Just as a report from Morgan Stanley (MS) was declaring natural gas vehicles (NGV) as the energy market “wild card,” U.S. NGV suppliers continued in late April to roll out more products.

While acknowledging that oil is still dominant for transportation, Morgan Stanley’s study, “Natural gas as a Transportation Fuel: Energy Market Wild Card,” said that with global natural gas supplies now exceeding 240 years of consumption, and gas prices at “sharp discounts to oil” in the United States and Europe, NGVs could continue to grow in popularity.

“If NGVs reach a tipping point, this could alter the outlook for oil and gas demand,” Morgan Stanley concluded, calculating an estimated displacement of oil and diesel of 1.5 million to 4.5 million b/d during the next 10 years.

Seal Beach, CA-based Clean Energy Fuels Corp. recently created a “facilities modification service business unit” to both support and build maintenance facilities for servicing NGV fleets. This is an extension of Clean Energy’s current business providing compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) for transportation, fueling facilities and vehicle conversions and upfittings to NGVs. The new business unit will work with long-haul trucking companies, municipalities, refuse haulers, taxi and other fleet operators “to make sure their maintenance facilities are code compliant.”

With “a significant number” of new NGVs hitting the road daily, there is a growing need for more code-compliant maintenance facilities, said Clean Energy officials.

In Southern California, Complete Coach Works (CCW) said that it was converting 47 refuse trucks to CNG for San Jose, CA-based Garden City Sanitation.

CCW called it a “repowering job,” including new 8.9-liter ISLG engines from Cummins Westport and a custom fuel tank system providing 75 diesel gallons equivalent capacity.

In conjunction, Clean Energy is installing slow-fill CNG fueling equipment to support an updated fleet of 2007 Autocar trucks, according to Garden City General Manager Steve Jones.

Elsewhere, the Florida legislature last Thursday passed a bill (HB 579) to promote the use of NGVs, following a number of other state legislatures around the nation that have passed similar laws. The bill encourages commercial fleet owners to invest in new NGVs through grants from the state’s Office of Energy in the Department of Agriculture. Lawmakers indicated that natural gas for transportation is “immensely popular” in their state.

HB 579 passed the Florida Senate 39-0 on April 30, and it was quickly passed by the House two days later in a 116-2 vote.

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