The biggest problem with introducing new fuels to the American motorist is infrastructure. With a Kiwk Star or a Casey's on nearly every corner and off-ramp selling ethanol, gasoline and diesel fuels, switching to new fuels could be costly to retailers. The consumer faces the same problem. The cars that most people drive run on gasoline, and larger vehicles, like trucks and farm implements, run on diesel fuel. A new fuel would also mean the purchase of a new vehicle -- or at least a new engine. But with a fuel savings in the range of $1.40 - $1.80 per gallon, and plentiful natural gas supplies, the switch to LNG as an automotive fuel seems almost inevitable.
GE, Chesapeake Energy (CHK) and Clean Energy Corp (CLNE) have teamed up and are moving the U.S. in the direction of making Liquid Natural Gas more accessible to the American consumer.
"GE is proud to be partnering with Clean Energy Fuels to develop natural gas infrastructure in the U.S. Clean Energy is an industry leader in pioneering a new way for America to fuel its vehicles and to further gain energy independence," said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt.
Clean Energy expects to complete approximately 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 U.S. 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 minimizing 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.
Chesapeake Energy has also encouraged the spread of natural gas to the American roadway. The company is also collaborating with GE to develop infrastructure solutions that will help accelerate the adoption of natural gas as a transportation fuel. GE has committed to provide more than 250 "CNG In A Box™" modular, standardized CNG compression stations for natural gas vehicle (NGV) infrastructure. This product offers a turnkey solution to expand CNG accessibility for retailers.
The company is helping create America’s Natural Gas Highway System through its $160 million partnership with Clean Energy Fuels Corp., which will provide heavy-duty trucks ready access to natural gas along major interstate highways. It believes it will transform the trucking industry by lowering its costs and reducing emissions and will help America achieve independence from OPEC.
GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt remarked, "With an abundance of cleaner, more affordable natural gas here in the U.S., 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."
If GE, along with partners CHK and CLNE, can get the infrastructure up and running at a reasonable expense, and the over-the-road transport industry can demonstrate Liquid Natural Gas' value, the American consumer will catch on. Freedom from foreign oil, cleaner emissions and a 200 year supply of natural gas make this alternative fuel one that just might stick.
Photo credit: Rockershirt / Foter / CC BY