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GARY, Ind. (AP) — A pilot program that retrofits vehicles to use natural gas is generating thousands in savings for United States Steel Corp. and has the company looking to expand the venture.

The company began operating a compressed natural gas fueling station and seven retrofitted vehicles in Gary in December. Senior vice president Michael Williams says the project cost a total of $600,000, with about $490,000 going to build a fueling station near a maintenance facility on the west side of Gary Works.

The Times of Munster reports (http://bit.ly/nZ9dJm ) the project has saved $12,500, and U.S. Steel officials say it's helping reduce nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and other pollutants.

"Environmental stewardship is a core value of our company," Williams said. "We saw this as an opportunity to lower our greenhouse gas footprint. We operate a significant number of vehicles inside the plant. We see it as an opportunity to showcase to others it can be done. We think the shale natural gas availability is a game changer in terms of energy independence for this country."

U.S. Steel launched a second compressed natural gas pilot test outside Pittsburgh in June. The Mon Valley Works station fuels vehicles in about five to six minutes, but that station was built at a higher expense and serves emergency vehicles and a vehicle that hauls steel coils around the complex.

Williams said U.S. Steel is looking at expanding the use of natural gas to other vehicles used at mills, including front-end loaders. He said the company also is studying how locomotives could be adapted to run on natural gas and expand the use of biodiesel fuel.

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