A Kansas City nonprofit organization centered on energy efficiency and sustainability has received a federal grant to build compressed natural gas stations on Interstate 70 in central and western Kansas.

Metropolitan Energy Center is working on site selection for a CNG station in Salina and either Goodland or WaKeeney, said MEC program coordinator David Albrecht.

The use of natural gas can reduce greenhouse gas emissions 6 percent to 11 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. There are more than 150,000 vehicles in the U.S. fueled by natural gas, according to the Energy Department’s Alternative Fuels Data Center.

CNG stations are few and far between in Kansas, found mostly in eastern and southwest Kansas. Getting new stations in Kansas is a bit like a chicken-and-egg situation, Albrecht said.

“The problem is until the infrastructure is out there, fleets are not going to take a stab at it. And until the fleets are out there with the all-fuel engines, the people who develop and build fueling stations aren’t going to take a stab at it,” he said.

“So we’re filling the gap with some funding that’s going to incentivize construction of those CNG stations.”

MEC and Kansas City Clean Cities will receive $3.8 million of a $13.4 million grant from the Energy Department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The grant will be used for nine projects in Kansas and Missouri including the CNG stations.

With matching private-sector contributions, the groups’ cost share of the projects is approximately 55 percent, Albrecht said. The organizers have partnered with companies such as UPS, which in March announced it was investing more than $90 million in six new CNG fueling stations and 450 additional alternative fuel vehicles.

UPS operates CNG trucks in Kansas City and Denver, Albrecht said, and the only CNG station between the two cities now is in Topeka.

“The problem is there’s a great, big hole in the middle. You’ve got to climb 4,000 feet and face headwinds if you are driving west. They want to make sure the fuel is going to be more available before deploying more CNG trucks,” he said.

Albrecht said it’s hoped more carriers such as FedEx and C.R. England would also add more CNG vehicles if fueling stations are available.

Where the western Kansas station will be located should be announced within a few months, Albrecht said. The decision between WaKeeney and Goodland depends on several factors, mainly dealing with the infrastructure.

Most likely the station will be constructed at an existing property, and it could be open within six months, depending on construction conditions.