Tyler Silvy | The Greeley Tribune, Colo.
GILCREST — A natural gas refueling station years in the planning and months in the building still isn’t ready for use, but that didn’t stop officials from Noble Energy and the Valley Re-1 School District from conducting a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday in Gilcrest.
“I didn’t prepare any written comments, so I’m just going to start off by saying, ‘Woo-hoo!'” Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said. “Natural gas, it’s affordable, it’s abundant, it’s Weld County, it’s American.”
The event took place just outside the school district’s bus barn, 50 yards west of the district’s administration building on Weld County Road 42, just west of U.S. 85.
Five shiny yellow natural-gas powered buses, each a year old, dotted the parking lot.
Budget cuts for the school district, which serves Gilcrest, Platteville and LaSalle, had kept the district from buying new buses for nearly five years before a partnership with Noble Energy helped the district buy five last year.
The district received a grant of $600,000 from the Department of Local Affairs for the natural gas station. Noble contributed another $875,833 for the station and the bus maintenance barn.
Members of each organization were present, as well as Valley Re-1 Superintendent Jo Barbie, who said without the partnership, none of this would have been possible.
The district’s natural gas buses had been fueling up in Fort Lupton and Kersey, two of the now four refueling stations along U.S. 85. The buses won’t be able to use the ceremoniously opened refueling station in Gilcrest until early October.
Kirkmeyer called the buses “The Hulk,” because “They’re green on the inside.”
No word on whether we won’t like the buses when they’re angry.
The district, though, stands to see plenty of green.
The Valley Re-1 School District stands to save $100,000 per year when all 12 of the district’s buses are running on natural gas, Barbie said. The district’s partnership with Noble Energy means the district pays wholesale price for the fuel.
The public is also welcome to use the station, which takes credit cards at the pump. The public will pay market price.
Silvers said it was hard to compare natural gas prices to regular gasoline or diesel because there’s not a big futures market for it.
Natural gas also comes by the cubic foot instead of the gallon.
Noble Energy first announced its $5 million commitment to Weld County school districts and government entities about five years ago.
That commitment has seen Weld County government convert about 50 vehicles to natural gas. Noble Energy has 100 vehicles that now run on natural gas.
Noble has also helped other school districts, including Greeley-Evans School District 6, purchase new natural gas buses or retrofit old buses to run on natural gas.
Ted Brown, a senior vice president for Noble, called natural gas a common-sense choice for the school district thanks to lower cost and reduced emissions.
“As natural gas production continues to grow across our country, and across our state, our goal is to work hard so that all of Colorado will continue to reap the benefits of getting the energy that we need, the economy that we want and the environment that we value,” Brown said.
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