Royal Dutch Shell plc and others in related industries are continuing their push for using natural gas as a transportation fuel. Several states also are adding incentives.

Shell recently launched the first dedicated LNG barge from a shipyard in The Netherlands for transporting liquids products on the Rhine River. Shell already has touted similar petroleum product shipping in the United States (see NGI, March 11). Shell CEO Peter Voser said Shell envisions “a bright future for LNG as a fuel in both coastal and inland” maritime shipping.

The LNG barge sports four efficient small engines, instead of the usual single-engine design, allowing power to be varied and savings realized on downstream, rather than upstream, voyages. Scania-Sandfirden designed the dedicated natural gas engines, and the LNG fuel tanks and fueling systems were developed by Cryonorm Projects and Cryovat-Rootselaar, respectively. Interstream is operating the new barge for Shell in The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland.

In the United States, Shell said recently it plans to install a small-scale liquefaction unit (0.25 million tons/year) at its Shell Geismar Chemicals facility in Geismar, LA. The unit would supply LNG along the Mississippi River, the Intra-Coastal Waterway and to the offshore Gulf of Mexico and the onshore oil and gas exploration areas of Texas and Louisiana.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers also are on the move. Utah lawmakers appear closer to passing a law to promote conversions to alternative fueled vehicles, particularly compressed natural gas (CNG). The House passed an alternative fuels bill (SB 275) by a 58-14 vote. Having already passed in the state Senate, the legislation returns there for final approval of the House-added amendments.

Utah State Rep. Jack Draxler (R-North Logan) told reporters SB 275 provides “the opportunity to make a quantum leap” to help the state’s air quality. A leader in the Utah House and head of the Utah Transit Authority, Rep. Gregory Hughes (R-Draper), supports the bill and has tried unsuccessfully to have a $5 million annual spending cap removed from the legislation. Hughes told reporters that 60% of the state’s air pollution was tied to tailpipe emissions, so switching thousands of state vehicles to run on CNG would help improve air quality.

Earlier this month at the Work Truck Show in Indianapolis, the state of Oklahoma announced that it has purchased 242 Chrysler CNG Ram bi-fuel pickup trucks for its fleet.

“The use of cleaner-burning CNG fuel is good for the environment and promotes Oklahoma-made natural gas, which in turn supports the creation of more Oklahoma jobs,” Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said. “Our multi-state bidding process was aimed at encouraging automakers to provide states with more affordable and more functional CNG vehicles.”

In California, the California Energy Commission approved $5.58 million in grants as part of a statewide effort to invest in various new transportation technology. San Diego-based Buster Biofuels LLC was awarded $2.6 million to convert a 7,300 square foot industrial warehouse building into a biodiesel manufacturing and fueling facility. The biodiesel would be created from various renewable waste-based materials, such as cooking oil from restaurants.

Three separate grants totaling $560,000 were awarded to bus and truck providers to buy down propane-powered school buses, light duty vehicles and light- and medium-duty trucks. Those dealers are located in San Bernardino and San Joaquin counties. The remaining $2.3 million was awarded to San Mateo County-based Motiv Power Systems Inc. for assembling power control systems for electric vehicles.

Separately, the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District in California approved nine grants totaling $3.8 million for a variety of gaseous fuels vehicles and fueling systems. Industrial Waste and Salvage received $500,000 for a demonstration project converting landfill gas into CNG for a vehicle fueling project. Capstone Turbine won $486,000 to demonstrate a CNG-powered turbine extended range Class 7 truck.

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