NMDA implements new standards to regulate sale of natural gas for use in vehicles

Petroleum products program takes proactive step to regulate expanding piece of alternative fuels market

Contact: Katie Goetz, Public Information Officer
575-646-2804 office

(LAS CRUCES, N.M.) – The growing appetite for alternative fuels is bearing out in several ways in New Mexico: an increase in natural gas production, an increase in the number of vehicles that can run on natural gas, and an increase in the number of fueling stations where you’ll find natural gas at the pump.

In light of these trends, New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) is implementing a new standard to help these consumers know exactly what they’re paying for when they fill up.

This Thursday, May 14, petroleum regulators at the New Mexico Department of Agriculture (NMDA) will begin enforcing the new Retail Natural Gas (CNG/LNG)” rule covering compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG).  Since the standard unit of measurement for most fuels – gasoline, diesel, you name it — is a gallon in the United States, the new rule simply requires that CNG and LNG sellers label those products by mass or by their gallon equivalent.

“What the rule does is make it easy for consumers to understand what they’re paying for,” New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte said.  “That way, drivers whose vehicles have engines that can run on, say, either liquefied natural gas or diesel, can choose which one makes more economic sense.”

Some natural gas vehicles, or NGVs for short, rolled off the factory line running on natural gas, while others are after-market converts.  Right now, these vehicles fill up in New Mexico at 14 stations, six of which are open to the public.  Another three truck stops with liquefied natural gas are being constructed – one in Albuquerque, one in Deming, and one in Lordsburg – with more to follow along interstate corridors.  The same trend is playing out in states like Arizona, California, Colorado, and Texas, where similar CNG/LNG standards are already in place or soon will be.

Witte said the new CNG/LNG standard will become more important in New Mexico as the demand for alternative fuels continues to increase, especially considering the state’s contribution to that industry.  New Mexico currently ranks as the nation’s 5th top-supplying state of natural gas, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“The new standard sets the stage for the future of natural gas use in New Mexico,” Witte said, “and it also falls right in line with the petroleum standards we already enforce.”

The state’s longstanding Petroleum Products Standards Act serves all fuel users, whether your vehicle runs on natural gas, diesel, or gasoline.  Under the Act, NMDA’s petroleum inspectors check all commercial fuel pumps in the state for both quantity and quality.  They make sure that when the meter shows that you’ve gotten a gallon of fuel, you’ve gotten a true gallon and not a different quantity.  They also make sure that fuel labeled as, say, 87 octane actually proves at 87 octane and not a different quality.  The fuel samples that NMDA’s petroleum inspectors routinely collect are tested for quality at NMDA’s Petroleum Standards Laboratory, located at NMDA’s main office in Las Cruces.

Fuel pumps found to be dispensing an inaccurate quality and/or quantity of fuel are placed out of service – you’ll see them covered with a bright yellow “out of order” plastic bag – until the issue is resolved by the station.  If you suspect the pump you filled up at is inaccurate in terms of quantity and/or quality, please call NMDA’s Standards and Consumer Services division at 575-646-1616.