LNG-Powered Transportation Fires Up

America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) hosted a reception at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston on Jan. 23 and one of the pieces of “art” on display was a brand new, LNG-powered Peterbilt truck.

It was an impressive display of the latest technology for LNG-powered vehicles.  The truck was fitted with 120-gallon tanks that give the vehicle a range of about 600 miles.  The engine includes Westport Innovations’ high-pressure, direct-injection (HPDI) fuel injection technology.

ANGA was using the occasion to honor Texas State Sen. Tommy Williams for his landmark natural gas vehicle legislation, passed by the 2011 Texas Legislature, that will pave the way for wider-scale deployment of lower cost, cleaner fuel vehicles across Texas.

ANGA’s Texas State Committee presented Williams with the Blue Flame Award for his work with local and state elected officials to highlight the benefits of Senate Bill 20, his legislation that created the Texas Clean Transportation Triangle, which is a sustainable network of natural gas refueling stations connecting Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Dallas/Fort Worth along I-10, I-35, and I-45.

That would be the second major LNG transportation triangle in the country.  The first network is from San Francisco to Los Angeles to Salt Lake City.

As these networks begin to expand, the long-haul trucking industry is in for some big changes in fuels and delivery systems.  Clean Energy, T. Boone Pickens’ company, completed its latest LNG fueling station in Las Vegas near the UPS Depot.  This is another link in the chain of stations from Los Angeles to Salt Lake City.

President Barack Obama used the occasion, speaking at the UPS Depot, to promote gas-powered trucking. Obama proposed several federal initiatives including getting more natural gas vehicles on the road, offering new tax incentives to help companies buy more clean trucks, working with the private sector to help develop natural gas fueling stations and launching a competition to encourage new breakthroughs for natural gas vehicles, according to Clean Energy.

Clean Energy committed in 2011 to support development of “America’s Natural Gas Highway” from the West Coast to the East Coast and from the Canadian border to the Mexican border by building the backbone network of 150 fueling stations.  About 70 LNG stations are expected to be open in 33 states by the end of 2012 and the balance in 2013.

Having covered the LNG-powered transportation business for 11 years, I can say this effort has been a very long time in coming.  Development of LNG/CNG fuel stations was very sporadic and widely scattered across the country.

Now there is an even greater push for long-haul trucking to begin using LNG as a fuel.  Virtually every major trucking company has studied LNG for fuel, but the infrastructure was lacking.  Now, with a surplus of shale gas production, LNG-powered trucking is getting a huge boost in switching from diesel to natural gas.  It is excellent to see more widespread use of domestic natural gas resources in backing out petroleum imports.