Clean Energy Fuels Corp. announced recently it has started up regular operations at its liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant at Boron, CA, the largest LNG production plant in the Southwest producing vehicle grade fuel and the first large-scale plant in California. At the same time the company is seeing its compressed natural gas (CNG) business expand in the far Southwest.

Built to manufacture up to 160,000 gallons per day of LNG using pipeline natural gas, the Boron plant is designed to expand production to 240,000 gallons per day as demand increases. The facility includes a 1.8 million-gallon LNG storage tank to provide reserves for unanticipated demand.

The plant currently is running at about one third of its capacity or about 53,000 gallons/d. With one MMBtu of natural gas needed to manufacture 12.1 gallons of LNG, that would put its current gas usage rate at about 4,400 MMBtu/d, slated to ramp up to capacity of 160,000 gallons/d (13,200 MMBtu/d of gas) over the next three to four years, a company official said.

The plant is located in the Mojave Desert approximately 125 miles from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and is connected to Kern River Pipeline. Over 500,000 gallons of LNG have been produced during its start-up phase and initial deliveries have been made to Clean Energy’s new LNG port truck fueling station in Carson, CA. The Clean Truck Program at the ports anticipates replacing over 8,000 old diesel trucks with new trucks that are proven to be cleaner than diesel, such as LNG trucks, within five years. These trucks are anticipated to be a major consumer of the LNG fuel produced at the California LNG Plant, according to Clean Energy.

“We have built the new LNG production facility to respond to the critical need in Southern California and the Southwest for cleaner, more efficient fuel for port trucks and regional trucking,” said Andrew J. Littlefair, president of Clean Energy.

“Already new, cleaner LNG trucks are rolling at the ports and throughout Southern California, lowering emissions pollution and providing cheaper fuel from domestic sources for trucking fleets,” noted Littlefair. “We also have begun construction on our second regional LNG truck fueling station, which is scheduled for completion in March 2009.”

Clean Energy also fuels CNG vehicles, and is seeing that business also grow as municipal transit agencies in the West expand their CNG-fueled vehicle fleets. The public transit agencies in San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix have undertaken major expansions of their CNG-powered bus fleets, which are expected to lead to an increase of 2.5 million gallons per year of fuel.

Clean Energy currently contracts for CNG fueling services with the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, the Phoenix Regional Public Transportation Authority and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada. The agencies are replacing older diesel buses with new CNG models.

San Diego was scheduled to deploy 26 new 60-foot articulated CNG buses as well as 50 new 40-foot CNG buses by the end of November, bringing the agency’s total CNG fleet to well over 400 buses. Clean Energy operates and maintains three fuel stations for the system. When the new buses are fully deployed, total annual CNG fuel consumption is expected to top 6.5 million gallons.

The transportation authority in Phoenix is adding 51 new CNG buses to its current contingent, bringing the total to 132 CNG buses. This fleet is now projected to use more than 900,000 gallons of fuel annually.

The Nevada transit system serving Las Vegas contracts with Clean Energy to operate and maintain two fueling stations that currently serve more than 50 CNG buses and paratransit vehicles. A total of 45 new CNG buses are on order for delivery in early 2009. When fully deployed, the fleet of 95 CNG buses will consume up to 1.5 million gallons annually.

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