Compressed gas stations' presence could double here


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A spate of new compressed natural gas stations is in the works in southwestern Pennsylvania at a pace that could double the number of places available in the region to fill up CNG-powered vehicles within two years.

A joint venture between Washington, Pa.-based Shale Hotels Inc. and Coolspring, Pa.-based "O" Ring CNG Fuel Systems LP, which builds stations, is planning a facility in Bentleyville, Washington County, just down the street from the Best Western and Holiday Inn Express hotels where odd-hour breakfasts and boot-washers service the rig crowd. Many companies in the Marcellus Shale industry are converting their fleets to run on CNG.

Shale Hotels manages a group of hotels owned by Kam Gosai and a group of other doctor investors. Tejas Gosai, owner and president of the hotel company and Dr. Gosai's son, said from now on, when he builds a new hotel, he'd like to throw in a CNG station.

There's potential for two to four more such stations through his partnership with "O" Ring, Mr. Gosai said. He'd like the next one to be at Southpointe, but finding land there has been difficult.

Other potential sites would be north and south of Southpointe on I-79, and somewhere near New Stanton.

Mr. Gosai, for one, is going all in on the American fuel independence promise.

He has swapped his Honda for a Dodge, which he plans to convert to CNG. In the meantime, he's working on getting his family's stainless steel DeLorean (think "Back to the Future") running and converted to compressed natural gas. Mr. Gosai already has registered the domain fracktothefuture.com.

There are five public CNG stations in southwestern Pennsylvania: EQT's Strip District facility, Giant Eagle's Crafton and Cranberry locations, American Natural's Station Square station, and Waste Management's Clean-n-Green station in Washington.

Another six stations to the north and east of the city are within an hour and a half drive, including four public stations owned by "O" Ring.

At least three other CNG stations are planned in the region.

IGS Energy, an Ohio-based energy marketing company, is looking to build a station in Mount Morris, Greene County, according to Pittsburgh Region Clean Cities.

Beemac Trucking is finishing up construction of a station in Ambridge that is scheduled to open before the end of the year. Beemac is converting its fleet of trucks to run on natural gas.

Giant Eagle is doing the same. In the past several years, the O'Hara-based grocer has received more than $2 million in grants from the state's Department of Environmental Protection for alternative fuel vehicles and infrastructure. It has partnered with Volvo to increase the size of the CNG engine in certain trucks and has committed to buying them.

"O" Ring president Bob Beatty has seen the CNG business grow at his own stations, where business doubles weekly, he said. His company also has helped to install 17 other CNG stations in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, and Maryland over the past six years.

Another eight are on order, Mr. Beatty said, including those in the joint venture.

The average cost is about $2 million per station.

"Seven or eight years ago, it was an idea," he said. "Six years ago, we hadn't built our first station yet. Now we have eight public stations under contract.

"We're providing the chicken, so lots of eggs are being laid."

Anya Litvak: alitvak@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1455.


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