Rifle gas wholesaler sees expanded business in compressed natural gas

A Rifle gasoline wholesaler and retailer hopes to open a compressed-natural-gas fueling station this year in Parachute along western Colorado’s Interstate 70 corridor, where no such stations currently are open to the public.

Kirk Swallow, president of Swallow Oil, has applied to the town of Parachute for zoning approval to open a compressed-natural-gas fueling station at an existing gasoline station there. He hopes to open it by the end of summer.

Swallow also applied for a grant from the Governor’s Energy Office to help him open a second station in Rifle.

Swallow said his partners are local natural gas producers EnCana Oil & Gas (USA), Williams Production RMT and Bill Barrett Corp. They are helping him with compressed-natural-gas infrastructure and have committed to convert some of their vehicles to use natural gas, he said.

Swallow said he is excited about the prospect of making available a vehicle fuel that burns cleaner than gasoline, is produced locally and reduces dependency on foreign oil.

“We’ve got enough CNG in this area to supply us for a long time in the future,” he said.

Swallow Oil has helped form a company called Rocky Mountain Alternative Fueling to undertake the new venture, and he is serving as its manager, Swallow said.

EnCana has been active in promoting increased use of natural gas in vehicles. It purchased company vehicles that use the fuel and converted other fleet vehicles to use it. EnCana spokesman Doug Hock praised Swallow’s efforts.

“This is something we’ve supported, and we think it’s a great step forward in starting to create infrastructure in western Colorado for the use of natural gas as a transportation fuel,” Hock said.

Swallow said installing such stations is expensive, starting at about $700,000.

Heather McGregor is spokeswoman for the nonprofit group CLEER, the manager of the Garfield New Energy Communities Initiative, which put on a workshop Friday in Glenwood Springs on clean-energy initiatives in vehicle fleets. She said the use of compressed natural gas is challenged by the chicken-and-egg question of which comes first, CNG stations or vehicles. A key is getting commitments by entities to convert fleet vehicles to use natural gas, she said.

Supporters say the trucking industry ultimately could help drive larger use of natural gas, and stations along I-70 in western Colorado could help truckers who otherwise must rely on stations in Denver or Utah.


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