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H.B. high school district buses get new fast-filling natural gas station

H.B. high school district buses get new fast-filling natural gas station
Huntington Beach Union High School District board President Bonnie Castrey cuts a ribbon during a ceremony for the district’s new compressed natural gas station Monday. (Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The Huntington Beach Union High School District unveiled a new compressed natural gas station that can refuel up to 30 school buses overnight and fast-fill buses that require immediate fueling.

The district celebrated the $2.1-million station near Huntington Beach High School with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour on Monday.

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The facility offers bus drivers two options for refilling, according to Jeff Hutchings, district manager of maintenance and operations.

At the end of a shift, they can head to the station and connect a hose to their bus to refill it within three hours overnight, Hutchings said.

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If a driver forgot to refill a bus overnight, the fast-fill unit can dispense 30 gallons in five to eight minutes, Hutchings said.

"Before, we had a small compressor and its capabilities would stretch to the limit with nine buses," he said. "This will make life a lot easier for us knowing [that] when we come in, our buses are full."

Jeff Hutchings, manager of maintenance and operations for the Huntington Beach Union High School District, watches as school board President Bonnie Castrey fills a bus with compressed natural gas Monday at the district's new CNG station.
Jeff Hutchings, manager of maintenance and operations for the Huntington Beach Union High School District, watches as school board President Bonnie Castrey fills a bus with compressed natural gas Monday at the district's new CNG station. (Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

The district has 51 buses, 19 of which are powered by compressed natural gas, according to Hutchings. CNG can be used in place of gasoline, diesel fuel and propane, helping to limit carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, according to district officials.

School board President Bonnie Castrey said the station will save the district thousands of dollars. "Buses will use fuel more effectively for fewer dollars," she said.

"We will be able to sell this natural gas to other establishments with natural gas vehicles, thereby offsetting our expenses even more and providing resources for more buses," Castrey said.

The district recently applied for 25 more CNG buses from the South Coast Air Quality Management District to replace more diesel-powered buses.

In 2003, Huntington Beach Union installed a compressed natural gas facility to refuel its buses, but as its fleet grew, it partnered in 2016 with engineering consultant AECOM Technical Services Inc. to build the new station.

The district provided $1.425 million, and grants from the California Energy Commission and the AQMD helped fund the project.

Huntington Beach Union High School District officials tour the district's new compressed natural gas fueling station Monday.
Huntington Beach Union High School District officials tour the district's new compressed natural gas fueling station Monday. (Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Twitter: @vegapriscella

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