Southern California is Leading the Way for NGVs

I am excited to update you on the recent progress that we’re making at Southern California Gas Company (SoCalGas) and San Diego Gas & Electric Company (SDG&E) in the compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle market. This technology is here now, and the future is bright!

I’m extremely bullish about natural gas as a transportation fuel. Compared to other fuels, CNG is cleaner, less expensive, abundant, and domestically produced. Along with our customers, we are taking the lead in developing the Southern California market, which plays a significant role in the development of the U.S. market as a whole. Let me share with you a few of our initiatives and successes.

First, there are about 80 public-access CNG refueling stations across SoCalGas’ and SDG&E’s service territories. Every month, we hear from owners of gasoline stations who want to add CNG capability to their existing stations. These opportunities are especially exciting in that they create awareness of CNG vehicle technology among owners of gasoline vehicles. These stations have prominent locations, full retail signage, snack shops, and all of the other expected conveniences. Without a doubt, development of this public infrastructure will help drive the adoption of light-duty natural gas vehicles (NGVs) by individuals.

On the commercial side, there are nearly 200 private CNG refueling stations across our service territories. These stations serve major fleets including over 2,200 transit buses in use by Los Angeles Metro, more than 400 buses operated by the Los Angeles Unified School District, as well as other fleets such as Waste Management, UPS, and AT&T. This past fall, SoCalGas announced plans to purchase approximately 1,000 new dedicated NGV trucks to support its fleet operations. In addition, Los Angeles Department of Transportation began deploying its new fleet of 95 new CNG-powered Commuter Express coaches.

But the transit and heavy-duty segments are just the beginning. Elsewhere on the vehicle front, we are playing an active role in the Drive Natural Gas initiative sponsored by the American Gas Association and America’s Natural Gas Alliance. With this initiative, we are collaborating with other NGV industry partners to address the most pressing issues in the marketplace. Among other tasks, we are working closely with vehicle original equipment manufacturers to develop prototype CNG vehicles in new segments, such as a sport utility vehicle, mid-size sedan, and even a sports car! We are also working to identify potential manufacturers who can develop a more affordable home refueling appliance, which we hope in turn will help stimulate the market for personal use light-duty CNG vehicles.

Finally, SoCalGas is also taking the lead in innovation. In October, we unveiled a new modular CNG refueling station at the SoCalGas Riverside base. Developed by Galileo, this station represents dramatic reductions in space, time, and potentially cost to provide compressed natural gas for transportation applications. We also recently filed an all-new Compression Services Tariff application with the California Public Utilities Commission that, if approved, will allow SoCalGas to construct, own, and operate gas compression equipment on customer facilities for NGVs and other applications, such as Combined Heat and Power systems. The new Tariff will be attractive to a wide range of customers, including those with limited capital budgets who will be able to avoid most of the up-front equipment and construction costs. The growth outlook is very positive for natural gas vehicles and the fueling infrastructure, and we expect that this momentum will continue to increase. We feel fortunate to have so many positive and energetic partners in the industry and we look forward to continue to foster its growth here in the U.S.

Hal Snyder is Vice President of Customer Solutions for Southern California Gas Company and San Diego Gas & Electric