LINCOLN (AP) — Drivers of cars and trucks powered by compressed natural gas could travel across Nebraska if fueling stations open next year as planned.

The expected station in North Platte would close a major gap on Interstate 80 and allow more vehicles to make the trip from Omaha and Lincoln to fueling stops in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Denver.

One project is moving forward with a $590,000 grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust, a state agency that uses Nebraska Lottery money and interest for environmental projects. Two companies partnered with North Platte city officials last year to apply for the money, which would help build the station and convert city vehicles so they could use compressed natural gas.

The city has since postponed its conversion, but an executive with Lincoln-based Stirk Compressed Natural Gas said his company still plans to begin construction on the station by June 30. Another company, California-based Clean Energy Fuels, was granted approval in 2012 for a liquid natural gas refueling facility at a North Platte truck stop. Company spokesman Jason Johnston said the station is scheduled to open in February.

“It’s on the cusp of becoming mainstream,” said Kirk McClymont, a senior manager at Stirk.

Compressed natural gas burns cleaner and quieter than diesel, costs less, and frequently allows engines to run with less maintenance. Its price is also more stable because of a steady supply from North American shale formations.

City buses, garbage trucks and firetrucks around the country are converting as local governments come under pressure to reduce carbon emissions.

The lack of stations in western Nebraska has made it difficult for compressed natural gas vehicles to cross the state, McClymont said.

McClymont said some natural-gas bus manufacturers have adapted by towing their buses across the state or bypassing Nebraska altogether.

McClymont, whose company owns a compressed natural gas semitrailer truck, said the company previously had no way to haul loads from Lincoln to western Kansas because the truck didn’t carry enough fuel for the round trip. A new station set to open in Garden City, Kansas, this month will alleviate the problem.

Nebraska has compressed natural gas stations in Omaha, Lincoln, Columbus and Plattsmouth, but no options in the western part of the state, said Mark Brohman, executive director of the Nebraska Environmental Trust. Brohman said the trust awarded the grant to promote the cleaner-burning fuel.

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