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Kwik Trip betting on compressed natural gas at Janesville store

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Jim Leute
April 1, 2013

— Believing that alternative fuels such as compressed natural gas will power more U.S. vehicles, Kwik Trip is pumping more than $5 million into one of its Janesville operations.

Work is under way at the Kwik Trip on Highway 51 on the city's south side.

When it wraps up this summer, it will include a convenience store that's twice as large as the current one and about 20 fueling stations that will include two CNG pumps.

Kwik Trip will become the first retailer to offer compressed natural gas in the city.

“We think the future is very bright for CNG,” said Steve Wrobel, a Kwik Trip spokesman.

Wrobel said natural gas is a clean fuel that's sourced domestically.

It's also significantly less expensive than regular gasoline. Recent price comparisons found that a gallon of natural gas was nearly $2 less than its regular gasoline equivalent.

Natural gas offers about the same fuel efficiency as gasoline, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Compressed natural gas is primarily used in trucks, particularly in fleets. Kwik Trip fuels all of its trucks with CNG.

“We've enjoyed great success and savings in our company's fleet, and we think interest will grow in consumer vehicles,” Wrobel said.

While natural gas is not a common option in consumer vehicles, more vehicles are expected to join the market.

Kwik Trip is one of 21 U.S. companies to join the U.S. Department of Energy National Clean Fleets Partnership, a broad public-private partnership that helps the nation's largest fleet operators reduce the amount of gasoline and diesel they burn.

Alternative fuels such as natural gas and electricity are a major part of the effort.

“The market for energy-efficient and electric vehicles is expanding dramatically, giving drivers and businesses more options to save money on fuel while reducing carbon pollution,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a news release. “These American companies are taking strong steps to make their operations smarter and more fuel-efficient—setting an example for others to follow and helping America lead the global race for a growing industry.”

Kwik Trip now has 10 stations that offer natural gas, six of them in Wisconsin. By the end of the summer, it plans to have 25.

“All of our alternative fuel stations are public, and we've seen growth at each one of them,” Wrobel said.

The company's goal is to string together a network along major freeways in Wisconsin and then expand it into Minnesota and Iowa, he said. The company has more than 400 convenience stores in the Midwest, including four in Janesville.

Natural gas will come into the station off street lines and be dried and compressed onsite. Customers will slide a credit card, attach a fitting and turn on a valve.

“It's pretty simple,” Wrobel said.

On Highway 51, Kwik Trip bought land to expand its operation, including the new store and the infrastructure to support the natural gas operation and a building for diesel exhaust fluid, a solution that helps reduce nitrogen oxide concentrations in the exhaust emissions of diesel engines.

The existing store will remain open while the new one goes up behind it.

“The existing store is worn out and small, and that's a particularly good location for us,” said Hans Zietlow, Kwik Trip's director of real estate. “It's a busy corner, and, as a company, we like to think long term.

“We think CNG is the fuel of the future. This is the right thing to do.”



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