Natural gas development is a key component of Mississippi’s energy strategy, according to Gov. Phil Bryant, who on Wednesday said he has taken steps to encourage the use of natural gas vehicles (NGV) in the state. Meanwhile, more alternative fuel stations are going up around the nation and Cummins said it has developed a heavy duty, spark-ignited natural gas engine to meet “on-highway applications.”

Bryant said he has instructed Mississippi’s Department of Finance and Administration to request bids from companies to convert state-owned vehicles from gasoline or diesel fuel to natural gas, and he has signed a memorandum of understanding with 11 other governors seeking to encourage auto manufacturers to increase NGV production. The governor has said Mississippi is on the cutting edge of energy technology, and he hopes that the state can lead industry innovation.

The Mississippi State Legislature should create incentives that would spur development of natural gas fueling stations and the jobs that would come with them, Bryant said during a press conference in Jackson, MS.

“Gasoline is averaging more than $3.80/gal while compressed natural gas is averaging less than $2/gal, with some stations charging less than 75 cents/gal. Our state and our citizens need the opportunity to realize the savings natural gas can create.”

The state’s Department of Finance and Administration (DFA) recently launched a pilot program to convert some of the state’s fleet of about 7,400 vehicles to natural gas. The legislature is considering the Energy Sustainability and Development Act of 2012 (HB 1330), which would require the development of a statewide energy plan to forecast energy needs and deficiencies. The bill, which was already passed by the state’s House, was referred to the Senate Energy and Finance committees on Tuesday.

Natural gas development is a key component of Mississippi’s energy strategy, and the state’s gas resources and infrastructure will help it “dominate the natural gas stage at the national level,” Bryant said. “More natural gas flows through Mississippi than any other state, making it a hub for natural gas development,” he said. Bryant was joined at the press conference by oil and gas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, as well as representatives from industries that support natural gas expansion in Mississippi.

Pickens’ Clean Energy Fuels Corp. has said it plans to build a natural gas fueling station near Jackson by 2014. Two days before the press conference the Seal Beach, CA-based company said it had signed a 10-year deal with a major fleet operator, Saddle Creek Corp., to build fueling stations to support its expanding natural gas-powered truck fleet.

A nationwide third-party supply chain logistics provider, Saddle Creek has outlined a national network of natural gas fueling facilities as part of its switch to operate its trucks on compressed natural gas (CNG). Seal Beach, CA-based Clean Energy provides both fuel and builds and operates fueling infrastructure. Saddle Creek opened the first of its network of fueling stations at its Lakeland, FL, headquarters in December last year, including four fast-fill pumps and 20 time-fill hoses to handle 120 CNG trucks daily.

Columbus, IN-based Cummins last week said it has developed a 15-liter heavy duty, spark-ignited natural gas engine (ISX15 G) to meet “on-highway applications” of natural gas as a transportation fuel — either as compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG). The new gas engine is based on a widely recognized diesel engine made by Cummins (ISX15). Cummins is banking on the continued development of plentiful and low-cost gas supplies in the United States for engines that run on CNG or LNG, a company spokesperson said.

And Maryland-based GP Strategies’ alternative fuels business unit has completed building an alternative fuels station to provide both CNG and LNG at Kwik Trip Inc.’s corporate headquarters in La Crosse, WI. GP Strategies designed the new fueling facility, which is scheduled to open in May in a region that currently has little natural gas transportation fueling for the general public. The station also would serve the company’s fleet of LNG- and CNG-powered vehicles.

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