Satterfield Fuels opened the first compressed natural gas fueling station in Faulkner County with the grand opening and ribbon cutting of two CNG fueling dispensers at their Gulf station on Oak Street Tuesday morning.
President of Satterfield Fuels, Branch Satterfield, took the grand opening as an opportunity to rally for more state incentives and tax credits for CNG conversion costs.
"We’ve proved that we can build infrastructure in central Arkansas," he said, "now I’m going to challenge all the decision makers here today to take Act 532 and put it in motion for us." Act 532 was passed in the general assembly in March. The bill allows the Arkansas Energy Office of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission to provide up to $4,500 for clean-burning motor vehicle conversion costs.
"Let’s get those conversions out there, and let’s finish what we’ve started. We’ve got infrastructure, now let’s get some vehicles. We’ve got domestically produced fuel right here in our county that’s more economical and more environmentally friendly, and it’s time that we utilize it," Satterfield said.
Governor Mike Beebe signed Act 532 into law March 28. The funding for this act is now pending final legislative action.
In a speech at the grand opening he said, "The devil is always in the details, and like Mr. Satterfield said, let’s not let it die here, but you know all it takes is a little money. It takes money. "
Ray Talley, CNG operation manager for Crain Automotive, said in the pick up and SUV market, a CNG conversion can range anywhere from $9,000 - $14,000.
Talley said if incentives become available, he wants them to be retroactive.
"These few hundred people I’ve done [conversions for] in the last year, the first thing they’re going to do is ask why can’t I get this money," he said. "But currently there are no incentives or tax credits available."
The state’s last incentive program ended Jan. 31, 2012. The CNG Conversion Rebate Program allowed a rebate of 50 percent the cost of conversion, not to exceed $25,000. The Arkansas Energy Office awarded Satterfield Fuels a $235,000 grant for the installation of CNG dispensers through a rebate program in the amount of 75 percent of qualifying costs, not to exceed $400,000.
Arkansas state senator Jason Rapert said, "you have to put your money where your mouth is, and the state of Arkansas for several years now has put forward incentives to help people who are interested in putting in stations."
Government has helped make incentives available, Rapert said, but the future of the industry is in the hands of private business owners like the Satterfields.
People like the Conway Area Chamber of Commerce, the City of Conway and Crafton Tull have been early adopters of CNG as an alternative fueling source, Satterfield said.
"We need the next wave of businesses and individuals to recognize the value of CNG," he said.
Ray Talley, CNG operation manager for Crain Automotive, said he is currently processing 28 CNG conversion kit orders. He said the orders are about 60 percent individual, consumers and 40 percent commercial. He is also building a vehicle for Conway Corporation and the City of Conway for Animal Control.
The Conway Police Department installed 10 CNG conversion kits into the forces’ Chevy Tahoe police cruisers last year in anticipation for the Satterfield’s CNG dispensers, said Chief of Police AJ Gary. Each of the 10 vehicles filled their tanks with CNG after the ribbon cutting ceremony.
CPD currently has eight vehicles in the process of being converted at Crain Buick GMC, which will bring the department’s total to 18 CNG vehicles by the end of the year.
The cost of CNG is currently $1.55 per gas gallon equivalent, or GGE, at the Gulf station. A customer put 12.27 GGEs in a 2011 GMC Sierra at the grand opening on Tuesday bringing their total price to $19.14.
Satterfield said he’s confident the economic incentive will be there for the foreseeable future, and he hopes the state incentives will be soon to follow.
(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1215. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)