Woodward County Sheriff Gary Stanley is a believer in the benefits of natural gas.

That is why he recently approved converting one of his department's newest vehicles to be able to use compressed natural gas (CNG) as fuel.

Both the vehicle and the CNG conversion were paid for out of the sheriff's paper service account, where they use fees from serving legal notices to help purchase new equipment, Stanley said.

One of the biggest reasons the sheriff wanted the CNG conversion is "big expenses."

The sheriff said between his deputies patrolling the county and his DARE officers visiting local schools, his department's gasoline bill for March was almost $7,000.

"So you can see what a big expense fuel is every month," Stanley said.

But with CNG costing less per unit than gasoline, the sheriff said he feels like he "can cut down on monthly fuel costs."  

On Friday the price of gasoline at Hutch's Truck Stop on the west side of Woodward was $3.45 per gallon. By comparison, the truck stop's CNG filling station showed a price of $1.79 per gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE).

The sheriff believes the cost savings will quickly add up to cover the $9,950 cost for converting the Tahoe.  

"One of the county commissioners and I figured out that with the difference in the cost of fuel, the CNG conversion will pay for itself in around 60,000 miles," Stanley said.  "From there on, we'll be saving the county money."

Considering that some of the sheriff's department vehicles have racked up over 200,000 miles, he said that could lead to some considerable savings.

But cost savings was just one of many benefits that the sheriff saw in the CNG conversion.

"CNG burns cleaner," Stanley said. "Unlike oil, it doesn't get as dirty, so there's not as much engine wear and tear."

Also, he said he has spoken with other people who utilize CNG who feel they get better fuel economy with CNG than gasoline.

This is helpful since "my officers put between 100 and 200 miles on every shift," he said.

With "a 12.5 gallon CNG tank," Stanley said the Tahoe can travel about 180 miles on CNG alone.

But if the CNG tank were to be emptied, such as when a deputy might go on a long transport to pick up or deliver inmates, Stanley said, "the vehicle will switch automatically back to gas."

Therefore the CNG tank helps to "extend the range," so the deputy can "go a long way without having to refuel at all."

Currently only one of the sheriff's vehicles displays the small blue diamond sticker that signals the vehicle is equipped to use compressed natural gas.

"We decided to convert one and see how well it goes," Stanley said.

However, even after a brief trial period, the sheriff seems in favor of eventually having a whole fleet of CNG powered vehicles.

"We may gradually transfer the vehicles over to CNG," he said.

While it is "not economical to convert the older vehicles," the sheriff said he would support converting any new vehicles the department may purchase.

In addition, he said, "I understand we may soon be able to order new vehicles with the CNG/gas conversion already on it.  If we can order with the conversion on it, that would be a great deal, a big money saving deal for my office."

Since "gasoline keeps going up and up," Stanley said he feels the switch to CNG is the way to go.

"Natural gas is becoming real plentiful, so I think a lot of people will be using CNG," he said, especially as "they're putting more CNG refueling stations in all the time."

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