The Charlotte County (Fla.) Public Schools signed an agreement last month with CNG provider Nopetro to construct and finance a fueling station as well as supporting infrastructure contingent on Type C school buses being manufactured to run on the alternative fuel.
That arrangement works well for Richard Duckworth, Charlotte County's director of transportation, who explained to STN that Nopetro won't break ground on the new facility until CNG options are available for Type C conventional school buses. In the meantime, Nopetro is in the process of performing necessary land surveys at the Punta Gorda location.
The new turnkey facility will be similar to a fueling station that Nopetro built last year for Leon County Schools in Tallahassee. That station represents the nation's first public-private partnership for CNG fueling. Nopetro is also finalizing similar agreements with St. Johns and Osceola counties.
"(Nopetro) can certainly go ahead and build if they want to, but the district's responsibilities don't kick in until I have something I can buy that I can use," he said. "That does likely mean I won't be running any CNG until the earliest 2016, but that could very well change."
As reported in October 2012, Cummins is expected to go into production of its new ISB6.7 G natural gas engine next year. Based on the Cummins ISB6.7 diesel engine for school buses and other medium-duty vocational vehicles, the ISB G will use Cummins Westport's spark-ignited, stoichiometric cooled exhaust gas recirculation (SEGR) technology.
"(Fuel facility) construction is set to begin once the first P.O. is put in on the first bus," added Duckworth.
Charlotte County prefers purchasing conventional buses because they best meet average bus occupancy, the number of eligible transported students a school district transports each day per school bus in daily service. School districts need this data to receive their share of the Florida Education Finance Program funds for student transportation, a mix of state and local funds that pays for about 45 percent, on state average, of what local school districts actually spend to provide public student transportation services.
"(Type Cs) are more economical," Duckworth said, who expects to purchase about 30 new CNG buses once they are available.
Duckworth added that Charlotte Count will purchase 15 buses in the first year the Type Cs are available, and an additional 15 buses the following year.
"We are doing this to keep the capital costs manageable, and keep our replacement cycle in place. We will also be applying for a state grant to reimburse 50 percent of the upcharge for the CNG power system," he explained. "The 15 bus target keeps any potential upcharge within the state grant limit."
He added that the incremental cost for CNG purchases is expected to be about $40,000.
Meanwhile, Nopetro said the switch from diesel to CNG is expected to "significantly" cut the district's $1-million annual bus fuel cost. CNG also promises to reduce particulate matter emissions by 89 percent, carbon monoxide by 70 percent, carbon dioxide by 25 percent and nitrous oxide by 80 percent.
"The switch from diesel to CNG will not only spur significant savings, but will also position Charlotte County Public Schools ahead of the curve on leading tougher standards for vehicles and fleets regionally and across the country," said Jorge Herrera, co-founder and CEO of Nopetro.