Major players in manufacturing, transportation and energy are creating more buzz for liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the transportation sector.

Ohio-based TravelCenters of America LLC (TA) and Royal Dutch Shell plc unit Shell Oil Products U.S. reached an agreement to construct and operate a network of fueling lanes at up to 100 existing TravelCenters on the U.S. Interstate highway system. Shell wants to create a “U.S. network of LNG fueling centers for heavy duty road transport customers” stretching from coast to coast. Priority would be given to the main trucking corridors in deciding which of TA’s 244 locations to use.

Shell’s Elen Phillips, vice president for fuels sales and marketing in the Americas, said the investments are being made in infrastructure to expand the use of LNG. “We are leveraging our strength as an integrated company to produce, liquefy, distribute and commercialize natural gas in transport.”

Shell and TA signed a memorandum of understanding to consider the project last June (see NGI, June 11, 2012). Under the agreement, Shell would pay to build natural fueling lanes for large (over-the-road) trucks and related storage capacity at up to 100 TA and Petro Stopping Center locations. The lanes would be built and opened on a phased basis over several years. The oil major also would supply LNG for each location, but the companies separately would market the fuel for customers.

TA has indicated that it may consider compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling outlets, too. “The agreement’s focus is on LNG,” said a TA spokesperson, adding “if appropriate,” it could adjust its plans to include CNG as well.

“We see great potential for LNG as a fuel option among our range of quality fuels, due to the sheer abundance and affordability of domestic natural gas in North America,” Phillips said.

Last week the growing oil and gas unit of General Electric (GE) unveiled “LNG In a Box,” a small-scale fueling technology. GE Oil & Gas initially plans to deploy the models in Europe under a deal with Luxembourg-based Gasfin. Ultimately, the units are to be sold in the United States, but a spokesperson told NGI that there is currently no timeline. “If a customer ordered one of the units today, we are telling them it would be 12 months before delivery, and we hope to get that down to six months in the future.”

GE’s new unit is the smallest of its LNG production equipment options, with the largest being full-blown liquefaction project equipment in Australia and the medium a micro LNG plant introduced last year for fueling LNG tanker trucks that deliver supplies to retail outlets. The small units can produce 10,000-50,000 gallons/day of LNG. A typical 10,000 gallon/day fueling operation could service up to a 100 trucks, according to GE. The unit could be transported to different locations, which means they could go to highway-based truck fueling stops or deployed at wellsites to avoid flaring gas for various transportation and energy uses in the oilfields. They also could be fueling sources for barge and rail systems that run on LNG.

Linde, which supplies industrial, processed and specialty gases, said it planned to unveil LNG station technology and integrated design, which business development chief Bryan Luftglass last year called “a potential game changer.” It applies “on-the-fly saturation” with a LIN (liquid nitrogen) assist, and the result is supposed to eliminate station boil-off gas. Linde officials said this is part of a broader initiative for LNG use in transportation, oil/gas drilling and marine vessels.

Meanwhile, Applied Natural Gas Fuels (ANGF) is building a second 86,000-gallon/d LNG liquefaction plant at its Topock, AZ, facility on the California-Arizona border, and is eyeing the East Coast for more market share. The new Topock capacity is slated to come online in July 2014, said ANGF’s Shaunt [cq] Hartounian, vice president for development and strategic relations. He noted that a BNSF railroad line is within a mile of the plant, facilitating long-distance shipping of the LNG. ANGF, also known as Applied LNG Technologies (ALT), bills itself as the nation’s second largest producer/distributor of LNG.

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