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Shell expands LNG option for 18-wheelers

By Simone Sebastian: Updated 07:21 p.m., Thursday, June 7, 2012

The nation’s slow roll toward cheap natural gas fuel for commercial fleets took another step Thursday as Shell Oil Co.said it’s gearing up to supply liquefied natural gas to 100 interstate highway fueling stations across the nation beginning in 2013.

Under the tentative terms of the agreement, Shell will construct more than 200 LNG lanes for fueling heavy-duty trucks at TravelCenters of America stations and Petro Stopping Centers across the country.

Locations for the LNG pumps will be selected based on the needs of cross-country commercial trucking customers, according to a statement from TravelCenters, a full-service truck stop chain with 165 locations nationwide. It owns Petro Stopping Centers.

Natural gas proponents have pushed for greater use of the fuel for transportation. Supporters say the fuel is a way to relieve the glut of domestically produced natural gas on the market. The oversupply has driven down the cost of natural gas fuels, compared to crude-based gasoline and diesel.

The scarcity of natural gas pumps and cars have made the fuel impractical for most private motorists. But natural gas fuels are getting more attention from trucking companies and other businesses that run large fleets.

Houston-based Waste Management said last month it is pushing to convert all of its 18,342 trucks nationwide from diesel to compressed natural gas – including 80 trucks that now refuel at company pumps in Conroe.

The liquefied natural gas Shell is providing allows for greater range than compressed natural gas, making it more practical for long-haul trucks if drivers can count on a regular supply along their routes.

“Using natural gas for transport gives truck fleet operators a new, strong advantage because it’s abundant and affordable and a viable alternative to diesel,” Elen Phillips, vice president of Shell Fuels Sales & Marketing North America, said in a written statement.

TravelCenters said it plans to train repair technicians and equip its truck service bays and emergency roadside repair vehicles to respond to the nation’s growing fleet of natural gas-powered trucks.

The agreement with TravelCenters is Shell’s latest move to expand LNG fuel sales across the continent for trucking, marine and rail industries. The company plans to begin supplying LNG to Flying J truck stops in Canada this year.

Shell and TravelCenters have entered an exclusive negotiating period to complete the agreement.

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