November 03, 2006
2 green fueling stations coming
Federal grants push cleaner-burning autos
By DEBBIE KELLEY THE GAZETTE
Two alternative fueling stations will open in Colorado Springs within the next three years, partially funded by grants the U.S. Department of Energy announced last week.
“It’s a big deal. There are a lot of cars now capable of handling E85 and biodiesel,” said Teri Ulrich, coordinator of Clean Cities Colorado Springs, one of 80 volunteer coalitions that form an Energy Department initiative to promote cleaner-burning fuels.
Sixteen projects across the nation will receive $8.6 million in grants. Colorado’s cut of $350,000 will help pay for four E85 and biodiesel refueling stations — two in Colorado Springs, one in Arvada
and one in Evergreen.
Each station will receive half of the estimated project cost, said Ed Lewis, senior deputy director of the Colorado Governor’s Office of Energy Management and Conservation.
“The grant will enable people with flexible-fuel vehicles to better find fueling places and become more fa- miliar with alternative fuels,” Lewis said.
The Energy Department’s goal, Ulrich said, is to have a nationwide network of refueling stations so vehicles can drive from coast to coast on tankfuls of alternative fuels.
About 6 million flexible-fuel vehicles are in the United States that can run on E85, about 300,000 in Colorado and 30,000 in Colorado Springs, according to the Governor’s Office. The market for biodiesel is more extensive. Most diesel vehicle engines can use biodiesel without major modifications.
Colorado Springs has one E85 pump at the Acorn Petroleum-owned Conoco station at South Eighth and Cimarron streets. Acorn, a Colorado Springs-based fuel distributor, also owns the city’s only public biodiesel station at 529 S. Sahwatch St.
Acorn Petroleum President Harlan Ochs said E85 sales totaled 34,350 gallons in the past year, an 84 percent increase over the previous year but still a drop in the bucket compared with gasoline sales.
“That might be one third of a month’s volume for a reasonably good gas station,” Ochs said.
Sales of biodiesel at the local fueling station and one Acorn owns in Pueblo are about 100,000 gallons annually, Ochs said.
Two other local businessmen, David Donner and Franz Hankins, are separately committing private money and searching for locations to establish the two new E85 and biodiesel stations resulting from the Energy Department grant.
Donner, three-time overall champion of the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, said his investment and consulting company, Osprey Inc., is looking at the financial feasibility of opening a station that would sell E85, a mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent unleaded gasoline, and biodiesel, oil derived from chemically processing animal fats and vegetable products. The refined oil is blended with petroleum-based diesel and additives to make an alternative fuel.
Donner said he would like to combine his station with a natural-foods convenience store.
“It’s going out on a limb — that kind of business is tough — but it wouldn’t just be a pit stop. We’d make it worthwhile for people to stop,” Donner said.
His automotive passion from racing professionally coupled with his desire to “not trash the environment” led to Donner’s interest in such a startup business.
“It’s about doing the right thing,” he said. “My objective is to promote alternative fuels, whether running an alternative-fuels car up Pikes Peak or just getting the word out.”
Hankins, owner of LHE Energy Colorado, plans to open an unstaffed fueling station at a central location with three pumps each of E85 and biodiesel. He also is interested in offering a hydrogen hookup.
“There’s definitely high interest in alternative fuels,” he said.
Hankins is building a local biodiesel manufacturing and distribution plant at 3725 Interpark Drive. The plant is 90 percent completed, he said, and will open in the first quarter of 2007. It will produce about 8,000 gallons a day in a 24/7 operation and have about 15 employees.
To further increase opportunities for filling up, the Governor’s E85 Coalition is encouraging gas station owners to consider converting a pump to E85 or biodiesel. Lewis said owners can receive up to $15,000 from the coalition for a conversion.
Applications are available on the Web site, www.state.co.us/oemc/
CONTACT THE WRITER: 636-0235 or debbie.kelley@gazette.