The Daily Register - Harrisburg, IL
  • Compressed natural gas replaces diesel at half the price

  • Chris Schimp’s German great-great-grandfather supplied lumber to Peabody’s Grayson coal mine southeast of Eldorado.
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  • Chris Schimp’s German great-great-grandfather supplied lumber to Peabody’s Grayson coal mine southeast of Eldorado.
    Later he worked for the mine as did his son after him. That Schimp’s son, Chris’ father was a bricklayer. Chris went to college, became an engineer, started in mining and later when a tragic accident at the Pyro Mine near Sturgis, Ky., led to Chris leaving mining as a career, he became a pioneer in recovering methane from abandoned coal mines.
    Chris had been pall bearer at 10 funerals in a single weekend due to the blast at the Pyro mine near Sturgis Ky. Leaving mining behind was not hard at all.
    Although earlier attempts to make a profitable business at methane recovery failed due to market factors, Schimp acquired a few patents, some hard won wisdom and a determination to succeed.
    His first venture involved generating electricity for the grid using methane to fuel the local generators, capturing the thrown off heat to grow tomatoes hydroponically. Bad choices when buying the greenhouses and market factors such as North American Free Trade Agreement killed the tomato venture, he said.
    More patents and certainty that there was a market for abandoned mine methane helped Chris to persevere with methane ventures.
    Wednesday he took delivery of a factory-made compressed natural gas or CNG Peterbuilt semi tractor-trailer, suitable for hauling coal. The truck demonstrates the power and efficiency of CNG fuel.
    Schimp has been retrofitting diesel trucks to run half and half for a long time. But he believes that 100 percent CNG is the way to go. Methane in coal country is readily accessible as he has proven with his earlier businesses. Scrubbing it clean is a specialty service that he provides along with compression.
    When he is done — voila! He is selling locally produced CNG at half the $4 per gallon price of diesel. That is pretty easy math to do. Paying for a coal truck in nine months is an attractive proposition for any hauler of any freight whatever.
    Infrastructure and production companies are racing each other for market share at present.
    “I have a very short window of opportunity here,” he said. “The big boys are closing in fast.”
    A few years ago the Russian firm ITERA was getting in on the play for American CNG but they have pulled back and now the big oil companies are making moves to capture the market. They see the handwriting on the wall. Four dollars per gallon versus two dollars per gallon. Again, pretty basic math. Lots of money to be made here. And not just from recovered gas from abandoned coal mines. Fracking is fueling the speculation in CNG potential as well.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We can be energy independent and say no to foreign oil in a very short time if the politicians would just get out of the way. Big oil is behind their opposition in my opinion,” said Schimp.
    Could big oil be funding opposition to fracking? Schimp agreed it could.
    “But the point is, we do not need to be burning fuel from foreign sources. But we are,” Schimp said.
    Perhaps Schimp’s new yellow Peterbilt truck will help to persuade the market to change for the most logical of reasons: Profit for the little guy.
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