FARMINGTON — By the end of 2014, Four Corners Economic Development hopes to install two to three compressed natural gas stations for trucks and cars to refuel in the Farmington area, according to an official.
"Step one is, of course, having our community burning natural gas," said Ray Hagerman, CEO of the organization, which is dedicated to stimulating the area's economy.
Hagerman said there is interest in Farmington and beyond in fueling vehicles with natural gas. Four Corners Economic Development has been speaking with representatives from interested local governments and agencies, including the cities of Aztec, Bloomfield and Farmington, San Juan County and the Bloomfield School District.
On April 27, 2012, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez signed onto a letter addressed to Dieter Zetsche, CEO and chairman of the board of management of Daimler, a global automotive company that owns Mercedes-Benz Cars and Mercedes-Benz Vans, Daimler Trucks and Daimler Buses, and Daimler Financial Services. The letter expressed interest in switching the state's vehicle fleet to natural gas vehicles, or NGVs, to promote the vehicles' manufacturing. Governors from 12 other states have also signed the letter.
NGVs are also part of discussions taking place in other states. On Dec. 10, almost 30 municipalities, businesses and mass transit agencies in Colorado announced interest in switching their vehicles to those fueled by natural gas, The Denver Business Journal reported. Cities such as Denver and Grand Junction and businesses like Xcel Energy and Black Hills Energy signed a memorandum of understanding with the state of Colorado to buy more NGVs, according to the report.
While there's local interest in NGVs, fueling stations are needed first, Hagerman said. His organization is speaking with an energy company that is interested in installing natural gas pumping stations in the area, he said. Hagerman declined to release the name of the company.
The city of Farmington has 622 motorized vehicles in its fleet, said Julie Baird, the city's general services director. In the next five or six years, the city hopes to replace 10 percent of the fleet with NGVs, she said, but fueling infrastructure must first be built.
"Obviously, the city is a little reluctant to purchase (NGVs) if there's no fueling stations," Baird said.
She said compressed natural gas works well for vehicles that drive routine, high-mileage routes, such as the city's Red Apple Transit buses. But for other vehicles -- such as police cars that drive irregular routes -- compressed natural gas doesn't work as well, she said.
The city's still deciding which vehicles it could phase out with NGVs, Baird said.
Hagerman said demand for the vehicles could drive more natural gas development -- and with it, hundreds more jobs. In addition to jobs in the oil fields, he said, there would also likely be positions for converting vehicle engines to burn natural gas, for staff at San Juan College to train students in the industry and for manufacturers to build NGV engines.
"This is the wave of the future, so what we want to do is be ahead of the wave and not behind it," Hagerman said.