A developer of compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations from St. Louis has opened its second station at the intersection of Interstate 85 and Highway 101 in Greer.
The new Spire station is designed for tractor-trailers, though smaller vehicles can use it too.
Truckers will find high-flow nozzles and enough room to turn a rig with a 53-foot trailer.
The station is located in an area with heavy truck traffic – a short distance from BMW Manufacturing Co. and the South Carolina Inland Port, right behind a QuickTrip convenience store that sells a lot of diesel to truckers.
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It was developed by a subsidiary of The Laclede Group, a St. Louis-based company whose main pursuit is operating three natural gas utilities serving Missouri and Alabama.
A Laclede subsidiary called Laclede Venture opened the first Spire station in St. Louis in late 2013.
The unregulated subsidiary plans to develop 20-plus more Spire stations over the next five years, said Peter Stansky, its chief operating officer.
He was among the officials at a groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday for the new station.
Spire is building the stations to make it easier for trucking companies to make the switch to CNG from diesel, said Katie Dugan, a spokesperson for the brand.
A lack of fueling stations is the biggest impediment to the deployment of natural gas-powered vehicles in the United States, she said.
CNG costs less than diesel, the price is less volatile and it pollutes less.
In addition, big companies such as BMW and Procter & Gamble are “forcing” their trucking vendors to switch to CNG because it’s more environmentally friendly, Stansky said.
The drawback is that tractor-trailers powered by CNG cost about $50,000 more than diesel-powered ones.
The upfront cost didn’t deter Gaffney-based Randolph Trucking, which uses CNG as the fuel for 14 trucks at its terminal in Dorchester County.
Charles Randolph, the company’s owner, said the price of diesel was close to $4 a gallon when he first started exploring the use of CNG.
With the price of diesel now below $2 a gallon, “It just takes you a little bit longer to get your investment back,” Randolph said.
He said it’s easier for his trucks to use CNG because they return to their terminals each day.
Trucking companies with a long-distance business have to plot where their trucks will refuel, Randolph said.
The Spire station was selling CNG for $1 per gas gallon equivalent (GGE) on Tuesday. But that was a special price for the grand opening.
The price was scheduled to rise to $1.85 per gas gallon equivalent on Wednesday, ten cents less than the QuickTrip next door was charging for a gallon of diesel.
The Spire station buys its natural gas from the Greer Commission of Public Works.
It isn’t the only CNG station open to the public in the Upstate.
Charlotte-based Piedmont Natural Gas operates CNG stations in Greenville, Spartanburg and Anderson.