Salt Lake City-based Questar Corp. plans to accelerate its natural gas vehicle (NGV) fueling subsidiary with a $25 million annual commitment to expand a network of compressed natural gas (CNG) stations.

"Questar Fueling continues to expand its footprint of CNG stations," Questar CEO Ron Jibson said during a conference call with analysts last Thursday. Earlier this year, a station opened in Salt Lake City, anchored by Swift Transportation and FritoLay. Six more stations are set to open this year in San Antonio, Phoenix, Denver and Las Vegas, and in Bakersfield and Fontana, CA.

"Even in today's lower priced gasoline and diesel fuel markets, Questar continues to see significant long-term growth potential for the use of natural gas for transportation,” Jibson said.

Separately, Vancouver-based engine and equipment manufacturer Westport Innovations has partnered with Orlando, FL-based Allied Speciality Vehicles (ASV) to provide Westport WiNG equipment for CNG in Allied's Collins School Bus vehicles.

Westport also launched Westport Parts + Service and is seeking distributors for "reliable, accessible original engine (OE) quality parts and service to the growing North American NGV market." Westport Parts would  specialize in OE quality parts to the on-highway truck market and include medium, heavy and light duty vehicles and off-highway NGVs.

The company's commitment is to "provide a network of certified facilities to install, service and repair NGVs with class-leading service and customer support, including technical training and 24/7 hotlines."

Meanwhile, the National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA) and Calstart, the clean transportation public-private sector collaboration in California, introduced an accreditation program with tiered performance ratings to encourage vehicle fuel savings and overall environmental sustainability. Patterned after LEED, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the four-tier rating system would be a first, complementing the U.S. Department of Energy's National Fleet Partnership program, according to Calstart.

"Fleets will be able to measure, manage and improve," said Calstart Senior Vice President Bill Van Amburg. "The point is to start down the path first by baselining where [a fleet is], then validating progress, and finally, by benchmarking against rigorous standards and actions of peers."

North American Repower (NAR), based in California, this week also plans to unveil an all-NGV Class 5  International 4000 series truck with spark-ignition and a 7.6-liter DT 466 engine at the Alternative Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo in Dallas.

Trucks would be featured that are equipped with used diesel engines modified for all-NGV operations by Missouri-based Springfield Remanufacturing Corp., according to NAR. Lean-burn operation makes for NGV fuel efficiency "pretty much on a par with diesel fuel.”

CNG refueling infrastructure continues to proliferate in the Lower 48. At the beginning of April, the Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels Data Center lists 1,761 public and private CNG stations, 1,553 of which are currently in commercial operation.