As the natural gas and electric-powered vehicle revolution gets set to kick off over the next year, those who are producing the vehicles as well as for those who are developing the utility support infrastructure continue to make preparations.

To support the growing demand for natural gas-fueled trucking in the United States, Clean Energy Fuels Corp. on Tuesday signed an agreement with Pilot Travel Centers LLC to build, own and operate public-access compressed and liquefied natural gas (CNG/LNG) fueling facilities at agreed-upon Pilot Flying J truck travel centers nationwide. Pilot Flying J operates over 550 truck travel centers in 43 states and six Canadian provinces. It is the largest truck-fueling operator in the country.

"Pilot Flying J is the clear leader in the truck stop and travel center industry. They have the best team and the best stations, and we are eager to begin our partnership with them. This is the critical link for Clean Energy to be able to roll out natural gas truck fueling services across the nation,"said Clean Energy CEO Andrew J. Littlefair.

"With the availability of new class-8, 2010 [Environmental Protection Agency]-compliant natural gas trucks from several major manufacturers, major regional and national trucking operators are considering the move to natural gas for their fleets to add fuel diversity, lower emissions and reduce dependence on imported oil. Partnering with Pilot Flying J will not only allow us to help meet the demand from these fleets, but will also enable us to begin creating a nationwide goods movement corridor for natural gas trucks."

Clean Energy bills itself as the largest provider of natural gas fuel for transportation in North America and a global leader in the expanding natural gas vehicle market. It has operations in CNG and LNG vehicle fueling, construction and operation of CNG and LNG fueling stations, biomethane production, vehicle conversion and compressor technology. The company says it fuels more than 18,300 vehicles daily, including more than 5,000 transit buses, at 200 locations across the United States with a broad customer base in the refuse, transit, trucking, shuttle, taxi, airport and municipal fleet markets.

Clean Energy owns and operates LNG production plants in Willis, TX and Boron, CA, with combined capacity of 260,000 LNG gal/d (designed to expand to 340,000 LNG gal/d as demand increases) and 60 cryogenic trailers for delivery.

Late last month a $21 million effort among federal, state and industry sources was announced by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to support the development of natural gas engines and vehicles (see Daily GPI, Sept. 24). NREL officials indicated that the increasingly plentiful domestic gas supplies driven by the discovery of shale gas are rekindling interest in natural gas as a transportation fuel.

The Department of Energy's NREL, California Energy Commission and South Coast Air Quality Management District will collectively put up $13.5 million, and as part of cost-shared projects, companies will invest nearly another $8 million, NREL said. Four projects in British Columbia, California, Texas and Indiana have been selected for awards to do pieces of the research and development.

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