Nearly half the liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueling stations for natural gas vehicles (NGV) now being developed are in the United States, according to a recent report by Navigant Consulting’s Pike Research unit. Globally there are 117 LNG stations, while compressed natural gas (CNG) stations number more than 20,000.

The “Natural Gas Trucks and Buses” report investigated global market opportunities in fleets. In a related report also recently completed by Pike, “Economic Impacts of Advanced Energy,” the commercial energy technology segment — including NGV fueling technology — already is contributing significantly to the U.S. economy, with $132 billion in revenue in 2011 and an estimated 19% growth rate in 2012.

The largest estimated jump in U.S. revenue is seen in the transportation segment, where revenue was seen jumping by 60% from 2011 to an estimated $7 billion last year. The segment’s gains are to be led by “a more than doubling” of “clean” vehicles and “moderate” growth in hybrid vehicles, including those using natural gas.

According to the advanced energy report, the U.S. market in 2011 added 141 fueling stations for LNG, CNG and hydrogen, which represented 10% of the global market value and generated $226.8 million in revenue. Of those installations, 97% were natural gas fueling stations.

Every state except Hawaii, Iowa and South Dakota “now has a natural gas fueling station; California leads the United States in number of hydrogen fueling stations. The 2012 U.S. market is expected to more than double compared to 2011 (an estimated $502.4 million in revenues) as a result of a rapid increase in the number of NGV fueling stations installed.

“Medium and heavy duty trucks and buses typically use large amounts of fuel due to the combination of low fuel economy, heavy gross vehicle weight and, in some cases, long distances traveled,” said Dave Hurst, who authored the report specifically on natural gas fueling for fleets. He noted that these characteristics are a marketing opportunity globally.

Pike’s analysis envisions 930,000 added NGVs in the truck and bus space worldwide by 2019. Two drivers are identified: a recovering construction sector and expansion of public transit systems.

Typically, CNG vehicles have been the preferred natural gas transportation technology because of lower costs and lighter weight tanks, but LNG-fueled trucks nevertheless “are increasingly used as longer range vehicles [400 miles-plus, versus CNG ranges of 150-300 miles],” according to the report.

Increasingly high fuel consumption in trucking and bus fleets is motivating managers to find “strategies to reduce both fuel costs and environmental impact” of their fleets. “Owing to substantial and rising supplies of low-cost natural gas and the substantially lower greenhouse gas emissions of NGVs, natural gas has become an increasingly attractive choice for a transportation fuel,” Hurst said.

The global NGV truck market will grow at a compound annual rate of 14% during the next six years, according to Pike. “This growth is being fueled by economic growth following the global slowdown of the last few years, increased vehicle availability, environmental benefits, and the desire for increased energy security,” Hurst said.

With “heavy duty government investment,” the Asia Pacific region is going to see the most growth. Currently about three-quarters of NGV trucks are being sold in the region, and that is not likely to change. China had the largest number of LNG-fueled trucks sold last year (3,020).

“Europe and North America are also anticipated to see strong growth due to the high costs of diesel fuel and increasingly strict government emission restrictions.”

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