The Hunt For CNG: Chasing Down Michigan’s Natural Gas Filling Stations

Compressed natural gas made a surprise appearance in last week’s automotive news cycle. Not only did Chrysler and General Motors commit to launching CNG-fueled heavy-duty pickup trucks, but General Electric announced it was partnering with energy company Chesapeake Energy to expand the availability of CNG fueling stations across the country.

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That last announcement is interesting, considering one of the biggest hurdles in actually using a CNG vehicle is trying to fuel it. There are presently about 1000 CNG pumps in America, but as the NGVAmerica trade group claims, only half of those are actually open to public use. The others are privately owned by fleets, which have long been the primary buyers of CNG vehicles.

The GE/Chesapeake investment may help improve that ratio in favor of the public, but it did me no good on Friday, when keys for a 2012 Honda Civic Natural Gas landed on my desk. It got me thinking: Just where could I fuel up within the state of Michigan? Could I visit them all within the span of a single weekend? It’s not entirely impossible: after all, there are only 13 CNG public fueling stations in Michigan – a far cry from the 219 electric charging stations the Chargepoint Network has installed within the state thus far.

 

 

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EASTERN MICHIGAN

ANN ARBOR
Ann Arbor Municipal Garage; W. Summit St., (Click here for map)

Hours: 24

Payment: Credit, debit, and fuel cards

Lines: 1x 3600 PSI, 1x 3000 PSI

Price: $2.64/ GGE

The greater Ann Arbor area is home to three public CNG fueling stations, but the closest to our downtown office and the M-14 highway is the station located at the city’s municipal garage. The fuel may be clean, but the site, located right alongside a railroad spur, doesn’t look it. The aging pump’s metallic edges are rusty, and there’s nary a paved surface to be found, so bring shoes you don’t mind getting a bit muddy. Price: $2.64 for a gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) of CNG, which we found to be a standard at any and all CNG pumps serviced by DTE Energy’s MichCon gas subsidiary.

 

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Meijer, Store # 64 ; Ann Arbor-Saline Rd (Click here for map

Hours: 24

Payment: Credit, debit, and fuel cards

Lines: 1x 3600 PSI; 1 x 3000 PSI

Price: $2.64/ GGE

A slightly nicer-looking option lies across town, and right off Interstate 94. Several Meijer stores in Michigan have started offering alternative fuels (including E85 pumps and EV chargers), but this is one of a handful that offer a DTE-owned CNG pump. The site is clean, well-lit, and easy to access. This is a newer-style pump, and also provides a digital percentage read-out of your tank’s fill level (most other pumps merely provide an analog PSI gauge on the side).

 

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Meijer, Store # 27; Carpenter Rd. and Ellsworth Rd. (Click here for map

Hours: 24

Payment: Credit, debit, and fuel cards

Lines: 1x 3600 PSI, 1x 3000 PSI

Price: $2.64/ GGE

The Meijer located on the Ann Arbor/ Ypsilanti border, roughly two miles from US-23,  also boasts a CNG pump. Its surroundings are much like it’s cross-town cousin, although the CNG pump is found in the row of pumps closest to the store itself.

 

DETROIT

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DTE Energy; Hobson St. (Click here for map

Hours: 24

Payment: Credit, debit, and fuel cards

Lines: 1x 3600 PSI, 1x 3000 PSI

Price: $2.64/ GGE

I’ve driven past the MotorCity Casino off the Lodge Freeway multiple times, but I never knew there was a CNG fueling station right across the street. Cut down Hobson St, and there you’ll find it, part of a DTE/MichCon facility that appears to be semi-deserted (pay no attention to the boarded-up windows in the aging high-rise next door). Regardless of the odd location, this is one of the closest to downtown – you’re but minutes away from the RenCen, Cobo Hall, Foxtown, and most major sports arenas.

 

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DTE Energy; Schaefer Hwy. (Click here for map

Hours: 24

Payment: Credit, debit, and fuel cards

Lines: 1x 3600 PSI, 1x 3200 PSI

Price: $2.64/ GGE

Seeing as MichCon provides natural gas, it’s not surprising it runs a fleet of natural gas vehicles – and subsequently, it’s not surprising to see a station installed at DTE’s Schaefer substation. Although it’s not that far from Grand River Avenue, I-96, or even the Lodge freeway, it still feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere. Look for tall fences next to a city bus garage; though the property is secured, the station is at the front of the property and easily accessible.

 

DTE Energy; French St. (Click here for map)

Hours: 24

Payment: Credit, debit, and fuel cards

Lines: 1x 3600 PSI, 1x 3000 PSI

Price: $2.64/GGE

This station, part of a MichCon/DTE gas service center, is on Detroit’s northeast side, tucked between industrial decay, eerie urban prairies, and a small regional airport. It’s also the least accessible of DTE’s stations: although it’s technically open for use 24-7, it’s nestled within the complex; visitors need to await clearance from the security guard before refueling. Bonus points if you spy the burnt-out Beechcraft carcass sitting across the street.

