Liquid propane as fuel available in Beckley - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Liquid propane as fuel available in Beckley

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Left to right, Danny Sullivan, Dan Akers and Tim Deems stand in front of the liquid propane as fuel pump at the Little General Store in Beckley. Left to right, Danny Sullivan, Dan Akers and Tim Deems stand in front of the liquid propane as fuel pump at the Little General Store in Beckley.
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Just how efficient and economical is liquid propane fuel? And how does it perform?

For unbiased answers, you can go to a man who knows firsthand — Beckley Police Department Chief Tim Deems. His department recently converted four of its Ford Crown Victoria police cruisers to propane.

"Not only is it cheaper, but it's a cleaner fuel than gasoline," Deems said. "We're looking to save the city some money. We look to save about 30 to 40 percent."

The conversion was funded in part by a grant from a U.S. Energy Department's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. 

"It didn't cost the city a cent (to convert to propane)," Deems confirmed. "I think you'll see a lot more propane fueled vehicles in the near future. 

"We're already seeing other cities converting vehicles and there are more fueling stations opening up across the state."

Police officers must depend on their vehicles to perform at an extremely high level every day. Deems said he and his staff are well pleased so far.

"Some of the officers may have been a little apprehensive at first," Deems said. "But once they had an opportunity to drive them, they saw that they actually perform better (than gasoline). 

"They burn at a higher octane than gasoline. The engines run better and smoother. It's cleaner burning and there's less maintenance costs." 

The Little General Store just off the Harper Road exit of I-77 is the site of the liquid propane pump in Beckley.

Appalachian Heating and Propane has had a longstanding relationship with Little General Stores and its president, Greg Darby.

"It seems that Greg is always on the cutting edge of technology," said Dan Akers, Appalachian Heating and Propane owner. "He wants to move forward. I approached him about the possibility of having a facility where liquid propane-fueled vehicles could be refueled. He's here and poised to benefit, especially being located right on the interstate.

"It's easy to get involved with it and set up, because the infrastructure is already here," Akers added.

With 103 retail locations, Little General plans to add more liquid propane fueling pumps across the state.

"We want to be in front of the new technologies and fueling points," said Danny Sullivan, retail merchandiser for Little General Stores. "It's a good opportunity for us." 

"We have stores on all of the major routes in West Virginia. We're up and down I-79, Morgantown, Fairmont, Clarksburg, Westover, Flatwoods all the way down to Charleston," Sullivan said. "And we're all the way down U.S. Rt. 19 to Beckley."

Akers pointed to another benefit for police department's use of liquid propane — saving lives.

"I talked to one police chief who told me that he would buy bullet-proof vests with the money he saves on fuel costs," Akers said. "That was very interesting to me."

The propane will come from ThompsonGas.

"Propane is an American-made fuel, primarily coming from the production of natural gas," said Doug MacMaster, vice president of sales and business development at ThompsonGas. "By using propane for Autogas, we reduce our dependence on foreign oil and keep many jobs in the United States.

"ThompsonGas is also currently working with other municipalities, private companies and fleet managers throughout the eastern and southern United States, who have already, or are in the process of, converting to propane Autogas as the fuel for their vehicles. We're also working with commercial landscapers who understand the tremendous cost savings running their mowers and other equipment on propane has over gasoline and diesel fuel. Additionally, as more propane powered cars, buses and trucks begin to travel the highways, we are working with several companies that are interested in installing propane Autogas refueling stations for the public." 

Texas State Technical College serves as the lead grantee of the funds, which supports the development of a national propane auto gas refueling network, incentives to convert fleet vehicles to alternative fuels and training for green jobs. 

TSTC estimates the initiative will help displace millions of gallons of petroleum annually and create jobs by training veterans, fleet mechanics and service technicians for work in the alternative fuel and advanced vehicle technology industries.

Propane Autogas is the nation's third most widely used transportation fuel behind gasoline and diesel. It is credited with reducing greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 25 percent.