Problems surface at Montgomery County natural gas station -- Gazette.Net


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Bill Henry wants to be part of Montgomery County’s “clean energy” campaign. He even runs the van he uses for his Gaithersburg home improvement contracting business with compressed natural gas.

But since May, the only station in the county that he knows of where he can fuel his van has been down for a total of about eight weeks, including five weeks in a stretch during May and June, he said. That’s caused him to have to turn down some jobs and take more time to transfer equipment with a smaller truck.

“It has impacted my business,” Henry said. “In past years, the station has been down for a day or two at a time, which I can understand. But it hasn’t been like this.”

On Oct. 5, pumps at the station at 16640 Crabbs Branch Way near Shady Grove Road had a sign on them saying the site was expected to be down until only Sept. 28 — the previous Friday.

The pumps are back and running, Esther Bowring, a county spokeswoman, said this week. An issue is the age of the system, which the county inherited from a utility company, she said.

“It’s been a little difficult to get replacement parts when something goes wrong,” Bowring said.

The county has numerous vehicles that run on natural gas, mostly large vehicles such as buses, Bowring said. Those fuel up at a commercial pump that is geared to fill large vehicles quickly, she said.

Many garbage collection trucks for the county also run on natural gas.

The nearest other fueling site for natural gas available to the public that Bowring said she knew of is at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

A U.S. Department of Energy website listed only three compressed natural gas fueling stations open to the public in Maryland — in Montgomery County, at BWI and in Curtis Bay. There were none listed in Washington, D.C.

It costs about half as much to run vehicles on compressed natural gas than on conventional gasoline, at current prices. Honda manufactures a compressed natural gas sedan, and vehicles can be converted.

kshay@gazette.net