Chandler hopes to build about 10 propane fuel stations around the state. He will present his plans to members of the Kanawha County Commission at a regular meeting Thursday.
Although the county has already bought one SUV that runs on compressed natural gas, and the Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority has agreed to buy eight natural gas-powered buses, Chandler believes there is room in the county's fleet for propane vehicles. Chandler said natural gas is a good choice for large vehicles like city buses, but smaller cars and trucks may be better served by converting to propane.
Liquid propane -- the same stuff in the tank below your gas grill -- is a natural byproduct of oil and natural gas drilling. Chandler said propane can theoretically be harvested right here in West Virginia, then liquefied to serve as a fuel. He said liquid propane is already a common fuel in other parts of the world, and is commonly called autogas outside of the United States.
Chandler said liquid propane has several advantages over compressed natural gas. Although natural gas burns cleaner, support and infrastructure costs are less with propane, he said.
Chandler said it costs anywhere from $700,000 to $1.5 million to build a natural gas fueling station for vehicles. He said a propane filling station can be built for less than $100,000.
A propane station also takes up about a tenth of the space of a natural gas station, he said. Natural gas also requires complicated and expensive equipment to keep the gas under high pressure, which is not necessary with propane.
The fuel tanks and components to convert a car or truck to propane also are lighter than equipment for a natural gas conversion, making propane a better choice for smaller vehicles, Chandler believes.
He said liquid propane is 7 percent to 10 percent less efficient than gasoline, meaning a car that gets 30 miles per gallon with gas might only get 27 or 28 mpg with propane. But Chandler said the loss in efficiency is made up by the lower fuel cost for propane.
Propane fuel is still fairly expensive -- as much as $4 a gallon -- in areas where there are few places to fill up. But where liquid propane is common, prices are competitive with natural gas, Chandler said.
"In Dallas, they're paying $1.50 a gallon," he said.
Reach Rusty Marks at rustyma...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1215.