GE partners with Clean Energy on LNG truck fueling

GE and Clean Energy Fuels on Tuesday unveiled a collaboration to expand infrastructure for natural gas transportation in the US.

The agreement supports Clean Energy’s efforts in developing a fueling network that will enable trucks to operate on liquefied natural gas (LNG) across America, according to the companies.

Truck fleets often can reduce fuel costs by more than 25% and cut emissions with LNG, the company says.

As part of the collaboration, Clean Energy Fuels is purchasing two ecomagination-qualified MicroLNG plants from GE Oil & Gas. The plug-and-play modular units, which are designed to rapidly liquefy natural gas while minimizing a site’s physical footprint, will support fueling stations along transportation corridors that run across the US. During a media conference call with Clean Energy on November 13, GE touted the MicroLNG system as "highly efficient, modular, repeatable and expandable."

GE is providing up to $200 million in financing for the two GE MicroLNG plants.

“GE is proud to be partnering with Clean Energy Fuels to develop natural gas infrastructure in the US," said GE chief executive Jeff Immelt. "Clean Energy is an industry leader in pioneering a new way for America to fuel its vehicles and to further gain energy independence.

“With an abundance of cleaner, more affordable natural gas here in the US, this is an important opportunity for GE to join Clean Energy in changing the way America drives. It’s also a critical step in developing a natural gas-for-transportation fuel model that can be easily exported to other countries interested in exactly these kinds of breakthrough projects."

Clean Energy said it expects to complete 70 LNG stations by the end of 2012, with more planned for next year to serve the movement of goods along major transportation corridors throughout the US. 

While CNG, or compressed natural gas, is primarily used in cars, buses and smaller trucks, the LNG fueling being rolled out at Clean Energy’s stations is targeted at long-haul, heavy-duty trucks, which will have the advantage of longer driving ranges while not impacting tractor weight and incremental costs.

In 2013, four major manufacturers will introduce the Cummins Westport 12-liter LNG engine, which is the optimum size for long-haul Class 8 trucks, the company says.

Clean Energy noted that it plans to use a standardized design of the new GE MicroLNG plants to build additional MicroLNG plants. These first two MicroLNG plants will produce up to 250,000 gal/day. The plant is designed to be expanded up to 1 million gallons per day as adoption and demand increases.

The LNG produced by the MicroLNG plants will be used primarily at Pilot-Flying J truck stops that serve truckers across the country. The two GE MicroLNG plants are targeted to begin operation in 2015, and will likely be built in the upper Midwest and Northeast, Clean Energy said.

Eight more plants could be operational by the end of 2015, although "dozens" will eventually be needed, according to GE. As demand increases, additional capacity can be dropped into the plants with minimal disruption and cost.

During the conference call, GE noted that 2013 would be a "year of testing" to ensure that the LNG fuel is compatible with vehicle engines and that consumers are saving at least $1.50/gal compared with oil-based transportation fuels.

“The agreement announced today with GE is one of the most significant milestones in Clean Energy’s history,” said Andrew J. Littlefair, CEO of Clean Energy Fuels. “As the long-haul trucking industry begins its transition to natural gas, it will be critical to have a reliable supply of LNG.

"No other company is as uniquely qualified as GE to help address this need due to its vast experience in energy, technology innovations and financing capabilities. GE partnering with Clean Energy on these two facilities will not only help ensure an adequate LNG supply for our stations, but it is another confirmation that the transition to natural gas as a transportation fuel is gaining momentum.”

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