Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Pickens LNG Firm Plans to Expand SoCal Fueling Network

Billionaire T. Boone Pickens' Clean Energy Fuels Corp. announced plans Monday to aggressively develop a network of liquefied natural gas truck fueling stations in Southern California.

The Seal Beach, Calif.-based Clean Energy currently operates two LNG fueling stations located in or near the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, serving about 500 LNG drayage vehicles.

The Clean Energy plan calls for the development of additional fueling stations along key truck routes in Southern California including locations in Los Angeles, Commerce, Industry, Fontana, Riverside, Tulare, Barstow, and Otay Mesa/San Diego.

Set to be developed over the next several years, these hub stations will then be linked by additional stations located along the truck routes to form a complete Southwest region network.

The two ports' proposed truck modernization program that eventually morphed into the current Clean Trucks Program originally called for 50 percent of the more than 19,000 trucks servicing the two ports at the time to be replaced by LNG or other alternative fuel vehicles. However, this goal was subsequently dropped during the development of the overall trucking program. In the end, the 500 LNG trucks currently servicing the two ports were subsidizing through various government funding mechanisms.

The push toward LNG in the original ports' truck modernization plan was based on certification data of a single LNG truck engine available at the time showing that no diesel engines at the time were cleaner burning than the LNG engines. However, current diesel engines are now producing less of three of the four major pollutants looked at in certification tests.

As of Monday's public meeting, the Long Beach Board of Harbor Commissioners have moved away from their original "cleaner-burning" argument for LNG to an argument based on the concept of "diversification of energy" and "reducing domestic dependence on foreign oil."

It worth noting that while current LNG trucks and current diesel trucks are both equally clean compared to models just a few years ago, LNG trucks still cost nearly 50 percent more.