Planned Rifle CNG fuel station awarded state funding
Compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling moved a major step toward returning to Rifle, following a decision late last week to award state funding for a new fueling location.
The Colorado Energy Office, in partnership with the Regional Air Quality Council and the Colorado Department of Transportation, awarded funding for the location in addition to three others in the state. The grant was awarded to Sparq Natural Gas of Oklahoma City, which intends on installing a CNG fueling island at the Gilco Petroleum Park, 23899 Highway 6.
The funding will either amount to $500,000 or 80 percent of the total equipment cost, whichever amount is less. With a projected total cost of approximately $1.4 million, Sparq expects to receive the $500,000, although that could change, said Tristan Adler, Sparq CFO.
The CNG station at Gilco Petroleum Park would bring CNG fueling back to Rifle. Previously, a CNG fueling station operated in Rifle from 2011-2014 at the Shell station at Highway 6 and Railroad Avenue, but it closed due to technical difficulties and a lack of demand for CNG.
Gilco Petroleum Park owner Keith Gilstrap started asking around several years ago to see if there was any interest in partnering to establish a CNG station at the park. The more Gilstrap asked around, the more demand he discovered. “There are a lot of people who would use that CNG product if it was available,” he said.
However, it was not until Garfield Clean Energy joined the effort that Gilstrap and Sparq connected and started pushing for the station in Rifle. The grant is a substantial step toward making the station a reality because the money can only be used for the purpose of installing the station in Rifle, said Heather McGregor, administrative manager for Garfield Clean Energy.
“This is a huge mile post for developing this Rifle CNG station,” she said.
While a construction date has yet to be determined, Adler said once they finalize the grant contract with the state, Sparq will have one year to complete construction. Having already received four grants for CNG stations in Colorado prior to the Rifle grant, Adler said he would not anticipate a lengthy review of the grant contract.
Although Gilstrap will essentially serve as a landlord and Sparq will be responsible for the actual installation and operation, he said he does not believe the problems that plagued Rifle’s former CNG station will be an issue.
For example, Xcel Energy has a high-pressure gas main running near the Gilco Petroleum Park, which will allow gas flow of 10 to 12 gallons per minute, according to Gilstrap. Low pressure was one of the issues at the old petroleum park. Additionally, the basic infrastructure — signage, canopies and entryways — at the park is already in place, he noted.
While Sparq will monitor the areas that posed problems for the previous station, Adler said they are not a concern. The fact that there previously was a CNG station in Rifle means there are a number of CNG vehicles already in the area, he said, while repeating Gilstrap’s claim that local fleets have already expressed interest in CNG options. Additionally, Rifle’s location on Interstate 70 makes it a natural stop for CNG vehicles traveling up and down the interstate, and there is reason to believe the number of CNG vehicles will increase going forward.
Current tax credits available for making the switch from petroleum-fueled vehicles to CNG vehicles are at incredible rates, according to McGregor. Tax credits for new vehicles combined with the cheaper cost of CNG compared to gasoline make the conversion practically cost neutral, she explained.
CNG prices are more stable than gasoline, with an average of $2.09 per gasoline gallon equivalent over the past five years, according to a state news release, which also noted that the fuel is less harmful to the environment, especially compared to diesel fuel.
Between eight and 10 local fleets have already said they are on board with CNG if the Rifle station is built, McGregor said.
The CNG fueling station at Gilco Petroleum Park would have the advantage of being able to accommodate any size truck, including Class 8 semi trucks, Gilstrap said. As for news of the state’s decision to award the grant to the Rifle project, he said he is not the only person who is excited.
“The city wants it, the county wants it, the residents want it, everybody wants it,” Gilstrap said. “It’s going to be a real asset to the city.”
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Over the next five days, Rifle residents Ruth Brittain and Robert Harper will each be celebrating a major milestone in anyone’s life: their 100th birthday.