YANKEE LAKE - The future of natural-gas powered vehicles is bright, and Thursday, hundreds of business and community leaders turned out to hear just how bright.
"It's a very, very abundant fuel, it's cheaper, and it's domestic," said Steve White of Clean Energy Fuels, one of several speakers who participated in a conference spurred by state Reps. Sean O'Brien of Hubbard and Nick Barborak of Columbiana County and sponsored by three area Chambers of Commerce and several other organizations, to discuss and answer questions about the future of different forms of natural gas to power vehicles.
"We have a big cross section, and it's a common question of how do we utilize this upcoming revolution in energy," O'Brien said inside the Yankee Lake Ballroom, where about 200 people gathered.
Topics discussed included issues like the pros and cons of different natural gas forms of Compressed Natural Gas, or CNG, Liquid Natural Gas, or LNG, and propane, along with the costs of building the necessary fueling stations and infrastructure, and conversion of vehicles to utilize various forms of the natural gas.
"CNG is the optimal fuel for trucks that come back to the home base every day and travel a range of 300 miles or less," White said. "If not, then LNG is more optimal."
The difference, panelists explained, is that CNG is a gas form. LNG is a liquid form but must be created first by cryogenically cooling it to -260 degrees.
Tribune Chronicle / Brenda J. Linert
Panelists included, from left, Sam Spofforth of Clean Fuels Ohio; Sam Crites of Loves Travel Stops; Steve White of Clean Energy Fuels; and moderator Ken Collins from American’s Natural Gas Alliance.
Mike Wilson of Cortland, who is a district sales manager for Fleet / Commercial / Government Sales for General Motors, one of the event's sponsors, said GM vehicles like the Silverado pickup truck and the Chevy Impala can be factory-made CNG ready.
A way to beat range anxiety, an industry term indicating the concern of CNG-equipped vehicles reaching a geographical area where no CNG filling stations are available, is to purchase a "bi-fuel" vehicle equipped with both gasoline and CNG tanks, Wilson said.
"This allows them to have the extended range," he said, noting that demand has varied in different parts of the country. "It's all based on logistics. That's why we are here today."
Area Chevy dealers have said while the purchase of such vehicles has been slow so far, the interest is growing on pace with increased drilling in the Utica and Marcellus Shale Plays.
Shawn Bennett, campaign manager with Energy in Depth, a research, education and public outreach campaign for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, attended the event and described the area's shale development, noting that Mahoning and southeast Trumbull counties have been identified as areas of the shale play with heavy wet gas potential.