon be able to do the same, fueling its vehicles with renewable, locally sourced natural gas, or possibly from captured coal-bed methane.

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