Gas prices bring CNG to forefront

Posted in: News
Feb 21, 2013 - 12:07:26 PM

CNG PumpFor many opponents of so-called environmentally friendly (green) energy, one of the main issues is the cost. Simply put, they have no problem going green when it saves money.
Those opportunities are few and far between, but one is located on Highway 81 between Marlow and Duncan at the old Gatlin School building on Osage Road.
Local gas company, O-Tex Pumping, opened a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling station in January. It is the first in Stephens County with the next closest being located in Lawton and Chickasha. Construction began last October.
“It is the chicken and the egg,” O-Tex co-owner Doug Rather said. “People don’t use CNG because there are no fueling stations, and people don’t open fueling stations because there are no vehicles using it.”
There is no denying the savings of CNG. Monday, a gallon of gasoline in Marlow was $3.65/gallon while CNG is less than one-third the cost.
Some drivers thinking it must be their lucky day when they see a sign for 99-cent fuel are surprised when they realize they have pulled up to a pump with a strange-looking handle and realize it is not regular gas pump.
Rather said he has seen some funny reactions from customers when they realized it was not what they thought.
O-Tex is in the process of converting its fleet and oilfield machinery to natural gas, and it just made sense to have its own station.
“It’s a clean gas, it doesn’t pollute, and there is no loss of power,” Rather said.
Some American car manufacturers are slowly bringing CNG vehicles to the showroom, but most are vehicles converted to use CNG.
The conversion to CNG is not cheap and must be done by a mechanic. Rather estimates the conversion costs from $6,500 to $11,000.
Even with regular gas prices more than twice that of CNG, it would take time to offset conversion costs. A driver who purchases 20 gallons a week at current prices could expect to break even in about two years. CNG drivers can expect about the same gas mileage as regular gasoline.
CNG is derived from U.S. produced natural gas and, unlike Middle Eastern oil, does not have volatile price fluctuations.
Rather said O-Tex is following the T. Boone Pickens Plan, which has a goal of converting the U.S. from foreign oil dependence to natural gas, which the U.S. has in abundance. Currently, only Russia produces more natural gas, but the U.S. is expected to surpass them by 2015. Natural gas in the U.S. is also much cheaper, up to five times cheaper than Japan, North Korea and Germany.
CNG stations are slowly popping up around the state. Love’s Travel Stop opened 10 stations 2012. Since the state legislature first enacted alternative fuel legislation, more than 100 are open or planned to be opening.
“Natural gas can be used to heat homes, run cars and the oils can be used to make things like plastics,” Rather said.
American automobile manufacturers are starting to catch on. General Motors, Ford, and Dodge are producing CNG vehicles, and  foreign companies such as Honda have been producing them for a couple of years, according to Rather.
While some may scoff at the validity of such hot-button topics as global warming and the necessity of green energy, time will tell if CNG is another fad or if it may just be here to stay.

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