NORMAN, Okla. —
A city's experiment of operating a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling facility is generating more revenue than expected and prospects are even brighter for the plentiful fuel.
“Since opening, we have dispensed 72,000 gallons of fuel,” Norman Public Works Director Shawn O’Leary said. “The city used 30,000, and the general public consumed 42,000.”
The 24-hour refueling station services the city fleet and is open to the public.
Those public sales generated $110,000 in revenue. -- about double what was expected.
“That’s new revenue. That’s what’s key to us. This was an amazing opportunity,” said O’Leary, pointing out the facility opened only last January 2012.
Motorist are noticing that the price to fuel up is attractive.
“Our price today is $1.36 per gallon and has probably been that way for a couple of months,” O’Leary said. “When there’s a shifting of prices, we try to shift with them. We tend to be on the lower-to-middle end of the range. Our cost isn’t as high as some of the vendors. Rarely are we on the bottom end, and rarely are we on the top end.”
CNG fuel is growing in poularity, especially in natural gas rich states, as automotive buyers move away from move away from more expensive and highly fluctuating gasoline prices.
Norman is adding more CNG-fueld vehicles to its fleet, but purchasing decisions must be studied closely.
For instance, council members recently approved the purchase of a CNG trash truck to replace one which was damaged.
“Trash trucks are a fast payback on the additional cost for the CNG,” O’Leary said. “Every vehicle that is CNG costs more. That difference is coming down. We’re seeing a gradual decrease, but they’re still higher than conventional vehicles.”
The city must justify the additional purchase price of CNG vehicles and then consider the long-term payoff.
“Trash trucks get about three miles to the gallon,” O’Leary said. “You can do the math pretty quickly there. A trash truck with our kind of mileage and our kind of price will pay for itself in two to three years, and we get seven to 10 years out of an average trash truck. It doesn’t take long to figure out that’s a sound investment.”
But money saved isn’t the only advantage. Vehicles fueled by CNG have less polluting emissions and create much less noise than diesel vehicles. O’Leary said the city has had a “very positive maintenance experience” with CNG vehicles.
“The CNG is such a clean-running fuel, we’re finding we can extend oil changes by several thousand miles,” O’Leary said. “There’s noise reduction of about 90 percent from a diesel vehicle to a CNG.”
Details for this story were provided by The Norman (Okla.) Transcript.