CNG fueling could return to Rifle | PostIndependent.com

CNG fueling could return to Rifle

Heather McGregor
Garfield Clean Energy

Compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling appears to be headed back to Rifle, at a new location that will provide a fast fill for any size truck.

Sparq Natural Gas of Oklahoma City is pursuing a grant from the Colorado Energy Office to install a CNG fueling island at the Gilco Petroleum Park, 23899 Highway 6.

Modern, heavy-duty accessible CNG fueling stations, which include a powerful series of compressors, a pressurized storage tank and a fueling pump, typically cost more than $1 million to install. Sparq will be seeking up to $500,000 from Colorado Energy Office to assist in the purchase of American-made equipment for the Rifle station.

Because of the significant up-front financial investment, Sparq is working with Garfield Clean Energy and Refuel Colorado Fleets to develop advance interest in CNG and bi-fuel vehicles among Rifle-based fleets and truck drivers.

A business meeting and luncheon to discuss the advantages of CNG as a vehicle fuel is set for 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, June 10, at Fiesta Guadalajara, 1214 Access Road. A site visit to the Gilco Petroleum Park will follow the lunch. Speakers will be Sparq CEO Norman Herrera, Garfield Clean Energy Fleet Coach Matt Shmigelsky, and Gilco Petroleum Park owner Keith Gilstrap. The meeting and luncheon are free, but advance registration is requested at this website: rifle-cng-lunch-meeting.eventbrite.com.

Sparq has already won four CNG station grants through the Colorado Energy Office Alt Fuels Colorado grant program. The company will open its first Colorado CNG fueling station in Pueblo this month, and a station in Trinidad is under construction. Sparq plans on building stations in Eaton and Durango later in 2015.

For the new round of station grants offered this month by the Colorado Energy Office, Sparq was evaluating four station sites across the state. After determining committed customer support in natural gas vehicles, the company narrowed its list to the two strongest sites for this grant round: Rifle and Copper Mountain.

In Rifle, a CNG fueling station operated from 2011-2014 at the Shell station at Highway 6 and Railroad Avenue. Difficulties with insufficient gas line pressure, high costs for electricity to power the compressors, and falling demand for CNG during the recession led the station owners to close the CNG fueling island in June 2014.

Meanwhile, Encana Oil and Gas opened a CNG station at the Parachute Shell station in 2013, and Trillium CNG will be breaking ground later this month on a CNG fueling island at the Shell West Mart in West Glenwood Springs, with the station expected to open by October. The only other public CNG fueling on the Western Slope is the Monument Clean Fuels station on Riverside Parkway in Grand Junction.

Gilstrap, owner of Gilco Petroleum Park in Rifle, said he has been looking for a CNG station developer to partner with for the past two years. He has conferred with other station developers, and one company came close to submitting a grant application in February. Now Sparq Natural Gas is bullish on Rifle, and Gilstrap said the proposal looks strong. Xcel Energy has a high-pressure gas main running near the Petroleum Park. By tapping into this line, the new CNG fueling island will deliver CNG at a rate of more than 10 gallons per minute, Gilstrap said.

“The issue of a slow fill will not be a problem here,” he said. The 24-hour self-serve fueling station will also be configured to handle trucks of any size, including Class 8 semi trucks.

“Everyone is asking for it — the county, the city, the state and contractors,” Gilstrap said of CNG fueling. “There is a need for it in Rifle, and the need will absolutely grow given that Garfield County is a big natural gas producer. I see CNG as a real player.”

CNG is a Colorado-produced energy source that costs less than petroleum, has lower price volatility than gasoline and diesel, and produces cleaner tailpipe emissions.

When gasoline and diesel prices fell earlier this year, they were comparable to levels that CNG has been selling at for years.

“If you liked the price of gasoline last winter, how would you like to lock in that price for fuel for years to come?” asked Shmigelsky, a fleet coach with Garfield Clean Energy. “We know petroleum prices will climb again, but natural gas is more stable. As a domestic energy source, natural gas provides a far greater level of security than today’s petroleum mix.”

Complementing the Colorado Energy Office grants for CNG fueling stations, the state of Colorado also offers tax credits that offset the higher cost of a factory-built CNG truck. The alternative-fuel tax credit can also be stacked with Colorado Enterprise Zone tax credits, applicable in much of western Garfield County, to further offset the purchase price of a new CNG or bi-fuel truck.

For local governments, the Colorado Department of Local Affairs offers a grant program that also buys down the cost difference between a gasoline model and a CNG model vehicle. Garfield County, for example, has already won a grant award to assist with the purchase of five CNG bi-fuel light-duty pickups.

“These tax credits for vehicles are at their highest levels in 2015 and 2016,” Shmigelsky said. “If Sparq is successful in winning its station grant application, we’d be expecting to see the CNG fueling facility at Gilco Petroleum open within a year of the grant award announcement. Now is the time to learn about CNG for your fleet. There will be no better time to upgrade to CNG than 2016.”


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