Friday's grand opening of Rainbo Oil's compressed natural gas station will offer a first for Dubuque.
The public pumping station at 1215 E. 16th St. will be the city's first for the alternative fuel also known as CNG.
CNG is a form of natural gas that can be used as an alternative to diesel and gasoline to fuel certain vehicles.
The closest other CNG pumping stations are in Cedar Falls, Iowa, Verona, Wis., and La Crosse, Wis., according to the U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels Data Center.
"As we study what our customers are going to need in the future, and the focus on being environmentally friendly, it seems like the right thing to do," said Jill Reimer, vice president of Rainbo Oil.
A Rainbo convenience store across 16th Street from the current convenience store also will offer CNG.
Here is a closer look at this alternative fuel.
Natural gas is an odorless, nontoxic mixture that is predominantly methane.
About 90 percent of the natural gas used in the United States is produced domestically, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
Compressed natural gas is a clean-burning gas and generally costs up to 40 percent less than gasoline or diesel. It is composed of approximately 95 percent methane and compressed to pressures of about 3,600 pounds per square inch. One-thousand cubic feet of natural gas has the same amount of energy as 7.3 gallons of diesel fuel.
"It's something for the future," said Joyce Connors, a City Council member who will speak at Friday's ribbon-cutting in her role as the city's mayor pro tem. "Some vehicles are switching to that. At this point, I want to know more about it. I'm doing a lot of research."
Natural gas powers about 112,000 vehicles in the U.S., according to the federal Department of Energy. That number should grow as more manufacturers design CNG-capable vehicles. These vehicles are more popular in places such as Brazil, Argentina and India. California is among the leading states for CNG vehicles in the United States.
These vehicles store the natural gas in tanks. Some vehicles can be converted so they use CNG.
There are many heavy- duty natural gas vehicles, often used for high-mileage purposes within a limited area. Natural gas vehicles have comparable horsepower, acceleration and cruise speeds of other vehicles, while producing emissions benefits compared to diesel and gasoline vehicles.
"The city has partnered with Black Hills (Energy) and Rainbo to convert one of our pickup trucks to CNG," said City Manager Mike Van Milligen. "CNG costs less than diesel and produces less pollution. We're examining other vehicles we could purchase that run on CNG -- for instance, refuse trucks."
City officials also are considering the economic development opportunities created by available CNG for vehicles.
The grand opening of the CNG station will be held from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held at 12:30 p.m. Friday. The event will include a CNG pumping demonstration and a fundraiser for the Children's Miracle Network.