New team members fuel Propel's growth

By Erin Voegele | July 13, 2010
Posted July 13, 2010

Propel Fuels is working to increase the availability of biodiesel- and ethanol-blended fuels along the West Coast. This month the company announced the addition of four new senior executive employees. These new team members have been selected by Propel for their expertise, experience and innovation in the areas of finance, construction, retail operations and technology, and will be an integral component of the company's vast expansion plans.

"Our view is that in this country, we need to massively remake the infrastructure to be able to deliver next-generation fuels," said Propel CEO Matt Horton. "Given the size of this undertaking, we felt that it was very important to recruit senior executives to the company who have [experience in large scale-up projects]." The new team members include Chief Financial Officer Andy Wynne, who previously served as CFO and executive vice president of Tulley's Coffee Corp.; Vice President of Operations Jim Iacoponi, who was previously employed as vice president of strategy and planning for Arco and BP ampm convenience stores; Vice President of Construction and Development Jim Cannon, who previously served as vice president of design, construction, and facilities at Jack-In-The-Box; and Director of Technology Development Michael Sarwari, who has 15 years of experience in information technology operations.

Propel currently operates 11 Clean Fuel Points in California and Washington. The company's Clean Fuel Points are essentially free-standing retail fueling locations that offer biofuels. While these fueling stations are most often co-located with existing fuel retail stations, Horton noted that some are independently sited. "We typically partner with existing fuel station owners," Horton said. "[Propel] builds, owns and operates [each Clean Fuel Point]ůMost fuel station owners would love to have an alternative fuels offering, but really don't have the risk tolerance or the capital available to make the big investment that it requires." Propel's unique business plan allows existing fuel retailers to provide their customers with access to biodiesel- and ethanol-blended fuels without incurring the costs and risks associated with adding additional infrastructure to their sites.

Propel's immediate expansion plans include the development of 15 additional Clean Fuel Points in California; four in Sacramento, 10 in the San Francisco Bay area, and one in Southern California. "We'll be opening our first San Francisco Bay area site within the next 30 days," Horton said. "We are also currently working on a program that is going to deploy 75 new stations across the state of California as part of a 200 station roll-out that we are looking to complete within the next two years." According to Horton, the California build-out will serve as a model to showcase Propel's ability to effectively partner with industry and government to increase retail access to biofuels. "We will be looking to replicate our successes here in California across the country very soon," he continued.

According to Horton, existing fuel marketers have shown a great deal of interest in hosting Clean Fuel Points at their retail locations. "What we've found is that a lot of station owners do recognize that alternative fuels are an important part of their offering and a great way to drive more traffic to their site, and get more customers into the convenience stores, but they are really hesitant to make a massive investment," Horton said. "Partnering with Propel is a perfect option for many of the station owners that we meet with because we provide all of the benefits to the site owner without the risks or the costs."

Horton also notes that consumer demand for Propel's biodiesel- and ethanol-blended products has been strong, and that the company is continuing to build demand for its products through an aggressive marketing campaign and education and outreach initiatives. "We've found that most customers with diesel vehicles don't understand that they can use biodiesel," Horton said. "But, once we are able to reach those customers and explain the benefits of biodiesel, they become very enthusiastic."

Propel also offers its customers access to its CleanDrive platform, which is a personalized carbon emissions tracking system. When a registered customer purchases fuel at any of Propel's Clean Fuel Points, they are provided with a personalized report that tracks the carbon reductions associated with the quantity of ethanol or biodiesel that was purchased. In addition, the report also shows customers the quantity of imported oil they have offset. Although many individual customers take part in the program, Horton notes it is especially useful for fleet managers who want report on the benefits of using biodiesel. "The CleanDrive platform offers them a very visual way to be recognized for their decision to buy cleaner American-made fuels," he said.
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