Fleet of school buses to use alternative fuel

Pasco County Schools is making history with a new, fast-fill station and a fleet of buses that runs on alternative fuel.

Emmett Thompson, the school district’s transportation maintenance supervisor, fuels a truck with Compressed Natural Gas (CNG).
(Courtesy of Pasco County Schools)

The school district, in partnership with Integral Energy and Clearwater Gas System, is the first in Florida to own and operate a compressed natural gas (CNG) station to fuel its growing fleet of CNG buses.

By the end of the 2018 school year, school officials estimate the district will own 65 buses that operate on natural gas, rather than diesel or gasoline.

The fueling station, along with a new bus garage, is on about 24 acres at 13101 Interlaken Road in Odessa.

School officials, school board members and representatives with Integral Energy and Clearwater Gas celebrated the occasion with a ribbon cutting on May 16.

Ray Gadd, deputy superintendent of Pasco County Schools, center, cuts the ribbon at the new Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling station as Chuck Warrington, left, of Clearwater Gas, and State Sen. Wilton Simpson watch

Guests at the event toured the buses and the fuel processing plant. The J.W. Mitchell High School jazz band entertained.

The alternative fuel is expected to offer several benefits, including reduced vehicle noise, cleaner emissions and cost efficiency.

“We’ve tried to be good stewards of our natural resources,” said Kurt Browning, the district’s superintendent.

Each bus is expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by nearly 20,000 pounds a year, school officials said. Compared to clean diesel buses, they said the CNG buses would produce 13 percent less greenhouse gas, 95 percent less nitrogen oxide and 80 percent less hydrocarbon.

The CNG station can fuel a bus within 3 minutes and can pump out the equivalent of more than 10,500 gasoline gallons a day.

Members of the J.W. Mitchell High School jazz band performed at the ribbon cutting for the new Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) station.

It also is a state-of-the-art facility with more than 10,000 linear feet of electrical conduit buried underground. More than 50 cubic yards of concrete encase those conduits; and, each CNG storage vessel weighs more than 6,500 pounds. All of the compression equipment was American-manufactured.

Ray Gadd, the school district’s deputy superintendent, said discussion about the CNG station and using the alternative fuel began nearly six years ago.

He and other school district staff members helped shepherd the project to its completion. State Sen. Wilton Simpson sponsored a bill to create a state rebate program that can reimburse the county up to $25,000 for the cost of each bus.

In the past three years, the school district began buying new buses that run on alternative fuel.

Plans are to continue buying about 35 buses a year eventually replacing much of the school’s aging fleet of more than 450 buses. The shift will reduce reliance on gasoline and diesel-burning fuels in favor of natural gas, which burns cleaner and emits fewer toxins.

Published May 24, 2017

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