Reimagining Fuel – American Natural Brings Fuel Choice to Consumers

American Natural was founded in 2011 with a focus on reframing the way that fueling was being offered to the public in the modern marketplace. With a goal of providing consumer choice, American Natural acquired operating fueling stations and a wholesale petroleum fuel distribution fleet from Mon Valley Petroleum and opened its operating headquarters in Pittsburgh in 2012.

The recreation story of Pittsburgh – its industrial past and future within the energy industry – was the draw for American Natural to open their operating headquarters in Robinson Township. Their first conversion project in Station Square, at the edge of Downtown, became the starting point for the new brand. The city’s focus on revitalizing aging infrastructure and Station Square’s history as part of the transportation industry make it the perfect location.

The former Exxon station along East Carson Street was redeveloped into the first American Natural multi-fuel energy center.  Compressed natural gas (CNG) is co-located with traditional gasoline in the familiar setting of a “gas station”, though consumers will find that this station far exceeds their usual experience of gas stations and convenience marts.

“The design of the station re-imagines what a fueling station should be. We paid particular attention to the details – the canopy is evocative of the history of the region. Bathrooms are clean, big, bright, and colorful.  Moms can access a changing table. We wanted to rethink the way that people interact with these types of spaces,” said Andrea Feinstein, Executive Vice President, American Natural.

Inside, the American Natural Eatery provides access to new food offerings not typically found in convenience stores – there are no deep fryers here, however, Barista made coffee? Check. The team took a thoughtful approach to combine nutritious and delicious foods and make them available to fuel your body.  The folks that work in the stores are different too.  Have a question about CNG? Stop in and ask. Employees are educated and prepared to answer your inquiries about fuel choice.

American Natural works with local operators who are current users of CNG or are seeking to retrofit their fleets. They have found that operators primary inhibitor to conversion is the inability to access fueling infrastructure, but they know it can be extremely economic if they have certain driving parameters.

“Our thought process is that the more familiar you make consumers with CNG and by providing them with information to help them make their own decisions, the more people will start to ask for these types of vehicles, making it easier for manufactures to offer them,” Feinstein said.

On the heavy-duty side, there has be significant recent momentum.  The market is evolving in a manner where fleet operators have a diverse set of options to entertain when contemplating a transition to natural gas.  Light duty vehicles have also enjoyed recent advances that increase their availability to customers, with Ford,Chevy and Dodge having  introduced duel fuel versions of the F-150, Impala and RAM 2500 respectively.  This trend will begin to grow as consumer demand increases, giving more auto manufacturers incentive to make cars available.

Oxford Development Company served as American Natural’s agent for the development of the new station, working as a partner in the pre-construction, construction, and post-construction phases of the project.

“It was very clear upon our first meeting that Oxford’s level of care and thought that they bring to projects was very complimentary to the way we think of these projects. We view Oxford as a part of our extended team.  We’ve developed a great deal of trust with the group and have relied on them from grassroots on the ground organizing to trouble shooting on the back end,” Feinstein said.

Each project that Oxford works on has a dedicated project manager, working in concert with clients to help them achieve their goals. Rob Cicco served in this role for American Natural.

“Rob really lets me beat him up. That’s tongue and cheek, but let me tell you why that’s significant.  We are very passionate about the work we do.  We all left other careers because we thought this movement was so imperative. Rob was able to recognize our hands on approach and need for details as passion without finding it confrontational or obstructive.  That was really paramount to my team. He was able to read through to what was important and helped create a structure that we can now work with over and over again, that is a baseline of our process and how we can achieve our goals.”

“The other Oxford team members were also extremely valuable. They made sure we managed risks at the beginning, made key introductions to vendors who are now integral parts of our business, and shared their expertise and relationships with us when appropriate. We look forward to a very successful year in 2014 with the Oxford team,” Feinstein said.

American Natural anticipates opening a number of new stations in Western PA and the Eastern Ohio region over the next year.

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