Southwestern Energy opened Arkansas first compressed natural gas station in Damascus in 2011. Yesterday the fifth largest supplier of natural gas in the US opened a second CNG station at its regional headquarters.

"What a great place to have our station in the shadow of the place where our employees spend so much of their time bringing natural gas into Arkansas and the rest of the country," said COO Bill Way.

While this is SWN’s second Arkansas location it is also the second CNG station to open in Conway, opening one month after Satterfield Fuels added two CNG fueling dispensers to their Gulf Station on Oak Street.

"With two stations it’s only going to provide additional stability and security for people who want to use CNG," said Branch Satterfield, President of Satterfield Fuels.

The demand seen at SWN’s Damascus station prompted the company to invest in more infrastructure.

"We have 186 bi-fuel vehicles and growing in SWN at the moment, and we’ve witnessed a steady increase in the public dropping by to see the sign with the price in blue for a fill up," Way said.

Since the first of the year, the Damascus station has used 186,000 GGEs in consumption.

"More than a third of that is ours and the rest is the general public coming in and filling up," Way said. "We’re looking at more opportunities to bring additional stations."

In 2012, SWN awarded 21 employees CNG vehicles as well as home refueling units with 12 going to Arkansas employees.

Jacob Wesson, SWN health, safety and environmental coordinator, was one of the 12.

Since August 2012, Wesson has put 31,000 miles on his CNG-converted Ford pickup truck.

"We’ve driven it out as far as Las Vegas, the Grand Cannon, Southern Utah; we’ve driven it to Northern Minnesota, Yellow Stone, all within a years time, and we’ve been able to make the majority of those trips on natural gas," Wesson said.

Wesson’s trip to Ely, Minn. was 1,900 miles round trip. He was able to drive 1,600 of those miles on CNG, he said.

Wesson keeps scrupulous notes recording the volume, price of CNG and corresponding price of gasoline each time he fills his tank.

"I want to justify the expense," he said. "So far we’re saving a little over $100 on fuel for every 1,000 miles driven. We’ve cleared about $3,000 in money saved on the first 30,000 miles driven."

Townsell thanked SWN in his speech for helping Conway "be much more of a city" from the Class-A office building to the new CNG station, which will place us on the map, he said.

"People actually do chart their path across the country going from CNG station to CNG station, and that’s just one more reason to stop in Conway, Ark.," he said.

The City of Conway has invested in CNG by converting ten police cruisers before a station was built, and are in the process of converting eight more now that the city has two stations.

Last week, Conway City Council voted in favor of the purchase of a CNG-powered sanitation truck. The truck should arrive in the next week in a half.

"We’re doing that with tax dollars not because it’s simply cheaper," Townsell said.

Using a cleaner burning fossil fuel also saves on maintenance costs and extends the life of a vehicle while being better for the environment, he explained.

Sen. Jason Rapert said it’s time for American energy to power America, and Arkansas energy to be powering Arkansas.

"If our other cities would take the lead the way Conway, Ark. has in this arena, if our counties would join them, if our school districts would join them, we would literally be saving hundreds of millions in fuel costs," he said.

Wesson said so often a Made in the USA sticker will cost more in the store, but CNG is made in the USA and it costs half the price of gasoline.

"It feels good to go and fill up a three-quarter ton Ford pick up for $22 whereas when I go to the gasoline pump, which is rare, it’s going to cost me $90 to $100 to fill my tank up," he said.

(Staff writer Michelle Corbet can be reached by email at michelle.corbet@thecabin.net 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)