Regional District of Nanaimo fuels up bus fleet

NANAIMO – With 25 compressed natural gas buses set to roll out in Nanaimo in the spring, an accompanying fuel station will be built.

With a fleet of green fuel buses set to roll out this spring, an accompanying compressed natural gas fueling station will be built in Nanaimo.

Last Februrary, the Regional District of Nanaimo board of directors approved an agreement with B.C. Transit for 25 compressed natural gas buses.

At Tuesday night’s regular meeting, the board approved a licence of occupation agreement between the regional district and B.C. Transit, which will see the station built at the Hammond Bay Road bus facility with a price tag of approximately $2 million.

District transportation general manager Dennis Trudeau said the regional district will take care of the construction of the facility, which will include such items as compressing tanks and generators, with B.C. Transit sharing in the costs, contributing about $1 million.

Clean Energy B.C. will be the contractor supplying and operating the station.

“What we will be doing will be taking natural gas out of the line from FortisBC, which is compressed but only at around 30 pounds per square inch, and we will be compressing it so we can fit more into the fuel tanks on the buses,” Trudeau said. “We will be compressing it to 3,600 pounds per square inch.”

He said the regional district did an analysis on the fueling facility and it will be built to current standards with such safety features as blast walls and tanks that are thick enough to hold the pressure.

While there are risks with the compressed natural gas, he said there are risks with any type of fuel.

“Leaks with natural gas are actually a little better than diesel,” he said. “Diesel lays on the ground, which is a flammable substance. With [natural] gas, it evaporates and disperses into the air and quickly becomes non-flammable,” said Trudeau.

Work is expected to be complete by January. The agreement between B.C. Transit and the regional district will last for 13 years and there could be additional revenue for the regional district.

“In the future, we will be able to be open to other fleets that may be starting to use compressed natural gas,” Trudeau said. “It won’t only have to be our buses but we will be able to fuel other types of vehicles,” he said.