HOUSTON, June 8 (UPI) -- Oil giant Shell plans to open liquefied natural gas stations across the United States for fueling heavy-duty trucks, the company said.
Under a pending agreement with TravelCenters of America LLC, the largest full-service truck stop chain in the United States, Shell will construct more than 200 LNG fuel lanes at about 100 TA sites and Petro Stopping Centers throughout the U.S. interstate highway system.
The agreement marks the second such LNG fueling move for Shell. Last year, the company announced it would sell LNG to heavy-duty fleet customers at select Flying J truck stops in Alberta, Canada beginning this year.
"Using natural gas for transport gives truck fleet operators a new strong advantage because it's abundant and affordable and a viable alternative to diesel," Elen Phillips, vice president, Shell Fuels Sales and Marketing North America, said in a statement.
"This potential alliance with TA would enable Shell to deliver LNG fuel to customers who want a competitively priced fuel option to help them meet increasingly stringent air quality emission standards."
If a final agreement is reached, the first LNG fuel lanes would begin operating in 2013.
The plan will "create the infrastructure necessary to offer TA's trucking company customers an alternative fuel choice," Thomas M. O'Brien, president and chief executive officer of Westlake, Ohio's TA, said in a statement.
"TA is especially pleased to be helping ensure America's energy independence."
Shell says that it supplies, along with its global partners, more than 30 percent of the world's LNG.
Prompted by rising fuel costs and the shale gas revolution which has slashed the price of natural gas by about 45 percent over the last year, truck fleet operators are more closely considering making the switch to cheaper natural gas.
Waste Management, for example, says 80 percent of the trucks purchased during the next five years will be fueled by natural gas, The Wall Street Journal reports. Last year, the company charges customers an extra $169 million because of rising fuel costs.
While the natural gas-fueled trucks cost about $30,000 more than diesel models, Waste Management said it expects to save about $27,000 in fuel per truck.
In a survey of 100 trucking company executives by PLS Logistics Services Inc., nearly one-third said they were actively researching LNG for their fleets. While 8-in-10 said LNG has potential for highway use, 54 percent said current refueling infrastructure is inadequate.