 

MELVINDALE

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DTE Energy; Allen Rd and Greenfield Rd. (Click here for map

Hours: 24

Payment: Credit, debit, and fuel cards

Lines: 3x 3600 PSI; 1x 3000 PSI

Price: $2.64/GGE

This is another fueling station situated at a DTE service center, but despite its industrial surroundings – it’s literally in the shadows of the Ford Rouge Complex and the Severstal steel mill – it’s actually a fairly clean place to fill up. Seeing as this facility is home to many large CNG-fueled trucks, the station is arguably oversized for most vehicles. Two pumps provide a total of 3 3600-PSI fuel lines, along with one 3000-PSI line. While access to most of the facility is fenced off and restricted, the fueling station – located at the back of the property along Greenfield Rd. – is ungated.

 

PORT HURON

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Blue Water Transit Authority; Lapeer Ave. (Click here for map)

Hours: M-Sat: 7:00 AM-7:00 PM. Closed Sunday.

Payment: Credit and debit cards; no fuel cards.

Lines: 2x 3600 PSI (only one for cars)

Price: $1.94/ GGE

Port Huron’s transit buses have long been fueled on CNG, but the agency only started selling the fuel to the general public within the last few years. The pump, located right between the driveway and a large CNG tank storage building, offers only one pressure (3600 PSI) and one hose compatible with most passenger vehicles, but there’s a plus: at $1.94 per GGE, it’s the cheapest in the state by nearly seventy cents. Better yet, the agency is working on opening up several other fueling stations throughout the county.

 

SOUTHERN MICHIGAN

TAYLOR

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Meijer, Store #35 – Pardee Rd. (Click here for map

Hours: 24

Payment: Credit, debit, and fuel cards

Lines: 2x 3600 PSI

Price: $2.64/ GGE

Taylor’s Meijer is a lot like other stores with the CNG pumps, save for that fact the CNG fuel receives its own dedicated lane. This is also one of the newer-style ANGI pumps, complete with a fill percentage readout just placed just below the GGE dispensed figure. Easily accessible from either I-75 or M-24/ Telegraph Road.

 

ADRIAN

Citizen’s Gas Fuel Company; N. Winter St. (Click here for map)

Hours: 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM, Mon-Fri

Payment: Credit, debit, and fuel cards

Lines: 1x 3600 PSI, 1x 3000 PSI

Price: $2.64/ GGE

The CNG station run by Citizen’s Gas Fuel company – a small DTE subsidiary – is the southernmost pump in the state of Michigan, but it’s not anywhere as accessible as other DTE stations. The pump is placed behind Citizen’s offices in a fenced-off yard, which is only open during business hours. Need to fuel up after 5 pm or on the weekend? You’re sadly out of luck – as I was this time around.

 

WESTERN MICHIGAN

GRAND RAPIDS

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Pacific Pride Fuels; Bartlett St. SW (Click here for map

Hours: 24

Payment: Credit, debit, and fuel cards

Lines: 1x 3600 PSI, 1x 3000 PSI

Price: $2.64/ GGE

Pacific Pride is a chain of commercial fueling stations that spans the U.S., but this is one of the only locations in Michigan to boast CNG availability. This station is the closest to downtown Grand Rapids, and is located across the street from the transit garage and city municipal garages. You'll find the pump -- one of the older ones in the state -- located at the back corner of the Pacific lot.

 

MUSKEGON

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Wesco Oil; E. Broadway Avenue (Click here for map)

Hours: 24

Payment: Credit cards, debit cards, and fuel cards

Lines: 1x 3600 PSI, 1x 3000 PSI

Price: $2.64/ GGE

Unlike EV chargers, which can be found as far north as Traverse City, the northernmost EV charger in Michigan is in Muskegon, found on Michigan’s west coast. Web searches will show there are two CNG pumps within the city of Muskegon, but since one is reserved for transit buses, the Wesco Oil station -- located about a mile off US-31 -- is the only public pump. The CNG pump is placed with two truck-friendly diesel pumps at the back corner of the lot.

WYOMING

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Padnos Recycling; 44th St. SW (Click here for map

Hours: 24

Payment: Credit, debit, and fuel cards

Lines: 4x 3600 PSI (only two car-compatible)

Price: $2.64/ GGE

As this station opened in late February, this is the newest (and subsequently, the cleanest) CNG fueling station in the state of Michigan. Located at the back corner of Padnos Recycling's paper processing facility (quite a ways from the road itself), the station offers four 3600 PSI hoses, albeit two of them are larger hoses designed for use with large commercial vehicles. Cons? There's no canopy. Pros? Lanes are wide open, and the location isn't far from the 131 freeway.

FALSE POSITIVES

I uncovered two suggestions for CNG stations that, as it so happened, didn't exactly pan out. Some CNG Web sites will suggest there's a fueling station in South Haven, located just south of Grand Rapids. A visit to the site revealed no CNG pump but a propane filling station -- which is decidedly not the same thing.

Interestingly, Honda's own navigation system, which contains a listing of some CNG stations across the country, steered us to one false location. The system will suggest to you there's a CNG pump at a Marathon gas station on Schaefer Rd. on the border of Detroit and Melvindale, but don't believe it. The pump exists, but the blank display screens and dated MichCon logos suggested it wasn't working -- which the attendant quickly confirmed. Fret not; the DTE Melvindale station is only 3-5 minutes away.

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