High gas prices mean good business for Milton company
ANGI International, 15 Plumb St., is one of a handful of companies nationwide that make refueling stations for vehicles powered by natural gas—the same gas used to heat homes, water and stoves.
As oil prices shoot up, so does interest in ANGI’s product, President Andy Grimmer said. Revenue has grown by 50 percent in the last year, and the company is looking to expand, he said.
“All around the world, there’s an increased interest in using (natural gas) for transportation fuel,” he said.
ANGI has created large, colorful natural gas refueling stations for 25 years, and the Grimmer family—including Andy and his brother, CEO John Grimmer—has owned it 11 years.
The vehicles are popular in Europe, South America and Asia, but in the United States natural gas vehicles are mostly bought by municipalities or private companies with large fleets.
Only one automaker, Honda, sells a personal vehicle powered by natural gas in the United States. The model is available at dealerships on the East and West coasts and one Honda dealership in Milwaukee, John said.
Natural gas vehicles have several advantages, the brothers say. They burn cleaner and give off fewer emissions than traditional gasoline, and the price is certainly right—90 cents wholesale to up to $2.50 retail for the equivalent of a gallon of gasoline.
“It’s roughly half the price of liquid fuel,” John said.
But the vehicles have drawbacks, said Prof. David Foster, director of UW-Madison’s Engine Research Center. Natural gas is mostly methane, a greenhouse gas 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide.
“It contributes significantly more to global warming than CO2 does per molecule,” he said.
While the amount of unburned methane emitted by a single car might be small (a misfired engine, leakage between the refueling station and the tank), the damage can add up quickly, he said.
On the other hand, natural gas, unlike gasoline, does not contribute to smog, he said.
Natural gas also requires more storage space than gasoline, so you either have to buy a bigger tank or refuel more often, Foster said.
Plus, the price of natural gas won’t stay lower than gasoline for long if demand keeps increasing, he said.
But ANGI still sees an expanding market for its product. It’s starting to see more interest from companies with smaller fleets of 10 to 15 cars, Andy said.
The company is thinking about adding space, either by expanding its existing building, building new or buying or leasing another building in southern Wisconsin.
And at a time where Rock County jobs are disappearing, ANGI is looking for new workers.
“When we get really busy, we have to staff up,” Andy said.
Last updated: 10:02 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012