NORTH TOWANDA — When the natural gas industry began producing natural gas from the Marcellus Shale several years ago, it quickly gained a local reputation as being a cheaper, cleaner fuel. Since then, local people and businesses have been striving for ways to incorporate the alternative fuel into their and other’s lives. 
With gasoline prices continuously increasing, using natural gas as a vehicular fuel was at the forefront of most people’s minds. 
It was certainly at the forefront of the minds of the people through the local Dandy Mini-Marts chain, and, through much research and hard work, they turned that idea into a reality, marking the opening of the area’s first Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling station with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, Jan. 18, in North Towanda.
“This is a very exciting time for us,” Owner Randy Williams said. “This is a new direction for us, our business and the county.”
Representatives of the Dandy Mini Mart chain first began looking at the idea for a local CNG station through a visit to Chesapeake Energy’s headquarters in Oklahoma City. 
“Chesapeake invited us to their headquarters about a year ago and we toured several sites and gained as much knowledge of CNG as we could,” Williams said. “It was there we also learned that CNG stations are expensive to build and maintain. 
“However, we decided before we even landed on the plane trip back that this was something we needed to do,” he continued. “We decided to take a chance and we hope that people see the value in it and capitalize on it.”
Some of the opportunities that can be capitalized on are the price and cleanliness of CNG. On Friday, Jan. 18, the price of gasoline at the convenience store was $3.57 per gallon, whereas CNG cost $1.99 per gas gallon equivalent. Since CNG is a gas instead of a liquid like gasoline, a different form of measurement, gas gallon equivalent, is used. One gas gallon equivalent is approximately equal to that of a standard gallon of gasoline. 
CNG also burns cleaner than natural gas, reducing vehicle maintenance costs as well as reducing the impact to the environment. 
Local and industry officials were also present during the ceremony, all of which thanked Williams and the Dandy Mini-Mart chain for their commitment and efforts in the project.
“They definitely took a leap of faith in this project,” William Freeman of Chesapeake said. “They have been the most aggressive in the state in their efforts of adopting this.” 
“This has come a long way,” said Angela Beavers, CEO of the Horseheads, N.Y.-based Beavers Petroleum, which was the contractor behind the CNG station. “It’s exciting that Williams and the Dandy are such visionaries and we greatly appreciate that they came to us for this project.” 
The CNG station operates differently than the standard gasoline station, which typically has its fuel trucked to the station, whereas CNG needs to be run through compressors first. In the Dandy’s case, these compressors are 250 horsepower.
“For the CNG station, the gas is taken in through underground gas lines, which takes the gas through a compressor,” Tim Boyle of ANGI Energy said. “The compressor will compress the gas, therefore raising its pressure to equalize the pressure of the fuel tank of the vehicle, which is around 3,600 psi.” 
Freeman and George Weissman, also of Chesapeake Energy, demonstrated the operation of refueling a vehicle by using the company’s own bi-fuel Chevrolet Tahoe, which used a nine gas gallon equivalent tank for its CNG containment. A bi-fuel vehicle is one that can operate on both CNG and gasoline. 
“This vehicle will run on CNG and then automatically go back to gasoline when the CNG runs out, or you can switch to gasoline in a second if you like,” Freeman said as Weissman placed the fueling nozzle into the vehicle. “The only thing you’ll notice is that the engine runs quieter on CNG than it does gasoline.”
However, the Dandy Mini-Mart is not stopping with only the one CNG station. Plans are in the works for three additional sites, according to a letter sent out by the chain prior to the ribbon cutting ceremony. The second CNG station, which is to be located in Athens, is scheduled to open in early March. 
Johnny Williams can be reached at (570) 265-1639; email: jwilliams@northeastdriller.com.