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More Milestones Passed Along 'America's NatGas Highway'

Three former executives in Chesapeake Energy's now discontinued natural gas vehicle (NGV) efforts have passed the six-month mark in the formation of a new NGV transportation company, Sparq Natural Gas LLC, which is focusing on infrastructure development on a regional basis.

Sparq is concentrating on the Midcontinent with Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana and Arkansas in its sights for targeted compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling locations, according to co-founder and CEO Norman Herrera, one of the three Chesapeake alumni. Aggressive regional infrastructure development is the new firm's top priority, Herrera said as part of a profile on the new company in a transportation fueling newsletter.

As the pace is accelerating among fleet operators and NGV fuel providers to build up infrastructure nationally, Sparq is seeking investors and new sites for its owned/operated stations in its seven targeted states. It has proposed a new CNG station in Pueblo, CO, and is seeking funding from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for up to six new CNG fueling locations in four counties under TCEQ's Texas Emissions Reduction Plan (TERP).

With their experience at Chesapeake, Herrera and his co-founders, COO Sufyan Quarni and CFO Tristan Adler, Sparq plans to "successfully develop and manage all aspects of CNG station investment partnerships with fuel retailers in the region, such as Love's Travel Stops, OnCue Express, Dandy Mini Marts, Lott Oil, and IGS Energy," according to company marketing literature.

At Chesapeake they had zeroed in on convenience store operators as potential fueling sites, and that is continuing at Sparq.

In California, nationally focused Clean Energy Fuels Corp. said last Tuesday that it had opened two more stations along what has been designated as America's Natural Gas Highway, including the major long-haul trucking corridors around the nation. Stations in Amarillo, TX, and Oklahoma City will provide liquefied natural gas (LNG) for heavy-duty long-haul trucking fleets.

Clean Energy said United Parcel Service (UPS) has been fueling six heavy-duty trucks at the newly opened Oklahoma City, OK, station, and it plans to add four more trucks later this year. The UPS operations are forecast to consume up to 300,000 diesel gas equivalent gallons (DGE) of LNG annually. And in Amarillo, TX, UPS is fueling 10 trucks.

Another long-haul operator working with Clean Energy, EJ Madison, has recently deployed 20 more heavy-duty long-haul LNG trucks with their routes spanning the national infrastructure envisioned by America's Natural Gas Highway. They use Clean Energy stations in Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Antonio and Jacksonville, FL.

Clean  Energy Renewable Fuels (CERF) also began April with an announcement that it is now producing the "Redeem" CNG from biomethane at Republic Services' North Shelby landfill outside of Memphis. The fuel supplier is touting Redeem as "the cleanest and cheapest" alternative fuel now commercially available.

CERF President Harrison Clay said the company sold 14 million gasoline gallon equivalents (GGE) of Redeem last year. It also has expanded production capacity to 3.7 million GGE annually at its Memphis production site.

Separately, various firsts were marked for CNG's development with a Texas-based Chevrolet dealership becoming the nation's first auto dealer to develop its own CNG fueling facility as Classic Chevrolet's Clean Fuels in Grapevine, TX.

The Texas dealership officials said Classic has been the nation's No. 1 Chevrolet dealer for eight consecutive years, and it is taking the lead in promoting and adopting CNG technology. Classic Clean Fuels has joined 14 other local CNG fuel stations scattered throughout the greater Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area, offering biodiesel, ethanol and regular unleaded fuel in addition to providing CNG and eventually an electric vehicle charging area.

Another first was marked by St. Paul, MN-based CHS Inc., an agricultural products cooperative when it announced development of its first CNG fueling station in Fairmont, MN, as a public station serving both trucks and cars, as well as fueling the cooperative's own fleet of trucks used in its soybean processing operations in Fairmont and Mankato.

"CHS is embracing alternative fueled vehicle technology such as CNG and propane autogas to cost-effectively serve some of its customers," said Paul Herskind, CHS business development manager.

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