LAFAYETTE — City-parish government’s new natural gas-powered buses are expected to be rolling by this fall after initial delays in plans for the specialized fueling station needed for the new vehicles.
The City-Parish Council on Tuesday accepted the donation of a temporary fueling station from Apache Corporation, a Houston-based oil and gas company that has been active in pushing the development of natural gas as a cheaper and cleaner alternative to gasoline.
The temporary station, which is expected to be installed by October, will allow city-parish government to begin using five natural gas buses that arrived in the past month but have sat idle because there is nowhere to fill them up, City-Parish Director of Traffic and Transportation Tony Tramel said.
He said that once the natural gas buses are operational, city-parish government is expected to see fuel costs for the buses cut by at least half.
The permanent fueling station was expected to be in place sooner, but technical issues with finding a contractor to build it have delayed the project.
Tramel said the temporary station will be used until city-parish government completes the permanent station at the public works facility on East University Avenue.
The permanent natural gas station, which will fuel vehicles much quicker than the small temporary station, is expected to be operating by spring, Tramel said.
That station also will be open to the public, he said.
Another publicly accessible natural gas station in Lafayette is planned by Apache off Verot School Road, said Frank Chapel, who oversees Apache’s initiative to develop natural gas as a transportation fuel.
Chapel said the company’s Lafayette station is scheduled to be operating by October.
The main market of natural gas as a vehicle fuel at this time are companies that operate large vehicle fleets, and Chapel said the Lafayette area seems to have the highest concentration of fleet vehicles in Louisiana.
“The potential here is tremendous,” he said.
City-parish government’s natural gas initiative is funded by about $2 million in state and federal grants that were awarded to promote natural gas as a vehicle fuel.
In addition to the buses and fueling station, city-parish government has plans to convert 40 vehicles in its fleet to run off natural gas.
“It’s our clean energy,” City-Parish President Joey Durel said, referring to the abundance of natural gas in Louisiana.