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LNG: It’s More than the Per-Gallon Price

July 30, 2013 in LNG by Rich Piellisch  |  No Comments

For Over-the-Road Trucks, Says Clean Energy, It’s ‘Total Cost of Service’

“Total cost of service” is more important than simple cost per gallon when it comes to deciding between liquefied natural gas and compressed natural gas, says Clean Energy Fuels. When over the road truckers consider such factors as the time it takes to fill, and the cost and weight of CNG tanks as compared to LNG tanks, LNG is the clear winner, the company maintains.

'Bob. You're killing me.'

‘Bob. You’re killing me.’

“Our biggest competition,” says Jim Harger, chief commercial officer at Clean Energy, “is misinformation.”

CNG has its place, Harger says, citing smaller vehicles, package delivery, and refuse trucks as examples. In fact, “It’s our bread and butter,” he says, as Clean Energy operates nearly 400 CNG stations.

But Clean Energy has simultaneously made a huge bet on LNG for over-the-road trucking, now targeting the end of 2014 for a network of 150 LNG fueling stations nationwide.

Faster Fills and Lighter Trucks

“Everybody else sells one fuel,” Harger says. “We sell both.”

Approximately 80 America’s Natural Gas Highway stations are now built, and 20 of the ANGH outlets are providing LNG to over-the-road customers. “It’s the best fuel for the application,” Harger says.

LNG’s big advantage for the over-the-road market is its similarity to familiar diesel in terms of trucks design and fueling times. Unlike CNG stations limited by compressor capacity, “Our pumps can fuel two dispensers at the same time at 20 diesel gallon equivalents per minute,” Harger says. “The industry’s not happy at five gallons per minute,” he told F&F. “Price comes down to time.”

Assuming 100,000 miles per year, Clean Energy reckons extra driver time of about 42 hours per year fueling CNG instead of LNG – “You end up spending one week,” he says, standing and waiting, and “In this industry, you cannot afford to be sitting at the fuel pump.”

CNG’s Heat Penalty

Outsize (and economically unacceptable) investment in extra compression could speed fueling, he says, but because fast CNG fueling generates heat, a truck carrying 100 DGEs of fuel really needs about 135 DGEs worth of CNG tanks to provide the desired 700-mile range.

The heat penalty exacerbates CNG’s up-front cost penalty: CNG fuel cylinders cost more than cryogenic LNG tanks, working out to about twice as much, per truck, per DGE, Harger says.

CNG tanks are heavier too: “A 700-mile truck will have a weight penalty of at least 3,000 pounds,” Harger says, meaning less cargo and less revenue.

“We have no weight penalties,” he says – for a 75-DGE truck, the slightly heavier insulated LNG tank is offset by the absence of exhaust aftertreatment gear.


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