Natural Gas at the Pumps in Bradford County

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NORTH TOWANDA TOWNSHIP -- There is a new fuel on the block in part of Bradford County, the kind of fuel that can be used in a car or truck.

A mini mart in the Towanda area cut the ribbon on new compressed natural gas pumps.

Compressed natural gas, or CNG, is an alternative to the gasoline many of us have been using for ages.

It comes from drilling in the Marcellus Shale and is now being delivered right to the pumps at the Dandy Mini Mart near Towanda.

Instead of pumping gasoline from the pumps, it is compressed natural gas meant to fuel cars and trucks designed for it.

"We decided we need to take this leap of faith. If this market is going to develop here in northeastern PA, companies like us need to lay the groundwork for it," said Duane Phillips of Dandy Mini Marts.

Dandy spent $1.5 million dollars to get the pumps up and running.

For now, it will mostly be the gas industry using them to fill up. Chesapeake Energy plans to convert more than 5,000 vehicles to CNG over the next two years.

"Most importantly when you're able to drill the gas out of your state, and you're abundant under your feet and you can use it for transportation, cutting your costs in half," said William Freeman of Chesapeake Energy.

The Dandy CNG station in North Towanda has been online for about a month now. A second one will go online in March in the Athens area. That's two more natural gas stations in the Bradford County area than they've ever had before.

Some drivers said it could take a number of years before CNG catches on.

"You've only got so many vehicles that burn this stuff. Companies are working on it. They'll get around to it," said Stephen Ayers of Monroeton.

At about $2 per gallon, compressed natural gas looks appealing to folks who pay nearly double that for regular unleaded gasoline.

Incentive, maybe, to someday make the switch.

"I mean the fuel costs would go down by half at this point," said Lauren Hotaling of West Burlington.

People in the natural gas industry say vehicle manufacturers are starting to roll out models that use both gasoline and CNG.

In fact, Dandy Mini Marts and other companies plan to make the switch to CNG vehicles with the help of grants from state-run natural gas vehicle program.