your input might be needed here
Published: May 23, 2012
By Rebecca Smith Of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
It's the chicken and egg problem for alternative-fuel vehicles: Will there be enough public refueling stations to justify buying the vehicles?
For long distance trips, the answer currently is no for natural gas vehicles.
Only 992 U.S. refueling stations pump compressed natural gas, compared with about 120,000 that dispense gasoline or diesel. And many of those CNG stations only service private fleets. Liquefied natural gas stations are practically nonexistent outside of California, which has 35 of the 47 total U.S. stations, according to the Department of Energy.
Efforts are under way to boost the number. Clean Energy Fuels Corp. just struck a deal with Pilot Flying J, one of the biggest operators of truck stops in the U.S., to install LNG or CNG pumps at 150 of 450 locations in the next two years. Clean Energy already operates the largest U.S. network of refueling stations, with 273 locations that serve 25,000 natural gas vehicles.
(This story and related background material will be available on The Wall Street Journal website, WSJ.com.)
"You don't need thousands of stations--you need hundreds in the right places and you can cover the majority of trucks," says Andrew Littlefair, chief executive of Clean Energy.
Its idea is to create refueling stations along major truck corridors, one region at a time. The goal is to give truckers locations at which they can refuel every 250 miles. One such LNG corridor now links Long Beach, Calif., to Salt Lake City. Other companies, including gas utilities, also are building refueling stations, hoping to cultivate a new market for natural gas, amid falling sales of the fuel to homes, due to efficiency gains in appliances.
Utility owner Questar Corp. is building and refurbishing CNG stations along Interstate 15 in Utah, including some with a "fast fill" capability that can pump the equivalent of eight gallons in less than three minutes. Two-hose islands cost $500,000 to $1 million, mostly due to the cost of compressors and high-pressure holding tanks.
Clark Taylor manages about 60 charter buses and airport vans in Utah that drive 11,000 miles each day. He converted a few vehicles to compressed natural gas a decade ago, taking advantage of a nearby refueling point and now wants to convert the rest of the fleet at Salt Lake Express. He figures the shuttle service could save as much as $500,000 a year, because CNG sells for about $1.50 a gallon in his area, or less than half as much as $3.79 diesel.
"The technology is there," he says. "We just have to use it."
-By Rebecca Smith, The Wall Street Journal
Let's keep this subject going, the Vindy.com of Youngstown has a front page story on our American made CNG fuel.