FORT SMITH — In a race to meet the growing demand for compressed natural gas fueling stations, Arkansas Oklahoma Gas Corporation on Thursday opened its second CNG fueling station in Fort Smith.

FORT SMITH — In a race to meet the growing demand for compressed natural gas fueling stations, Arkansas Oklahoma Gas Corporation on Thursday opened its second CNG fueling station in Fort Smith.

With one other station at the AOG headquarters on Waldron Avenue and a pump at the OnCue Express in Arkoma, Fort Smith now has more CNG fueling stations in its market than any city in Arkansas.

The new 24-hour self-service station is at 4315 Savannah St., a quarter-mile from Interstate 540 next to a functioning natural gas well across from the Fort Smith Regional Airport.

"The need to build this station came from the demand of our existing station," said Fred Kirkwood, AOG’s senior vice president of customer development. "Our demand has already grown so greatly we needed a second station."

More CNG fueling ports are in the works with private businesses, including one in Poteau and two in Springdale. Arkansas has eight public CNG stations with four more in planning stages. AOG hopes to get more CNG ports at established convenience stores.

Eddie Fox, vice president of customer development with AOG, said the addition of the Savannah Street station will nearly triple the current fueling capacity in Fort Smith. AOG sold more than 10,000 gasoline gallon equivalent (GGEs) of CNG the the public in the past month, accounting for an estimated $15,000 in fuel savings compared to regular unleaded gasoline, AOG CEO Mike Callan said in a news release.

A second high-flow capacity CNG dispenser will be added to the Savannah Street station at a later date. Construction of the Savannah Street station began in May and cost about $975,000 to complete.

CNG at AOG’s fueling station sells for about $1.63 per gasoline gallon equivalent, while the cost is a little higher, about $2 a gallon equivalent, at the OnCue CNG port in Arkoma.

Kirkwood noted at the opening of the station Thursday that despite the increasing demand for CNG, the price of the fuel will not likely increase much because there is an abundant supply of it and vehicle consumption strikes a balance in the annual peak of use in winter months.

"Using natural gas on automotive fuel is such a small amount compared to using it for heating and processing," Kirkwood said. "Really, our vehicle consumption goes up in the summer months when other consumption goes down so it’s really a perfect balance. By using it for vehicle fuel, it allows it to balance out on the pipes we have setting in the pipes. We have a lot of gas needing to go somewhere, so this is a very a productive use of gas. It would take a lot more cars in Arkansas to effect the price."

AOG has been operating CNG vehicles since 1982. The AOG fleet includes 68 CNG-fueled AOG and the fleet continues to expand. While CNG vehicles are common around the world, there are fewer than 1,000 registered CNG vehicles in Arkansas, according to Tom Atchley, excise tax administrator for the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.

CNG vehicle numbers are tracked for tax purposes. Once there are more than 1,000 in the state, the tax on CNG will go up from 5 cents to 8.5 cents per gallon equivalent, Atchley said.

"If you start looking, you’ll notice a lot more of those little diamond CNG stickers on the back of cars and trucks around here," said Ray Freeman, AOG customer development representative.

In early June, former AOG project manager Barry Rowton opened Fort Smith’s first CNG vehicle converter and maintenance shop, Falcon CNG. It costs about $7,000 for a CNG conversion, allowing the vehicle to run either gasoline or CNG. Rowton said he has stayed busy fixing "factory installed" CNG kits since he opened.

In mid-July the Arkansas Energy Office announced a total of $150,000 in state rebates would be rewarded to fleet operators converting vehicles to run on compressed natural gas.