Even without a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal in California, the fuel is growing in use in the large vehicle transportation sector, according to a firm trying to cash in on the trend.

A small example was the announcement Thursday that a Vancouver, BC-based fuel system manufacturer and an agricultural trucking fleet operator had signed a deal to create 20 heavy-duty LNG-powered trucks for delivering hay in the agricultural Imperial Valley in the southeast corner of the state. Westport Innovations Inc., a Canadian developer of low-emissions transportation technologies, signed the deal last Thursday with HayDay Farms in Blythe, CA, to equip the trucks with Westport’s “high-pressure direct injection” (HPDI) system.

“The HPDI technology will allow HayDay’s new trucks to operate in regional haul applications with the same power and efficiency as a diesel engine and provide superior economic and environmental benefits by running on natural gas,” Westport said.

HayDay Farms liked the current economics that have diesel fuel costing about $4/gallon compared with LNG at the equivalent of $3/gallon. The hay supplier emphasized that the LNG trucks can provide both economic and environmental advantages.

It is unclear at this point where the LNG fueling will be provided, although there are plans for the development of facilities throughout Southern California, according to Bruce Russell, a spokesperson for T. Boone Pickens’ Clean Energy Fuels Corp. Clean Energy is completing construction of a fueling facility at Boron in the Mojave Desert, 75 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles, and is planning other facilities throughout the state.

Clean Energy is working closely with officials in the adjacent ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles on an effort to convert at least half of the trucks and most of the harbor’s heavy equipment to run on LNG as a means of cutting greenhouse gas emissions from predominantly diesel-fired trucks and heavy equipment.

Russell indicated that Clean Energy has been talking with HayDay Farms and Westport about the refueling needs for the truck fleet. No agreements have been reached yet.

Located near Boron, CA, near major gas transmission pipelines, the Clean Energy plant’s initial capacity of 13-14 MMcf/d equivalent of LNG (160,000 gallons) is expected to require about 16 tanker truckloads daily. Some of the use will be in the Long Beach and Los Angeles harbors, but supplies could go elsewhere (see Daily GPI, Sept. 17, 2007).

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