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CNG Fueling Gains More Interest

Compressed natural gas (CNG) gained more fans along the East Coast last week, while the use of CNG vehicles by a major rental car operator also was launched.

In one announcement, Hertz Corp. said it would begin offering CNG rental vehicles at the Oklahoma City airport next month, backed by Chesapeake Energy Corp., which is headquartered there. Separately, the natural gas marketing unit of Delaware-based Chesapeake Utilities Corp. (CUC) and Wise Gas Inc. said they plan to jointly develop a series of CNG fueling stations in Florida and along the East Coast to serve both municipal and private-sector fleets. CUC's Peninsula Energy Services Co. (PESCO) would work with Wise on sourcing opportunities to build the fueling facilities. No financial details were disclosed.

Hertz said that it would offer eight CNG Honda Civics and two CNG GMC Yukons at Will Rogers World Airport. All the vehicles will be equipped with GPS systems to help customers find CNG fueling stations.

"[We're] committed to providing our customers with a full spectrum of vehicle options to suit their rental needs, including clean emission vehicles," said Hertz CEO Mark Frissora. The company's options would include electric vehicles, as well as CNG and other fuel-efficient vehicles in its "Green Traveler Collection."

Oklahoma City is to serve as a pilot program for the CNG airport rentals program. Oklahoma has two advantages: an established CNG fueling infrastructure with more than 70 planned or existing public stations around the state, and a number of the nation's leading natural gas producers, including Chesapeake and Devon Energy Corp. Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon said if the venture proves successful, he's hopeful Hertz would take the strategy nationwide.

In the eastern fueling station push, Wise business development consultant Jeff Greene, who has worked with the company since 2008 on five CNG fueling stations in Florida, is to serve as the project leader. According to CUC, Greene was instrumental in a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency decision to approve Wise as a small-volume manufacturer of bi-fuel conversion kits for vehicles more than two years old. Greene also is the Florida state leader for the T. Boone Pickens Plan to create a national "natural gas highway."

The CNG business is gaining traction nationally, and it has evolved rapidly during the past four years, Greene noted.

Given the price, environmental and national security issues, CUC and Wise officials are convinced that natural gas is capable of supplanting conventional fuels in many fleet applications, said PESCO General Manager Bill Hancock. No specific amounts or station limits are attached to the joint partnership, Hancock told NGI.

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