While large retail-petroleum chains are making some of the biggest news for installing compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling infrastructure, smaller convenience-store chains are also finding opportunity in the alternative fuel. For Rainbo Oil Co., which has 14 Kwik Stop locations in Iowa, it was an offer that was in line with the company’s brand.
“Where the fuel industry is going is always a consideration in our market,” says Jill Reimer, vice president of Rainbo Oil, Dubuque, Iowa. “Our company … is very much cutting edge and always looking for all alternative options within everything we do, whether it’s fuel, the convenience store or fast food.”
Company execs traveled to Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma, conducting studies with area transportation firms, and determined the offer had legs. The local natural-gas supplier, Black Hills Energy, partnered with Rainbo Oil and helped guide the company in setting up the infrastructure. Its Dubuque Kwik Stop was an ideal location.
“The pressure’s got to be right, and the gas has to be offered to the area. That’s how this site was picked,” says Reimer. The store is also near a major intersection of interstate highways from Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa.
After more than a full year of offering CNG, Rainbo Oil is taking a slow, measured pace toward further growth. This is partly because installing the fueling infrastructure was a $1.5 million investment. The company also wants to further develop the market.
“Now that we have it here in our first site, we’re going to let the demand catch up,” says Reimer. “We’ll continue to grow out into our other highway and major intersection areas.”
The ideal CNG customer has a fleet that travels fewer than 200 miles per day, says Reimer, and in the Dubuque area, this includes Frito-Lay, UPS, Allied Waste and the local recycling, waste handling and municipalities.