Long-haul trucking fleets are increasingly turning to liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a fuel, and with the upcoming availability of larger (12- to 13-liter engines) next year, the U.S. market could eventually reach more than 2 Tcf annually, according to Clean Energy Fuels Corp.’s CEO.

Noting that in the past four years the penetration of LNG among trash hauling trucks has jumped from fractions to more than 60% of new trucks being ordered, Andrew Littlefair said he thinks there will be same steep increase in the adoption rate for the larger-engine LNG tractor-trailer trucks expected to come into the market.

“If we’re really saving these people $1.50/gal, which we are, and the engines work the way we think they will, I think we’re going to need 5-6 billion gallons of LNG [annually] in the next six or seven years,” Littlefair said Tuesday during an announcement about a partnership with General Electric (see Daily GPI, Nov. 14).

“In that case we’re going to need dozens and dozens of LNG production plants,” he said of the natural gas vehicle (NGV) fueling space.

Vehicle manufacturers are backing the long-haul truck market because its potential is 10-15 times greater than the public transit markets, he said. “Each of those two markets are 2 billion gallon [annual] markets; this market [in long-haul trucks] is a 30 billion gallon annual market.

“Today every original equipment manufacturer [OEM] with a heavy duty product has either announced an NGV product or already has one. The OEMs have bought into this, and they understand it and see it, and one of the reasons is their customers are now asking for it.” Clean Energy has 150 nondisclosure agreements with shippers that move goods in interstate commerce but don’t necessarily have trucks, Littlefair said.

GE, which has a fleet vehicle program, has seen a surge of interest in both compressed natural gas and LNG vehicles in the past six to 12 months, said Mike Hosford, who manages unconventional resources for GE’s oil and natural gas business unit. “The economic savings by switching to natural gas is very compelling.”

Littlefair said, “I think we have so much natural gas in the country that I believe if we are going to be energy independent by 2035 as some predict, then we are going to have to use an awful lot of natural gas in transportation, and I think that will be the case.

“I go back to the refuse hauling trucks. Waste Management Co. has announced that 90% of its purchases next year will be NGVs and Republic [Services] is right behind them at 65%,” Littlefair said. “That tells you it is working, and we’re seeing this in every state in the union.”

The same thing will happen in long-haul trucking with a 30 billion gallon market, he said. “If every truck went to natural gas — which won’t happen — that would represent a load of 4.2 Tcf annually. But if just a big piece of it eventually goes that way, say half, it would be 2.1 Tcf.”

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