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Road Widens for Natural Gas as Transport Fuel

Shell Canada Products last week signed a five-year transactoin with Canada's Bison Transport to provide liquefied natural gas (LNG) for 15 Bison tractors in Alberta. The agreement was billed as a first step in Shell's effort to establish a natural gas transportation fueling network in the province.

Shell Oil Co., a North American unit of Royal Dutch Shell, earlier this year announced its support for the concept of a national highway for compressed natural gas- (CNG) fueled long-haul trucks by signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with truck stop operator TravelCenters of America LLC (TA) (see NGI, June 11). The MOU called for Shell to provide LNG to the fueling station operator for sale to heavy-duty truck operators.

Fast forward, the agreement last week with Bison was billed as the first of its kind in Canada, allowing Bison to obtain LNG from Shell Flying J's publicly accessible LNG fueling facilities in Calgary, Edmonton and Red Deer. Those stations are scheduled to open early next year. Bison said its LNG fleet will be operational in January. This month it is to begin receiving Peterbilt tractor trucks featuring Westport HD natural gas engines.

Shell's proposed LNG refueling infrastructure is intended to support an increasing number of commercial fleets. The company is constructing a liquefaction plant at its Jumping Pound facility west of Calgary as the supply source.

"LNG can be a cost-effective fuel from an abundant resource of natural gas, and we believe it can help our customers build competitive advantage," said Shell Canada Ltd.'s country Chair Lorraine Mitchelmore.

Bison's Trevor Fridfinnson, vice president for western operations, said his company's objective is to prove that "this alternative fuel source can be economically and practically viable." He said LNG used in heavy-duty applications has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for each vehicle by 20%.

The Shell-Bison tie-up preceded news from the West Virginia governor's task force last week, which is looking at ways to expand the state's infrastructure to use gas as a transportation fuel. The task force determined this month that shifting away from gasoline is becoming more enticing in the midst of continuing low natural gas prices that are the equivalent of $1.85/gal gasoline.

Building a gas transportation fueling network is becoming a reality, according to a report by developer Clean Energy Fuels Corp. In a report, "The Road to Natural Gas," the authors said 48 LNG stations are in operation to serve long-haul trucking fleets in the United States today. Fueling resources also are in place for other sectors, including refuse haulers/recyclers, public transit, airport shuttle/taxi services and trucking company/shippers/carriers.

Clean Energy completed 63 publicly accessible and private CNG stations last year and had another 42 built at the end of October. In the third quarter, it noted that 25 LNG stations were opened in 18 states' 48 stations are in operation in what is slated to be a 150-station network (see NGI, Jan. 2).

In the midst of Hurricane Sandy clean-up efforts in the Northeast, Clean Energy CNG stations in New Jersey and New York City have kept fleet vehicles operating for emergency, transit and refuse services. Those sectors were able to use CNG for transportation also in Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.

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