NORMAN — The city marked the grand opening of its compressed natural gas fueling station Friday with praise for the public works department that made it happen, a ribbon-cutting, tours and a free lunch.
“Norman gets it,” said John Johnson, executive director of the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments. “Norman understands energy savings and energy security.”
The fueling station is the first city-owned compressed natural gas station in the state to open to the public, he said.
The city also has the state's first city-owned CNG-fueled trash trucks and industrial lawn mower and soon will have the first compressed natural gas-powered street sweeper, he said.
“This city has really strong players who were ready at the point of attack or you wouldn't have this,” Johnson said.
Johnson was referring to the city's quick action in applying for federal stimulus grants in 2010 and again in 2012 to fund, in phases, construction of the $2.1 million station at 2351 Goddard Ave.
The station has 20 dual post slow-fill dispensers allowing up to 40 city vehicles to fill overnight; a fast-fill element that fuels four vehicles simultaneously in minutes; and a fueling station for the public open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Members of the public can buy fuel for $1.70 per gallon.
The fueling station will save the city $850,000 to $1.2 million in fuel costs over the next five years, said Public Works Director Shawn O'Leary. The savings will climb even higher as the city adds more CNG-fueled vehicles to its fleet, he said.
“This is a culmination of a vision that began in 2009 when the city adopted an alternative fuel program,” said Mayor Cindy Rosenthal.
At that time, the city had only seven compressed natural gas-powered vehicles. Now it has 29 CNG vehicles; 65 electric vehicles; two hybrids; 70 flex fuel vehicles and 309 biodiesel ready vehicles, she said.
“We are saving tax dollars, and leading the state by supporting an industry that benefits the entire state,” Rosenthal said.
Compressed natural gas-powered vehicles reduce emissions by up to 97 percent, O'Leary said.
“They emit little or no particulate matter. They reduce noise, and their use promotes natural gas technologies in Oklahoma,” he said.
O'Leary said it was neither easy nor cheap to commit to an alternative fuel program, “but it makes good sense for our city, our citizens and our state.”
Hopefully, he said, the fueling station will encourage others to buy CNG vehicles.
“It's a good day to get geeky about public works,” O'Leary said.