Thomas Content:

The August introduction of a new Cummins engine for natural-gas-fueled trucks is a “game changer” that is expanding interest in developing compressed natural gas stations in Wisconsin and around the country, says the leader of one company racing to build stations.

U.S. Oil of Appleton, which transports and sells gasoline and diesel, has opened a new division focused on the booming natural gas market.

Of about 1,200 natural gas fueling stations around the country, less than 10% cater to heavy-duty trucks, the target market for U.S. Oil, which is partnering with trucking firms to open stations around the country.

The Cummins engine, which is being built onto large trucks, is boosting interest in saving fuel costs, said Bill Renz, general manager of the U.S. Oil Gain Clean Fuel business.

“We definitely see significant growth,” said Renz, adding the “big game changer” is the new engine. “Now there’s a CNG truck that’s able to pull 80,000 pounds. Many of the fleets were really waiting on that,” he said.

Sales of heavy-duty trucks fueled by natural gas are expected to grow by 19% a year through 2020, a period that will see the number of fueling stations in the United States double, according to forecasters at the clean-tech market research firm Navigant Research.

U.S. Oil opened its first station near the Twin Cities last year and in March bought We Energies’ six natural gas fueling stations. The purchase price wasn’t disclosed, and We Energies was not interested in competing in that business, a utility spokesman said.