Three members of the former Chesapeake Energy Corp. compressed natural gas vehicle team have set up their own shop, continuing much of the work they started with their former employer.
Oklahoma City-based Sparq Natural Gas hopes to promote the use of CNG as a vehicle fuel by partnering with existing convenience stores and by acting as a consultant to companies considering entering or expanding into the CNG business.
“What we want to do is bring the Oklahoma leadership story that happened here across states like Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, New Mexico and Colorado — states that do not have as much infrastructure that we’re fortunate enough to have in Oklahoma,” CEO Norman Herrera said.
Sparq consists of Herrera, Chief Financial Officer Tristan Adler and Chief Operating Officer Sufyan Qarni. The trio is backed by private investors, whom they declined to name.
With 78 public CNG fueling stations, Oklahoma contains almost 12 percent of the 677 such stations nationwide and is second only to California in the number of public stations. The country is dotted with more than 120,000 gasoline stations.
Oklahoma has so many public stations largely because of Chesapeake’s effort to convert its truck fleet to CNG and because the company encouraged local retailers to offer the fuel in its operations areas. Gov. Mary Fallin also has encouraged state and county fleets to convert to natural gas.
Sparq is continuing the effort, but instead of focusing primarily on corporate and government fleets, the new firm is targeting individuals and families.
“We think this fuel is not just for fleets. It’s a public fuel families can use. It’s a fuel used in the world by millions of people,” Qarni said.
To reach fleets, relatively few stations are required in central locations. The general public, however, is more spread out and requires more stations in more locations.
“We’re involved in bringing compressed natural gas to convenience store operators and retailers,” Herrera said. “Folks who can fuel there are consumers, people like you and I who can come in and fuel at a Sparq station at a convenient, accessible, attractive place to fuel.”
Sparq has identified 40 potential locations for CNG in Oklahoma and surrounding states. The company plans to have several in place by the end of the year.
Sparq plans to partner with existing convenience stores. It will pay for the upgrade and own the pump.
“I don’t know we necessarily want to be in the Snickers or coffee business,” Adler said. “Our partners do an excellent job, better than we could do on the c-store (convenience store) side.”
The team has identified locations in Oklahoma and throughout the region where there is demand for CNG and little or no fuel available.
“You have great pockets out there like southwestern Kansas with a lot of production, but is not being served well by the infrastructure,” Herrera said.
Sparq also hopes to help other companies support the industry.
“The overarching goal is to help businesses interested in utilizing CNG in some way, shape or form to do that more efficiently,” Adler said.