North Carolina has more than three dozen natural gas refueling stations in operation or in the planning stages, including a half dozen in the Triangle, according to industry groups.
The state’s natural gas utilities offer nine stations with public natural gas pumps and are expected to have twice as many by the end of next year as demand increases for natural gas powered cars and trucks.
Triangle utility PSNC Energy operates two public pumps in Raleigh is planning two in Durham and another in Apex.
Charlotte utility Piedmont Natural Gas operates pumps in Charlotte, Fayetteville, Goldsboro, Winston-Salem, Greensboro and High Point. The company is planning to install at least three more natural gas pumps in the state.
Other owners of natural gas refueling stations include city and county governments, school districts and trucking companies, according Natural Gas Vehicles for America, a Washington advocacy organization.
These pumps dispense compressed natural gas, or CNG, for cars and trucks. They are located at utility depots that service trucks and fleet cars, but are also open to the public.
The utility pumps create a skeletal network for natural gas cars to travel between the state’s major population centers.
Additionally, the state will soon have a refueling station that dispenses liquefied natural gas, or LNG. That pump is at the Flying J truck stop in Graham, about 60 miles west of Raleigh, and is expected to begin operating this summer.
North Carolina could get additional LNG pumps in the coming year. Developers have announced plans for networks of LNG stations at truck stops across the nation.
LNG is not interchangeable with CNG. Liquefied natural gas is a form of storing compressed natural gas by freezing it at minus 275 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. Liquefying natural gas condenses the fuel by a factor of about 600 and therefore significantly increases storage capacity as well as driving range for vehicles that run on LNG.
Trucks that run on LNG require special insulators to keep the fuel chilled. Because the fuel warms up over time, LNG vehicles need to burn the fuel while it remains chilled or risk losing it to evaporation. A car that runs on CNG, however, can store the fuel indefinitely because it is kept under pressure and not dependent on temperature.