Ohio-based TravelCenters of America LLC (TA) and Royal Dutch Shell plc unit Shell Oil Products U.S. said Monday they have reached an agreement to construct and operate a network of natural gas fueling lanes at existing TravelCenters located along the U.S. Interstate highway system.

Although not referenced, the ongoing effort to create a national network of natural gas fueling spots for long-haul trucks, dubbed “America’s Natural Gas Highway,” (see Daily GPI, Aug. 25, 2011) will be advanced most likely by this new deal between two major companies in their respective industries.

For Shell, the emphasis is on liquefied natural gas (LNG) and creating a “U.S. network of LNG fueling centers for heavy duty road transport customers” stretching from coast to coast. Priority will be given to the main trucking corridors in deciding which of TA’s 244 locations off interstate highways to use.

Shell’s Elen Phillips, vice president for fuels sales and marketing in the Americas, said her company is making the investments in infrastructure to expand the use of LNG as a transportation fuel. “We are leveraging our strength as an integrated company to produce, liquefy, distribute and commercialize natural gas in transport.”

Shell and TA announced a memorandum of understanding leading to the latest deal last June (see Daily GPI, June 11, 2012).

The new agreement calls for Shell to build natural gas fueling lanes for large (over-the-road) trucks and related storage capacity at up to 100 TA and Petro Stopping Center locations. The companies said the work would take place “at Shell’s cost and within several years.” The natural gas fueling will be built and opened on a phased basis.

Shell said it will supply LNG at each location, while Shell and TA will separately market the fuel to their respective customers. TA has indicated it may consider some compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling outlets, too. “The agreement’s focus is on LNG,” said a TA spokesperson, adding that it will monitor customer demand for natural gas fuels and, “if appropriate, may adjust its plans to include CNG, too.”

TA CEO Thomas O’Brien called the Shell deal “a prudent approach to an emerging market.” He said he hoped the initial sites will be in operation in a year’s time. “Over time, TA believes natural gas will become a significant fuel for the trucking industry.”

“We see great potential for LNG as a fuel option among our range of quality fuels, due to the sheer abundance and affordability of domestic natural gas in North America,” Phillips said.

Shell said it has been working to develop the LNG for transportation market globally and is also developing LNG stations at Flying J truck stops in Alberta, Canada, the first of which opened this year.

Last month, another unit of Shell 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 Daily GPI, March 22).

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