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Compressed natural gas to bring jobs, save St. Johns taxpayers money

by: Erica Bennett Updated:

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ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - The expansion of the liquid natural gas industry is creating a new energy boom. Jobs, facilities and revenue are starting to flow into Northeast Florida.

Compressed natural gas is not something you hear about a lot, but folks in St. Johns County better get used to it.

A new public-private partnership is underway.

"We're moving forward in negotiating contracts right now and we hope to see the facility onboard and operational sometime in 2014," said Michael Ryan, St. Johns County communications manager.

The plan calls for the group Nopetro to build a $2 million compressed natural gas station with a fleet commitment from St. Johns County. In all, about 130 vehicles will be converted.

"It's cleaner burning and it's less expensive," Ryan said.

On average, compressed natural gas, or CNG, costs about $1.50 less a gallon than regular fuel. That's good news for taxpayers, who will see cost savings in the long run. 

On the front end, a $750,000 grant from North Florida Transportation Organization will pay for the vehicle conversion. That includes sheriff's cars, public works vehicles, maybe even dump trucks one day.
Ryan said the deal will eventually benefit everyone.

"This facility will serve for quite some time as a regional stopover for other fleets and other commuters," Ryan said. "It was a win-win situation that we almost had to pursue."

Transportation experts who back CNG say it reduces emissions and petroleum consumption and helps reduce reliance on foreign oil.