Heading into a major alternative clean fuel transportation convention early in May in Southern California, the push for building out natural gas vehicle (NGV) fueling infrastructure is being continued by two of the nation’s leading NGV fueling providers. Along the way, use of compressed natural gas (CNG) keeps growing.

Southern California-based Clean Energy Fuels Corp. said Thursday that it has opened a CNG station to serve the first transit agency in Florida expected to transition its entire fleet to natural gas, and Trillium CNG said it will give a progress report on it campaign to open 101 CNG fueling stations by 2016 at the ACT (Alternative Clean Transportation ) Expo May 5-8 in Long Beach, CA.

Chicago-based Trillium announced at last year’s ACT Expo that it planned to build the CNG fueling network spread over 30 states, specializing in fast-fill technology for heavy-duty fleets. A unit of Integrys Transportation Fuels LLC, part of the Integrys Energy Group, Trillium’ strategy calls for securing a fuel purchase agreement with an anchor customer for each of its new station locations (see Daily GPI, June 28, 2013).

In Florida, Clean Energy opened a station for Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART), which the natural gas transportation fuel provider described as “the first transit agency in Florida expected to transition its entire fleet to cleaner-burning natural gas.”

Clean Energy has a contract with HART to design, build, operate and maintain the CNG fueling station to support the transit system’s growing investment in natural gas as a more cost-effective bus fleet fuel. The fueling station is equipped with four fast-fill CNG dispensers to fuel buses, vans and other fleet vehicles.

The project entailed the construction of a CNG fueling station plus modification of existing maintenance facilities and fuel lanes. The modifications were engineered and implemented by Clean Energy’s team specializing in facility modification services.

“We expect our new NGVs to allow people to continue to commute in comfort and at the same time improve our air quality,” said Katharine Eagan, HART interim CEO. “Natural gas is available domestically and at this time, costs approximately 20% to 25% less than diesel.”

HART said it plans to deploy 28 new CNG vans to replace diesel-powered models. Early next year, HART expects to put 22 new CNG buses in service as diesel buses are retired. By the end of 2015, HART expects to have 59 CNG vehicles operating.

Clean Energy estimates that natural gas costs up to $1.50 less per gallon equivalent than gasoline or diesel, depending on local market conditions. The use of natural gas fuel not only reduces operating costs for vehicles, but also reduces greenhouse gas emissions up to 30% in light-duty vehicles and 23% in medium- to heavy-duty vehicles, according to Clean Energy.

Separately, Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) unveiled its first company-branded, public-access CNG fueling station at an operating base in Lancaster in north Los Angeles County. The retail facility is open 24 hours a day and features a fast-fill dispenser to serve both fleet and individual-owned NGVs.

It is the first SoCalGas CNG station to prominently carry the utility company’s badge. The firm is promoting an average CNG price of about $2/ gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE).

“We consider affordable, abundant, domestically produced natural gas as the energy of possibility and a fuel that can power a clean environment and propel our nation toward energy independence,” SoCalGas’ Rodger Schwecke, customer solutions, said in announcing the new fueling location. The station is one of 19 CNG fueling outlets operated by SoCalGas supporting a utility fleet of more than 1,000 NGVs. Eleven are public access facilities.

Elsewhere, Italy’s Safe SpA, a CNG fueling systems supplier and Landi Renzo unit, has named Mario Pirraglia as president of its new Safe North America business unit, effective last Monday, establishing for Landi Renzo the North American version of its USA unit based in Torrance, CA. four years ago. Landi Renzo USA subsequently acquired Baytech and with it a line of certified NGV conversion offerings.

Pirraglia, a former chair of the Canadian Natural Gas Alliance, told the transportation newsletter Fleets and Fuels that Safe North America will start with compressors in the U.S. and Canada as it determines the best strategy for selling integrated packages. In addition to heavy duty and other compressors for CNG, the Safe product line includes dryers, dispensers, storage onsite CNG storage vessels, and metering gear. Landi Renzo has a strategy in place to build its Safe CNG brands throughout North America. Since its founding in 1975, Safe has delivered more than 3,000 compressor systems worldwide.