Oklahoma City now has a stop on America’s Natural Gas Highway, which is being built by Boone Pickens-backed Clean Energy.
The California-based company is working to establish a network of fueling stations for high volume users like fleet operators, transit vehicles or refuse trucks.
“The network is at the point right now where you can go coast to coast, border to border,” spokesman Patric Rayburn said Tuesday.
Clean Energy opened its first liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueling station in Oklahoma last week at the Flying J truck stop at Interstate 40 and Morgan Road. LNG sells for as much as $1.50 a gallon cheaper than diesel.
UPS, which operates the nation’s largest fleet of natural gas vehicles, has deployed six heavy-duty LNG vehicles in the area, with plans to add four more in the coming weeks, according to Clean Energy.
The UPS trucks are expected to use about 300,000 gallons of diesel gallons equivalent of LNG from the Oklahoma City station each year. That represents an annual reduction of about 518 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
UPS has been working with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program since 2009 to spur the use of LNG-fueled trucks. The company intends to add 700 LNG trucks to its fleet this year, with fueling operations spread across 10 states.
Rayburn said Clean Energy has opened 25 heavy-duty fueling stations. Another 80 or so stations are in the works.
Half of Clean Energy’s existing stations for heavy duty trucks offer both LNG and compressed natural gas (CNG), which is typically used in lighter trucks.
“As demand increases, we can open up these stations to LNG fueling,” Rayburn said. CNG can be made available as well.
He said Clean Energy is committing to removing the fueling barrier for fleet operators considering a switch to cheaper, cleaner natural gas.
“We didn’t want to hear the chicken-and-egg conundrum anymore,” Rayburn said.
He said last year’s introduction of a 12-liter Cummins Westport natural gas engine has hastened the trucking industry’s move away from diesel.
Saddle Creek Logistics Services, a Clean Energy client, recently completed a cross-country trip on CNG, proving the alternative fuel can work for trucking companies, Rayburn said.
He also said Clean Energy’s alliance with GE Capital last year made it easier for companies to finance the switch to CNG or LNG.
“In a sense, it took the risk out of trying natural gas trucks,” Rayburn said.