With gas prices remaining high over the past few years, consumers — individuals as well as commercial fleets — have searched for a more economical way to fuel up.
In response, natural gas is becoming one of the fastest growing sources of clean air fueling services.
Dallas-based Zeit Energy is focused on helping municipalities and commercial fleets improve their fuel costs.
Started in 2008, Zeit designs, builds and maintains natural gas fueling stations across the nation.
“What we do is new. The industry has been around for a long time, but this is new to a lot of people,” said Clint Beauchamp, founder and principal of Zeit Energy. “The public can use it, but that is not who we target. We target commercial and local government fleets.”
Zeit has been on a fast-growth track, according to Beauchamp. In 2011, the company started with $1.7 million in revenue, and is now at about $4 million. He is estimating about $20 million in sales for 2013.
“The reason why people switch is because compressed natural gas has lower emissions and because it is made in the United States,” Beauchamp said. “We have a lot of it. The U.S. is the Saudi Arabia of natural gas.”
The United States has a roughly 100 to 200-year supply of natural gas, according to Beauchamp. Being a commodity, however, it does fluctuate in price.
At the pump, prices for natural gas start at about $2 per gallon in comparison with today’s average of $3.91 per gallon of diesel. A regular user can realize fuel cost savings of 5 percent to 10 percent. The price of natural gas depends on volume, according to Beauchamp. For heavy users, such as transit or commercial fleets, the savings can hit 25 percent to 30 percent.
“It takes longer to get a payback when you factor in the increased cost of the vehicle. Costs will come down and savings will go up,” Beauchamp said. “In Europe, the same CNG vehicles that cost $10,000 to $12,000 of premium here have a $3,500 to $3,700 premium there.”
Beauchamp said that the company’s greatest challenge is “reducing our cost of capital and educating sources of financing,” meaning the banks and private equity firms that might get behind Zeit. “Neither can get good data by themselves on the residuals of CNG vehicles or net recovery values of the CNG station equipment,” he said.
Pensacola Energy, an energy company based in Pensacola, Fla., partnered with Zeit to build its first natural gas fueling station. It is now working on its third.
The natural gas industry is still in its infancy, said Dean Faessel, business development administrator of Pensacola Energy.
“This is a newer industry,” Faessel said. “We got in on the front end of it. We will begin to see more of this through the U.S in the next 5 to 10 years.”
Natural gas will begin to impact the community on a wider scale, as well, said Beauchamp.
“The natural gas business is a way to improve the economy,” he said. “When we put in a CNG station, we are putting in something new. We can involve people and therefore create a lot of new jobs creating state and local tax revenue.”