Chinese private company ENN Group Co. Ltd. plans to set up a network of natural gas refueling stations along US highways for heavy-duty trucks. ENN aims to establish 50 locations in 2013 alone.
According to industry experts, natural gas stations cost around $1 million (MM) to build, on average, which pegs ENN's US investments for this year at around $50 MM. ENN has partnered with Utah-based company, CH4 Energy Corp., to develop the network.
The two companies operate under the name Blu LNG, which is a segment of their joint venture, Transfuels LLC. ENN holds a majority stake in the JV. The Chinese firm also hopes to construct LNG plants in the future.
Chinese companies appear eager to invest in the US shale boom. ENN's plans come on the heels of a February announcement by Chinese state oil firm Sinopec that the firm will spend $1 billion to acquire oil and gas assets in the Mississippi Lime shale play from Chesapeake Energy.
ENN is one of a small number of companies looking to enlarge the US' natural gas fueling infrastructure. Other players include Royal Dutch Shell and Clean Energy Fuels Corp., which is backed by US natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy and oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens.
Clean Energy aims to construct 50 to 60 natural gas stations in the US this year. Shell has plans to open 100 stations, although it has not set forth a timeline for these projects.
An expanded natural gas refueling infrastructure will translate into large cost savings for trucking companies. Shippers can save approximately $2 per gallon by fueling their trucks with natural gas instead of diesel.
A bigger network of refueling stations will also increase the popularity of natural gas vehicles in the US by ensuring that long-haul trucks are able to refuel along their highway routes.
ENN has already established natural gas refueling stations in China, which is ahead of the US in its use of natural gas-fueled trucks.
Additional details about ENN Group's expansion plans can be found in this Reuters article.