Springdale First in Northwest Arkansas To Get CNG Fuel Station

by Marty Cook  on Monday, Aug. 4, 2014 12:00 am  

Heath Ward wanted Springdale to be first in line — more specifically, he wanted the city’s water utilities department to be first.

Ward, the executive director of Springdale Water Utilities, said it was an easy decision to commit to buy two vehicles that run on compressed natural gas. The sewer and water commission agreed and voted unanimously to purchase a light-duty and a heavy-duty truck for the Water Utilities on July 16.

CNG — as compressed natural gas is commonly called — is a growing form of alternative fuel, but it has a very small footprint in Arkansas and none at all in northwest Arkansas. There are seven stations in the state that dispense CNG but none farther northwest than Fort Smith.

State officials said the lack of CNG options in northwest Arkansas has hurt the area because people with CNG vehicles will not visit or relocate to the region if they can’t get fuel for their cars. That will soon change in Springdale, which is scheduled to have the first CNG provider in northwest Arkansas.

Kum & Go will offer CNG at its location on Robinson Road near the Springdale Municipal Airport. The convenience store will receive $400,000 from the state’s energy office as a rebate to offset the costs of installing a CNG fueling station.

The Robinson Road location is scheduled to have CNG by October. Kum & Go received another $400,000 from the state to install a CNG station at its Springdale store at the intersection of Interstate 49 and Elm Springs Road.

“CNG coming to Springdale was a big deal,” Ward said. “That’s a story in itself, that we’re going to be a CNG hub for northwest Arkansas. We wanted to be the first people in northwest Arkansas to jump aboard with this thing and make it big.”

Ward was determined to get a CNG vehicle or two for his utilities workers and had planned to buy them next year. That plan changed when the Arkansas Energy Office, a division of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, announced it was going to hand out $150,000 statewide to help offset the purchase of CNG vehicles.

The money would be available on a first-come, first-served basis. Ward didn’t want to wait.

Ward said the light-duty truck, which costs approximately $32,000, and the heavy-duty truck, with a price tag of approximately $33,000, will be available by the end of the year, and the money will come out of next year’s budget, as it had been previously planned. Ward said the new vehicles cost approximately $10,000 more than a gasoline-only vehicle, but he is confident the fuel savings will more than make up for the higher purchase price.

The prices can vary, of course, depending on the day and location, but CNG cost about $1.70 less per gallon-equivalent than gasoline on the day the commission approved the fast-track purchase. Ward said Water Utilities buys about seven new vehicles a year for its 70-vehicle fleet, and he will be able to determine exactly how much of a difference a CNG vehicle makes driving up to 10,000 miles a year.

“When you look at CNG over a year, you’re paying maybe 25 to 30 percent more for a CNG vehicle than what would be considered a regular vehicle, and you’re probably looking at a pretty quick payback over a year,” Ward said. “When you’re looking at fuel costs, you’ll probably get that money back fairly shortly. I believe the savings are there.”



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