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California, Texas Projects Boost Natgas as Fleet Fuel

What is billed as the world's largest liquefied natural gas (LNG)/compressed natural gas (CNG) truck fueling station opened last month in the nation's busiest port, the combined Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors in Southern California. Separately, AT&T said 600 of its fleet vehicles in Texas are being converted to run on CNG by BAF Technologies.

The new California port fueling facility, which is open to the general public, can supply the fueling needs of several hundred port trucks daily, according to Clean Energy Fuels Corp., which is building the facility. The firm is an offshoot of a company originally founded by oilman T. Boone Pickens, who serves on Clean Energy's board of directors.

Configured to fuel trucks that are the lifeblood of the harbors' combined drayage on a 24/7 basis, the Clean Energy station includes two 25,000-gallon LNG storage tanks, six LNG dispensers, and two CNG dispensers. There are plans to triple the facility's fueling capacity. Clean Energy said the station is specifically designed to support the San Pedro Bay Ports' Clean Air Action Plant (CAAP) and Clean Truck programs.

This is the second port-based natural gas fueling station built for the harbors by Clean Energy. The first is a 10,000-gal LNG facility opened in December 2007 at Southern Counties Express, a port trucking firm.

Since last October the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles combined have reduced air pollution by more than 23%, officials said. The Los Angeles Harbor Commission last May approved spending $44.3 million for natural gas-powered trucks in the port and set a goal of putting more than 1,000 alternative fuel vehicles in operation this year at one of the largest sources of air pollution throughout the region.

Clean Energy CEO Andrew Littlefair said his firm has seen demand for LNG and CNG fuel "grow significantly" as major trucking companies deploy new natural gas-powered trucks in the ports. "As demand for the environmentally friendly fuel continues to increase, Clean Energy plans to add 50,000 gallons of fuel storage to the new station's current capacity, as well as four more LNG/CNG fueling lanes," Littlefair said.

The ports' CAAP and Clean Truck programs call for the retirement or conversion of old diesel trucks entering the ports in favor of new diesel and alternative fuel (natural gas) trucks, Littlefair said. Proponents point to natural gas as a transportation fuel having lower emissions than either gasoline or diesel, including up to a 23% reduction in greenhouse gases in medium- and heavy-duty applications, and up to 30% reductions for light-duty vehicles.

BAF will outfit all 600 of AT&T's Ford E-series vans by the end of this year. In March AT&T said it planned to spend $350 million on 8,000 CNG-powered vehicles as part of a $565 million strategy calling for obtaining 15,000 alternative fuel vehicles during the next 10 years (see NGI, March 16).

AT&T has made a commitment to alternative fuel vehicles as a way to both "minimize dependence on imported sources of fuel and explore new automotive technologies," said Charlene Lake, AT&T chief sustainability officer. "Together with BAF Technologies we hope this initiative helps boost other industries, while at the same time signaling demand for the production of more fuel-efficient vehicles."

For the AT&T program, BAF is providing its "CapComp System," a proprietary CNG fuel system certified by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and its converted CNG-powered vehicles are expected to emit 25% less greenhouse gas emissions than traditional gasoline-powered vehicles.

"Not only will the new vehicles operate on domestic fuel, they also will be among the cleanest vehicles on the road," said BAF Technologies President John Bacon.

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