New Utah law gets CNG conversion business rolling

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SANDY -- A new Utah company wants to convert your car to run on compressed natural gas, and company leaders claim a new state law makes it cheaper for them to do that. The company, however, may be moving too quickly for federal regulations.

CNG Solutions in Sandy says a Utah law that went into effect this summer enables them to convert engines to run on compressed natural gas. As a result, the company can convert more cars and bring down the cost of conversion.

CNG understands from the Fleet Manager of the State, and other Utah officials, that they have the go-ahead to convert engines as long as they meet the standards of House Bill 70.

"This vehicle is converted to run on gasoline or natural gas," company president Eddie Catalina explained Wednesday, as he showed KSL News a V-8 engine running on compressed natural gas.

The equipment supplier is Argentinian, and so is Catalina. The technology is flourishing there, and he wanted to bring it to the United States.

CNG Solutions was formed after the approval of House Bill 70, which Catalina says allows them to install compressed natural gas bi-fuel equipment into four-, six- and eight-cylinder vehicles at about half the price of current conversions done with EPA-certified kits: about $5,000 compared to around $11,000.

"For the consumer, it's very easy. You go fill up on CNG, start the vehicle and go," Catalina said.

Compressed natural gas also costs about half the price of gasoline today -- $1.52 a gallon compared to $2.90 a gallon for regular unleaded.

"The owner of this vehicle drives about 18,000 miles a year," Catalina said. "In about 17 months, his system is paid off."

Natural gas is plentiful, reduces dependence on foreign oil and reduces harmful emissions. Today, Utah's lieutenant governor says there are more than a dozen CNG stations along the Interstate 15 corridor in Utah.

"Natural gas is a very plentiful resource," Lt. Gov. Greg Bell said. "The more conversions we can do, the better for our air and the better for our economy."

Though natural gas may be good for the environment and good for business, one state agency says the conversions do not yet comply with EPA regulations.

According to the state Division of Air Quality, the new Utah law does not supersede or sidestep EPA requirements. That would mean CNG Solutions is ahead of federal regulatory approvals that may change soon but have not yet.

Mat Carlile, an environmental planning consultant with the Utah Division of Air Quality, said, "The EPA hasn't come in and done anything on it. That's the biggest issue I see so far."

If the EPA did a crackdown, Carlile said CNG could face fines.

KSL News put in calls to the EPA Wednesday but did not receive a response. According to the agency's website: "[The] EPA is proposing to amend the current alternative fuel conversion regulations. The proposed changes would clarify and streamline the compliance process for manufacturers of alternative fuel conversion systems, while maintaining strong environmental safeguards. In addition, new compliance options would become available to many converters under the proposed approach. The requirements would vary based on age of the vehicle or engine being converted."


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Jed Boal


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