CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kelly Bragg hopes the country will soon have fuel diversity at all filling stations.
Bragg, an energy development specialist at the state Division of Energy, said she wants to see each region in the nation capitalize on its resources so that drivers who pull up to a filling station can have numerous options of which fuel to use in their vehicles.
That's why now is the right time to take advantage of West Virginia's homegrown resource -- natural gas, she said.
As the vast Marcellus Shale gas deposit is tapped, the state will have access to an abundance of natural gas, which is safe, cleaner and generally cheaper than conventional gasoline, Bragg said.
"In the Midwest, there are way more ethanol stations because they produce the corn and feedstock for that," Bragg said. "Ethanol in West Virginia won't be big here because we don't produce those crops, but we do produce natural gas."
Bragg is one of 30 speakers who will boast about the benefits of using natural gas in vehicles at the first-ever 2013 Appalachian Basin NGV Expo and Conference at the Charleston Civic Center.
The three-day conference runs May 13-15 and covers everything from filling station locations and road taxes to converting fleets and everyday vehicles to run on natural gas.
Bragg will give an overview of alternative fuels.
The state Division of Energy is one of 40 exhibitors that will show off conversion kits, equipment and natural gas derivative-fueled vehicles.
More than 300 participants -- including governors from other states, business owners, researchers and energy innovators -- are expected to attend. The expo is open to the public and registration ends May 14.
Corky DeMarco, executive director of the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association, which is hosting the conference along with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, said the expo will raise awareness of the availability of natural gas in the state.
Tomblin organized a Natural Gas Vehicle Task Force to figure out how to transition the state's fleet to an alternative fuel.
Tomblin said earlier this year state government should convert at least one-fourth of its 7,800-vehicle fleet within four years.
Kanawha County officials already own one vehicle that will run on either gasoline or natural gas, and the Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority has agreed to buy eight natural gas-powered buses.
"There were 11 stations in the state in the 1990s, and you could get around the state using natural gas," DeMarco said. "If you look at a map of the U.S. today, there's a clear area in the Appalachian basin where there are no stations and that place is West Virginia. Even though we started it, we have no stations today."
West Virginia is one of three states that does not have any compressed natural gas, or CNG, filling stations, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. South Dakota and Maine don't have CNG stations, either.
IGS Energy-CNG Services is building four natural gas filling stations along Interstate 79, the Ohio company announced in January.
The $10 million proposal will put stations near the Spring Street Foodland in Charleston, in Jane Lew, Bridgeport and just across the Pennsylvania state line at Mount Morris, said T.J. Meadows, West Virginia business manager for IGS Energy-CNG Services.
The Charleston and Bridgeport stations should be open by this fall, he said.
Meadows said the state Department of Highways has already committed as a customer at the Charleston station.
Meadows is speaking on a panel at the conference about legislation that has been passed to spur the natural gas market in West Virginia.
He said the state's tax incentives for purchasing and converting natural gas-powered vehicles is what attracted his company to the Mountain State.
The tax credit covers 35 percent of the cost of an alternative-fuel vehicle, up to $7,500 for cars and $25,000 for large trucks. It also covers 50 percent of the cost of the conversion of a car or truck to natural gas, up to $7,500 for cars and $25,000 for large trucks.