A long-established Midwest gas utility holding company and an international industrial giant are the latest players to indicate they intend to compete in the growing natural gas transportation fuel market.

Although starting small and local, St. Louis-based Laclede Group and Siemens Industry Inc. have an eventual national, if not international, market in mind for the newly announced compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling system they have trademarked as Spire (see Daily GPI, Feb. 1), two Laclede executives told NGI.

“We think we have an end-to-end solution for customers [fleet operators seeking to switch from gasoline and diesel],” said Mike Spotanski, Laclede senior vice president and chief integration/innovation officer. “Siemens brings all kinds of industrial technology experience and solutions, so they will be a strong teammate for us.”

From Laclede’s side, Spotanski said his company brings 150 years of experience in the natural gas business, including natural gas vehicles (NGV) in it utility fleet and a CNG fueling station at one of its utility service centers for the past 15 years.

“We have experience all the way up and down the line on the natural gas side,” he said.

While the economics currently are a no-brainer for fleet operators considering a switch to natural gas-powered vehicles, the execution can be hard in many cases, and the Spire brand, the two partners hope, will allow fleets to make the change as painlessly as possible, said Spotanski and Laclede’s NGV development manager Tom Schultz.

“We want to be a partner in planning, designing, constructing, owning, operating and maintaining” CNG systems that are tailored to each particular fleet operators needs, they told NGI in trying make their case for carving out part of the growing natural gas transportation market.

For the near term, the Laclede-Siemens partnership is focused on CNG, but longer term it may be offering liquefied natural gas (LNG), propane and/or hydrogen as transportation fuels. “I wouldn’t foreclose anything as we go forward,” Spotanski said.

When the Spire brand is taken out of the Laclede service area, the partners will look for help with vehicle manufacturers, fuel suppliers and other consulting services that may be needed to fulfill a particular customer’s needs, Spotanski said.

“We fully intend to look at other key metropolitan areas, we will be able to provide customers with gas supply options as well,” he said.

Is there room for technological advances generally in natural gas fueling? “Absolutely,” Schultz said. “The same is true for the [CNG, LNG] vehicles themselves.”

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