Auto industry looks to cash in on Eagle Ford shale boom

Ford has natural gas half ton for average driver

By David Sears - Anchor/Reporter

Several communities and businesses in South Texas have been able to take advantage of the booming Eagle Ford Shale play.

Now, the auto industry in trying to take advantage of the supply of natural gas in Texas.

The Ford Motor Company is introducing a new vehicle to their 2014 lineup.

"What we are showcasing here is the first light-duty, half-ton vehicle for the average consumer," said Mike Davis, with Jordan Ford.

The vehicle is equipped for dual-fuel use: natural gas and regular unleaded. 

Combined, CNG -- compressed natural gas -- plus gasoline can carry the truck an average of 750 miles. When one fuel starts running low, the driver just flips a switch on the dash.

Under the hood is a 3.7-liter V-6 engine.

When it comes to noticing anything, "the average person looking under the hood you would never know there is any difference," Davis said.

Ford has upgraded valves on the piston rings, the pistons, and altered the fuel delivery system to accommodate the gas. There is also a CNG tank in the bed of the truck. 

It drives like any other truck and it's hard to tell which fuel is being used.

"(There's) no difference in performance anything of that sort," Davis said.

The CNG-equipped truck costs about $30,000, more or less, depending on options.

The good news is that natural gas is less than half the cost of gasoline and there is about 30 percent less emissions that gas or diesel.

The problem is that natural gas stations are hard to find.

"Refueling station operators are a little hesitant to build their infrastructure until there's more demand, but the demand is somewhat lagging because of the lack of infrastructure," said Katie Carmichael, director of public affairs for Texas Railroad Commissioner David J. Porter.

There is one refueling station in the San Antonio area that is a couple of weeks from going on-line.

"I think it is definitely going to catch on in popularity," said Carmichael. "People are starting to see the benefits. It's really just a win-win for everyone."

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