A natural gas transportation infrastructure developer, Utah-based Blu LNG, has reduced its workforce and cut back operations for at least the first half of this year, awaiting the full rollout of the Cummins 15-liter engine, which has been delayed.

The decision by Blu, a builder of liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueling stations and conversion kits, will slow the full development of America’s Natural Gas Highway, which both Blu and California-based Clean Energy Fuels Corp. have been pushing hard for more than two years (see Daily GPI, Aug. 25, 2011).

Last year, Blu CEO Merritt Norton was predicting that his company would have between 150 and 200 new fueling stations in place by the end of this year; now that is revised to “40 to 50,” counting 25 facilities already in place and the use of mobile equipment at some of the new stations. Blu laid off about 40 workers and now has a workforce of about 170, according to reports in the fleet sector newsletter Fleets and Fuels.

Norton said the setback is due to Westport Innovations decision to scrap the 15-liter engine and Cummins announcement to delay full production six months (see Daily GPI, Jan. 14).

Clean Energy also has taken its foot off the accelerator, acknowledging that the network of 150 LNG fueling stations it expected to be in place the end of last year will not be completed until the end of this year.

Both Blu and Clean Energy, however, are not lessening their belief that the future of long-haul trucking continues to be through the use of LNG. Norton contends LNG trucks will fuel faster than diesel equivalent rigs, and the LNG vehicles will carry more fuel with lighter weight.

Separately, in Pennsylvania the state with the Marcellus Shale boom continues to underwrite its support of NGVs, supporting the development of six additional compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations with grants collectively totaling $13.4 million.

Truck stop operator, Love’s Travel stops and Country Stores wound up with three grants totaling nearly $3 million for stations in different counties (Columbia, Cumberland and Lebanon); two others went to Silvi Concrete (nearly $500,000 combined); and the last one ($809,000) went to Waste Management of Pennsylvania. All will build public CNG fueling facilities.

“The proliferation of fueling stations is expected to result in reduced emissions, fueling savings and use of domestically produced natural gas,” Gov. Tom Corbett said. He touted Pennsylvania’s plentiful supplies of gas and increasing numbers of NGV fueling stations.