Love's Travel Stops is getting into the compressed natural gas business.
The Oklahoma City-based company has opened a rapid-fueling facility at Interstate 40 and Morgan Road for heavy-duty CNG trucks. It is thought to be the first such public facility in the country that is located alongside diesel pumps.
Love's also is testing a CNG-fueled truck in its 300-vehicle fuel delivery fleet.
“It's a thing of beauty,” CEO Tom Love said Monday, as the company celebrated the opening of its new fueling facility.
Gov. Mary Fallin praised Love's for its “huge” investment in CNG infrastructure.
“This is really a great day for Oklahoma to once again be a trendsetter,” she said.
Fallin said natural gas is a clean, abundant form of energy that is produced in Oklahoma.
Fallin said Love's willingness to build CNG infrastructure will increase the demand for natural gas vehicles. She and her Colorado counterpart, Gov. John Hickenlooper, are doing their part, enlisting 13 other governors so far to commit to buying natural gas vehicles for their state fleets. More than 100 car dealers submitted bids last week for CNG cars, light-duty trucks and vans.
Love said natural gas is developing into a viable alternative to traditional vehicle fuels.
“It seems like a no-brainer because natural gas is so much less expensive than diesel or gasoline,” he said.
Love's has put in CNG fueling stations at about a dozen of its Oklahoma locations, but this is its first foray into fueling trucks. Trucks require rapid-fueling technology to keep drivers on schedule.
“For the drivers, time is money,” Love said.
Love's expects to save money by switching some of its trucking fleet to natural gas. Gemini Motor Transport LP has one CNG truck now, but Love said the company could add up to 50 in the future.
Love said the CNG truck gets fewer miles per gallon than a standard diesel engine, but there still is room to save because of lower fuel costs. CNG sells for about $2 a gallon less than diesel.
“There's a real economic incentive,” Love said.
He said he expects fleet operators and fuel providers like Love's to figure out regular routes so CNG can be added at strategic locations.
Love acknowledged liquefied natural gas will be the fuel of choice for some trucking companies looking to switch from diesel, but he maintains there are uses for both alternatives.
“It's going to take a little time for it to get traction, but it's going to be a game-changer,” he said.
The same intersection where Love's opened its CNG fueling facility also will be home to an LNG (liquefied natural gas) station. Clean Energy Fuels Corp. is working to build an LNG station at the Flying J Travel Plaza across the street from Love's.