Natural Gas Fuels Continued Growth in Oklahoma Okarche Now a Center of Booming CNG Industry

Contact: House Media
Capitol: (405) 557-7421

OKLAHOMA CITY – The momentum for converting to alternative energy sources, particularly natural gas fuels, continues to grow, benefitting both Oklahoma and the nation, House Speaker Chris Benge noted today.

The demand for compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles has been felt in Okarche, where Oklahoma Equipment Management Systems (OEM) has seen demand for CNG conversions increase from about eight in 2007 to an estimated 800 vehicles by the end of this calendar year.

“For two years, I’ve argued that energy security is perhaps the most important issue facing this country and Oklahoma is uniquely positioned to be a leader. We have an abundance of natural gas, and the technology and ability to make use of it,” said Benge, R-Tulsa. “It’s becoming clear that Oklahoma is reaping the benefits of those efforts. At OEM Systems in Okarche, they’ve developed and refined the conversion process. After starting out as basically a home garage operation, their CNG conversion facility now deals in large volume. That’s good news for Oklahoma, because it creates jobs, and it’s good for our country as we attempt to wean the United States off foreign oil.”

Benge recently toured the OEM Systems facility in Okarche, discussing the process of CNG conversion with local experts.

State Rep. Mike Sanders, a Kingfisher Republican who represents Okarche also attended the tour, as did state Sen. Mike Johnson (R-Kingfisher), state Senator-elect Rob Johnson (R-Kingfisher) and other officials.

Since OEM began performing CNG conversions in 2007, they have streamlined procedures and worked with manufacturers to simplify the conversion process, dramatically reducing the time required.

That increased efficiency has combined with increased demand for CNG vehicle fleets, resulting in a huge growth rate in the CNG conversion business. In 2007, OEM did just a handful of conversions. Today, its facility is performing up to 40 vehicle conversions per week and is on pace to complete 800 this year.

That growth is also creating jobs. Of 95 employees at the company, 16 are currently involved in CNG conversion work.

OEM has worked with Oklahoma City Community College to certify new CNG technicians, in addition to running an in-house certification process.

The company also has satellite facilities in other states to provide maintenance service on CNG vehicles.

Sanders said the CNG success of OEM shows the positive economic impact that converting to natural gas fuels can have on rural Oklahoma communities.

“It means a great deal when we can home-grow our own fuel, produce it, manufacture it, and convert vehicles to run on it at places like OEM Systems in Okarche,” Sanders said. “The growth of CNG means not only greater energy security for our country, but also more jobs in places like western Oklahoma.”

Benge has worked to enact policy placing Oklahoma at the forefront of both the oil-and-gas industry and the alternative-energy movement, making the issue one of his top priorities as House leader.

In recent years, the Legislature has approved tax incentives to help offset both the conversion of a vehicle to natural gas fuels and the cost of installing CNG fueling stations. This year, lawmakers also set a state goal of having one public CNG station located every 50 miles along the state’s interstate system by 2025.
“In Oklahoma, we made great progress by pushing a locally-available, plentiful and cheaper option in natural gas, which creates jobs and wealth right here in America instead of shipping our money overseas,” Benge said. “My hope is that other states will see the success we are having in Oklahoma and replicate our policies in their own states.”

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