PRC to review gas pipeline extension policies

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Public Regulation Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to examine whether New Mexico Gas Co. policies make infrastructure, such as extending pipelines, too expensive for fleet operators to convert vehicles to natural gas.

The utility and others have until April 15 to file preliminary comments to help determine whether a formal evidentiary hearing is needed, said PRC spokesman Arthur Bishop.

Commissioner Pat Lyons introduced the order because of problems Aztec Well Servicing faces in converting its Road Runner Fuels station on U.S. 550 in Aztec to natural gas, Lyons told the Journal.

Aztec wants the station to provide fuel to the public, and to service its own 121-truck fleet, which it plans to convert to natural gas. But the station is located 3.5 miles from the nearest high-pressure line operated by the utility, and it could cost up to $850,000 to extend it. The gas company says Aztec must pay for that, because the utility can’t saddle ratepayers with an unprofitable investment that benefits just one customer.

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But Lyons said the state needs new natural-gas stations to support fleet conversions.

“The inquiry is a first step in that direction,” he said. “We have to look at how many of these stations are needed and what the costs are to run natural-gas lines to them.”

Aztec Executive Vice President Jason Sandel said companies in the Four Corners want to convert a total of about 1,200 commercial vehicles to natural gas, but those plans are contingent on new fueling infrastructure.

Gas Co. spokesperson Teala Kail said the utility supports an inquiry to find workable solutions.
— This article appeared on page B1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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