The Pryor Times

Local News

April 10, 2014

CNG fill station in Pryor: More pumps on the way

PRYOR, OK — Freedom Fuel is providing a new way to fill up.

Owners Bridger Kucinski and Joe Barnts are running Mayes County’s first compressed natural gas fill station.

Tuesday, the duo looked on as their first customer, Mayes Emergency Service Trust Authority, filled a rig. The pump is complete with a card reader so vehicles can fuel up 24-hours-a-day.

“We just got this pump up and running a week ago,” said Kucinski. “This is going to be so much more convenient for MESTA, who was having to drive further for fill-ups and all the way to Tulsa for repairs. By running CNG, MESTA saves 50 percent or better on fuel.”

CNG, Freedom Fuel pointed out, is a clean and domestic fuel source.

Freedom Fuel is hard at work on phase two, which is  a larger fill station, which is anticipated to be complete and open for business July 28.

“We talked to people to find out what they wanted in a CNG station. They said they were typically single pump, dark and hard to access,” said Kucinski. “We addressed all those things. This larger station will have two dual-hose pumps, so four vehicles can fill up at a time. The structure is also architecturally appealing and well lit.”

Kucinski said special care was taken to set up the station in such a way that tractors hauling trailers, buses and larger vehicles can get in and out without having to do three-point turns.

“The larger fill station will also have a card reader and will be easy to use,” said Kucinski.

The goal of the larger station, once completed, is to pump 30,000 gallons per month. Which means fill-ups for apporximately 2,000 vehicles.

The owners said there are still many misconceptions about CNG, as it is a relatively new industry.

“I use the analogy that it’s like we’re bringing cable to a town that had never seen it before. Everyone knows someone that has had a good experience with CNG conversion, but Pryor hasn’t had access to it,” said Kucinski, who added that prior to this station, the closest was in Claremore.

One misconception, Kucinski said, is that it is too expensive to be worth doing.

“The first thing to consider is that fuel costs are not on a sliding scale. Whether you drive a Ferrari or a Fiesta, the cost of gas is the same. So what it boils down to is the pay off. To start we have financing options to pay for the conversions which can be as cheap as $5,000 and up to $10,000 depending on your needs,” Kucinski said.

He added that there is an Oklahoma tax credit of $5,000, or half the conversion cost, in addition to a Oklahoma Natural Gas rebate.

“Just using average numbers, factoring conversion cost, mileage and rebates, the average driver will have recovered the cost by the time they’ve driven 35,000 miles,” he said.

Converting a vehicle to operate on compressed natural gas means modifying the vehicle to store alternative fuel and delivering it to the engine. So, Kucinski said, the main cost of the conversion is the price of the cylinders which, like gas tanks, come in multiple sizes.

Safety is another issue Barnts said people often ask about.

“The way the fuel is stored is far superior to how gas is stored,” said Barnts. “In the instance of a vehicle collision, CNG is far safer.”

“Really, CNG allows people who have to use a work truck, or a vehicle not typically known for getting great gas mileage, to get the same miles per gallon as a Honda Civic,” said Kucinski. “And for a lot of people, the concept of using a domestic fuel source is enough reason for them to make the switch. They are eager to support an American commodity rather than funding foreign countries.”

The duo is looking at partnerships and creating a community presence.

“We’ve seen CNG stations in other communities look at making a city-wide movement, converting trash trucks, school buses and street crew vehicles. These are all options we would love to explore in the future,” said Kucinski, saying the fuel source is an investment back into the local economy and infrastructure.

Freedom Fuel has taken over the 13,000 square-foot building that was once MidAmerica Rental Center. Upgrades and renovations include a show-rom in the front of the building.

“So, for all the people who have seen the benefits of CNG but have been hesitant to make a change because there was no fill station in Pryor, we took your reason away,” said Kucinski. “We have one pump now and four more on the way.”

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