Driving Sustainability: How Compressed Natural Gas Can Fuel a Cleaner Future

I believe our commitment to sustainability is critical across all sectors. We can all help build the foundation for a sustainable future.

- Nicholas DeBenedictis, Chairman, President and CEO of Aqua America in a commentary titled “Driving Sustainability: How Compressed Natural Gas Can Fuel a Cleaner Future published* in the spring issue of Energy & Infrastructure magazine 

Companies all across America are evaluating how to reduce their environmental impact as it becomes clearer that we all need to take action to protect our environment for future generations. For some, this might mean using recycled materials for packaging, developing safer materials, using alternative fuel sources or streamlining operations to reduce waste. Private utilities, such as water companies, are no exception.

Water and energy share a close relationship – every process of the water system requires energy from initial treatment, delivery through pipes, the transportation of resources, and service representatives to keep systems up-to-date and address problems. Weighing in at eight pounds per gallon, keeping America’s water systems flowing is no small feat.

At Aqua America, we are pursuing different avenues to do our part. For instance, we are investing in vehicles for our fleet that will run on clean-burning compressed natural gas(CNG). CNG fuel can replace gasoline and diesel fuel and produces less undesirable air emissions when used. It is safer than other fuels in the event of a spill, because natural gas is lighter than air and dispenses quickly when released. 

Supplementing the environmental benefits, CNG is credited with creating more than 88,000 jobs in Pennsylvania to date, enhancing air quality and lowering energy costs, all while generating more than $389 million in state and local tax revenue.

At Aqua, we led the charge to utilize this resource nearly two decades ago. Aqua purchased its first bi-fuel pick-up truck in 1997. Today, we continue to add new vehicles to our fleet and plan to have a full fleet of CNG-fueled vehicles within the next five years.

To prepare for our upcoming transition to a full CNG fleet, we built a time-fill station at Aqua’s Springfield, Pa., operations center last year and we are working to install time-fill in four additional nearby operations centers. You can learn more about how natural gas vehicles operate here.

We also announced last week the receipt of a $225,000 grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Act 13 fund. The grant will fund the purchase of nine dump trucks that run off of CNG to add to our growing alternative energy fleet. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett awarded the grant as a part of $7.7 million in total funding given to 25 companies and organizations in the state for natural gas vehicle conversion.

In 2013, Aqua received an Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant (AFIG) of $86,812 from the DEP for the purchase of 14 new CNG-fueled vans. Aqua also received two grants for approximately $70,000 for infrastructure and plans to install private fueling stations at its West Chester and Willow Grove Operations Centers. To date, we have invested $675,000 in CNG through vehicle purchases and infrastructure upgrades, including the construction of slow-fill fueling stations.

Our new CNG vans will be used to serve water customers in the inspection of pipeline restoration. So if you see us driving around, give us a honk or a wave!

* Access the full commentary from Nick DeBenedictis in the Spring Issue of Energy & Infrastructure magazine

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