Natural gas pump station opens in Sioux Center, IA

Natural gas pump station opens in Sioux Center, IA

Scott Meerdink’s business, Meerdink Inc., biggest expense is fuel. He’s saved $180,000 on fuel costs in the last year and a half.

Meerdink has done so by converting his fleet of tractor-trailers to compressed natural gas. “It’ll keep our trucking company competitive long-term,” he says.

It allows him to be competitive because he saves per gallon.    

“It offers a more consistently lower priced fuel, especially for companies that own a number of vehicles,” said Stephanie Weisenbach, a program coordinator with the Iowa Economic Development Authority working with the clean cities division.

For Meerdink, it makes sense because he has eight trucks racking up constant miles delivering grain and feed ingredients.

The Shell gas station at 1212 N. Main Avenue in Sioux Center he was filling up at on Tuesday is the eighth public pump in Iowa. It’s the first in northwest Iowa. The other pumps are in Cedar Falls, Council Bluffs, Davenport, Des Moines, Dubuque, Waterloo and West Burlington.

Meerdink converted his personal pickup truck to run half natural gas too. Motor companies like GM, Ford, Dodge and Honda offer domestic cars that would run on natural gas.

With only eight places to fill up in the state, using natural gas isn’t as wide-spread domestically. Weisenbach says there’s a lot of questions you’d need to ask yourself like if you “drive enough miles for that upfront investment to make sense?”
It cost Meerdink about $8,000 to convert his truck he says. When you add-in upgrading his fleet of eight: roughly $400,000. “We’re going to see return on investment sometime in year five,” said Scott Meerdink.

He owns eight trucks overall. Four are dedicated to natural gas which means they only run using the domestically-produced product.

The other four are dual-fuel. That means they run on natural gas but use diesel for ignition assist.

As for fuel mileage, Meerdink says he’s not sure if it’s any better or worse at this point. “They do burn cleaner,” said Meerdink. “We notice in oil [changing] intervals that our oil is still clean.”

In just a month’s time, the Sioux Center station has claimed to saved over 10,000 gallons of foreign oil.

Weisenbach says mainly larger companies that have large vehicle fleets have utilized natural gas in vehicles like Waste Management.

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