With eight stations under construction and siting identification work begun for 60 more, a national $150 million effort supported by Chesapeake Energy Corp. is on track to have a corridor of 150 natural gas fueling stations in place in the next few years, according to Andrew Littlefair, CEO of Clean Energy Fuels Corp., speaking on a second quarter earnings conference call that reported increased revenues, but a loss in quarter-over-quarter results.
Littlefair said the natural gas transportation fuel business of which Seal Beach, CA-based Clean Energy is a proponent has reached “an inflection point” with high diesel prices compared to relatively low natural gas prices, along with “increasing options for natural gas vehicles.” Although revenues in the second quarter reached $69.1 million, compared with $44 million in the same period last year, the net result for the quarter was a loss of $7 million, minus 10 cents/share, compared to $3.8 million, minus 6 cents/share, in the second quarter of 2010.
As a partial explanation for the continuing red ink, a Clean Energy spokesperson told NGI that the T. Boone Pickens-founded firm “is a development-stage company, [still] investing heavily in fueling infrastructure.” He declined to predict when Clean Energy expects to be operating in the black, saying “we do not give guidance going forward.”
During a good amount of the earnings conference call, Littlefair emphasized the ongoing corridor project to develop a regional and national chain of fueling stations along major interstate highways, such as the I-10, I-5, I-40 and I-95 corridors. “Stations will be spread out at 250-mile intervals, using many Pilot Flying J truck center locations under our exclusive agreement with them,” he said.
Clean Energy was one of two companies selected last month by Chesapeake to receive investments from its new $1 billion venture capital fund — Chesapeake NG Ventures Corp. — which is supporting companies and technologies to enable replacement of gasoline and diesel fuel with natural gas and gas-to-liquids fuels (see Daily GPI, July 12).
“With our plan for building key components of America’s natural gas highway infrastructure with support from Chesapeake, we can accelerate the rollout of a natural gas fueling infrastructure along major trucking corridors in the United States,” Littlefair said. “We believe this effort will be the catalyst that will spur truck operators to make the switch sooner rather than later.”
He said Clean Energy is continuing to push at a national level for a natural gas strategy “that includes natural gas vehicles as part of the solution” (NATGAS Act), and even without congressional action, economic forces bringing down the cost of engines and keeping natural gas fuel very competitively priced create arguments for fleet operators to switch to natural gas that are “compelling” on their own.
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