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Chesapeake converts Oklahoma vehicle fleet to run on natural gas

Chesapeake Energy Corp. has completed the first phase of its plan to convert its vehicle fleet to run on natural gas, with 800 trucks in its Oklahoma fleet now running on the alternative fuel.
BY JAY F. MARKS jmarks@opubco.com Published: April 6, 2011

Chesapeake Energy Corp. has reached a milestone in its quest to convert its 4,200-vehicle fleet to run on compressed natural gas, the company announced Tuesday.

Chesapeake's 800th natural gas vehicle was completed last week, meaning the company's entire Oklahoma fleet has been modified to run on the alternative fuel.

CEO Aubrey K. McClendon announced the company's plan to switch to CNG in May. Chesapeake intends to convert its entire fleet by 2014.

Phase one of that plan was the conversion of Chesapeake's Oklahoma truck fleet, which will be used by field operations teams overseeing the company's drilling programs in the Anadarko Basin in western Oklahoma.

Switching to natural gas is expected to save Chesapeake at least $11 million a year in fuel costs amid rising gasoline and diesel prices.

Officials noted the price of CNG has remained steady at $1.39 a gallon of gasoline equivalent, despite the volatility in gasoline and diesel costs since the recent turmoil in the Middle East.

“As President (Barack) Obama stated last week, our country can no longer afford to lurch from energy crisis to energy crisis so we must take aggressive actions immediately to begin reducing OPEC oil imports,” McClendon said. “With fuel prices expected to exceed $4 a gallon nationwide as unrest continues in the Middle East, if ever it was time for American-produced natural gas to begin replacing expensive OPEC oil, it is now.”

Obama recently directed federal agencies to ensure by 2015 that all new vehicles purchased for the nation's fleet of 600,000 public vehicles will run on electricity or alternative fuels.

Chesapeake is one of several companies, including AT&T and UPS, to commit to using natural gas to fuel its vehicle fleet. Chesapeake executives are on board as well, with all 15 of the company's senior executives driving natural gas vehicles.

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Change helps Okarche companies

OEM Systems Inc. handled all of the conversions for Chesapeake, officials said.

OEM is the sister company of Okarche's Carter Chevrolet Agency. General Manager John Luber said increased interest in compressed natural gas has allowed the two companies to increase their workforce by about 40 percent.

In the past, mainly commercial entities were interested in switching to CNG, but lately more people have been asking about the conversion process, Luber said.

“With the price of gasoline going up and up every day, there are more and more people getting on board,” he said.

OEM can convert up to 50 vehicles a week to run on CNG, Luber said.

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