Economic factors highly favor trucking shift to natural gas
Feb 1, 2012 9:42 AM, By Charles E Wilson
When asked during World LNG Fuels 2012 what single factor could do the most to spur use of natural gas by the trucking industry, one participant had this to say: “Give us 20,000 CNG (compressed natural gas)/LNG (liquefied natural gas) filling stations overnight across the United States.”
What that is not likely to happen, progress is being made at a very rapid rate, according to other participants in the two-day conference presented January 25-26 in Houston TX by Zeus Intelligence. Most importantly exploration and production companies are bringing so much natural gas to the marketplace that the per-gallon-equivalent price is well below that of diesel and should stay that way for many years.
”Incredible amounts of natural gas are being discovered in the gas shale plays, and this is a big game changer,” said Art Gelber, president of Gelber & Associates. “Today, natural gas is to diesel what the (Apple) iPod was to the (Sony) Walkman.
”We’re seeing a huge price spread between natural gas and diesel, and the spread should get wider over the next 18 months. Low natural gas prices should be with us for a very long time.”
On the trucking side, the key factors to make natural gas a favored transport fuel are steadily coming together. “We have the natural gas, and we are building what we call the ‘Natural Gas Highway,’” said Andrew Littlefair, chief executive officer of Clean Energy Fuels. “We have natural gas engines for medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and more products are coming to the marketplace. It’s all coming together.”
Clean Energy envisions a nationwide fueling system with LNG fueling stations every 250 to 300 miles. The system will run coast-to-coast and border-to-border. “We have about 100 sites under development right now, and we expect that several hundred stations a year will have to be built over the next three to four years.”
Michael Gallagher, senior advisor and former president of Westport Innovations, said a big milestone for the trucking industry would be a natural-gas-fueled engine that performs as well as a diesel-fueled engine. “We’re getting closer, and we can see a point where natural-gas-fueled trucks could account for 30% to 40% of new truck sales,” he said. “We could get there within 40 years.”
Bulk Transporter will publish a detailed report on World LNG Fuels 2012 in an upcoming issue.
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