7-Eleven's experiment with compressed natural gas has been such a success that the company plans to offer the fuel at other locations.
"I can't identify the locations, but we're sufficiently encouraged to do more of it," said Jim Brown, CEO of 7-Eleven Stores, which owns the 7-Eleven locations in the Oklahoma City area.
Just a few years ago, Brown was not convinced about the future of CNG.
"At the time we did it, we weren't excited about what we were seeing as far as consumer demand," he said. "I wouldn't have anticipated that it would have been so well received here. But now that it has, we see an opportunity there, especially given the way the product is priced in the market."
At 88.9 cents per gasoline gallon equivalent, the 7-Eleven in Moore is one of the least expensive, publicly available CNG fill-up locations in the country.
When 7-Eleven was relocating and expanding a store in Moore, the city asked Brown to consider adding CNG.
"They had converted a couple of vehicles and were in the process of converting others to CNG," Brown said. "We've had a 50-year relationship with the city. They asked us to consider CNG. We had the space, so we got involved with Chesapeake (Energy Corp.) and learned as much as we could quickly. It's been pretty popular."
Demand for CNG was enough to persuade Brown to ungrade fueling stations and try it out.
"It was very difficult to make the decision on the first one," he said. "The city of Moore stepped up to the plate, and we did our homework. It turned out to be a big thing."
In Tulsa, the number of CNG fueling stations has been growing steadily. There now are about a dozen facilities around town. Most are owned by Blue Energy Fuels, Oklahoma Natural Gas, Apache Corp. and the city of Tulsa.
Oklahoma ranks No. 3 in the nation in CNG consumption, said Tom Sewell, president and founder of Tulsa Gas Technologies and owner of Blue Energy Fuels. He estimated his local stations have sold 1 million gallons of gas equivalent in the past year.
Blue Energy plans to add facilities in Grove and Broken Bow early next year and is looking at sites in Broken Arrow, Bixby, Mannford and elsewhere throughout Oklahoma and Arkansas, Sewell said.
Tulsa's largest fuel retailer, QuikTrip Corp., said it currently has no plans for adding CNG pumps.
"We constantly are studying all kinds of alternative fuels," QuikTrip spokesman Mike Thornbrugh said. "There's not enough demand for CNG right now, however, for us to make the financial investment."
Tulsa-basedQuikTrip has been approached by cities and utilities about CNG, Thornbrugh said.
"We learn a lot every time we have those talks," he said. "When and if the time comes to add CNG, we should be nimble enough to act quickly."
7-Eleven CEO Brown said he now thinks the demand for CNG will continue to grow in central Oklahoma.