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NatGas for Transportation Gets Global Push

The push for more natural gas use in transportation through infrastructure and equipment advances shifted into high gear with more evidence that the transition is expanding on a global basis.

One of global gas supplier/marketer Gazprom Group's top executives said pushing more methane for transportation worldwide was a major initiative of the Russian-based company. Gazprom Export Director General Alexander Medvedev noted a 220% increase in gas used in transportation the past four years, and his company's recent purchase of a dozen compressed natural gas (CNG) stations in southern Germany with plans to increase the number to 23 in that area.

"I can't ignore this significant market in the making," said Medvedev. "We at Gazprom intend to take gas as a fuel to a whole new level."

Medvedev stressed that the use of natural gas for transportation, both on and off road, is not a "vision of the future" but is readily available today.

Speaking at the recent Raymond James Transportation Conference, representatives of Cleveland, OH-based Chart Industries Inc. outlined the company's plans for helping with the infrastructure buildout for both liquefied natural gas (LNG) and CNG transportation.

Chart recently announced a contract with an unnamed major oil company (some observers are speculating it could be a unit of Royal Dutch Shell) to build 20 LNG fueling stations around North America, all at existing truck stop locations. Separately, Shell through its Canadian unit has had an interest in developing more small-scale LNG production (see Daily GPI,April 30, 2012).

After developing some of the core technologies for natural gas vehicle (NGV) fueling 20 years ago, Chart representatives said the company's plan is to develop two LNG fueling lanes and storage at up to 100 locations of existing TA and Petro Stopping Centers full-service travel centers along the U.S. interstate highway system.

Further indications of the stepped-up interest in LNG for transportation comes from Vancouver, BC-based Westport Innovations, which reported a blanket purchase order for 900 of its "iCE Pack" LNG tank systems to be delivered over the next two years to Houston-based Universal LNG Solutions (ULNG).

ULNG said only about 40% of the units are going to road-based transportation applications; the bulk of them will be used in off-road applications, including marine use for NGV tugboats. Westport said it would begin shipping the LNG tank fueling units to ULNG before the end of this year.

Elsewhere, the government of Quebec has said it will provide backing up to US$22,500/vehicle for NGVs for heavy-duty trucking applications. The Ottawa-based Canadian NGV Alliance said the subsidies will apply to over-the-road haulers and to refuse vehicles.

EBI, a pioneering NGV operator of refuse trucks in Quebec, said it will benefit from the provincial government's program, as will Gaz Metro. EBI operates 53 CNG refuse trucks in Quebec for its fleet of 160 trucks. EBI also operates public-access CNG fueling stations in Montreal and Berthierville, northeast of the city.

Gaz Metro officials said the company is supporting a shift to LNG trucks, along with working on natural gas applications in the rail and marine sectors.

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