Ohio-based TravelCenters of America LLC (TA) said Monday it plans to construct 100 liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueling facilities nationwide along its network of 165 full-service long-haul truck stops in 41 states. TA said it has signed a letter of understanding with a unit of Royal Dutch Shell to supply the LNG.

No specific locations have been selected, but a TA spokesperson said a number of the LNG fueling facilities will be opened next year.

Ohio currently has only one public LNG fueling station, which opened last February in Seville, near Akron, funded in part by a statewide nonprofit group, Clean Fuels Ohio, the spokesman said. The station was opened primarily to accommodate a major contract freight carrier, Dillon Transportation of Illinois, that operates what the spokesperson called a large LNG truck fleet.

Noting that diesel trucks can be modified to run on LNG fuel systems, TA is responding to what it views as the desire of "more and more trucking companies" to move to LNG for its cost and fuel efficiency advantages, the spokesperson said. TA's plans for 100 fueling facilities is an attempt to both anticipate demand and stay ahead of the curve, he said.

"Natural gas and its potential is well documented, and there's a lot of excitement around alternative fuels," said TA spokesperson Tom Liutkus in local Ohio news media. He cited cost, environmental and ultimately energy security advantages to using more natural gas in transportation.

TA said that its agreement with Shell is part of the global oil/gas company's push to expand its global LNG market. Shell plans to have a network of liquefaction plants in various regions of the United States and Canada to meet the growing demand for it as a transportation fuel, a U.S.-based Shell spokesperson told Ohio news media.

A Shell official for the company's LNG transportation business in the Americas said the expectation is for a network of LNG fueling stations for trucks throughout North and South America. The TA agreement is part of Shell's goal of making LNG "the fuel of the future," the official said.

TA said the Shell letter of understanding also includes provisions for its fueling stations to explore compressed natural gas (CNG) as an alternative fueling option. CNG would be available to medium-duty and smaller vehicles operated in fleets and by individuals.

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