Current Layoffs a ‘Bump in the Road’ Engendered by Engine Availability,
But LNG Trucks to Reach Cost Parity with Diesel in Three Years, Says CEO
“We are more certain than ever that LNG will be the dominant alternative fuel,” says Blu CEO Merritt Norton, who acknowledges that the Utah-based company has tempered its ambitious plans for liquefied natural gas fueling, primarily in the U.S. West.
Blu has a network of approximately 25 stations now, which will grow to 40 or 50 by year-end, with mobile equipment at some locations, Norton said.
Six months ago, he acknowledges, he would have predicted a Blu network of 150 to 200 stations by the end of 2014.
Norton also confirms that Blu has laid off about 40 people, and now counts approximately 170 employees.
Fewer Engines, Fewer Trucks, Less Demand for Fuel
“This is a bump in the road,” Norton says of the current situation, noting that loss of the 15-liter LNG-only HPDI engine from Westport and the delay (at least six months; F&F, January 7) on the Cummins 15-liter spark engine have hurt the business.
“We’ve built more stations than anyone except Clean Energy,” Norton told F&F. Clean Energy Fuels has similarly throttled back, affirming that its “America’s Natural Gas Hughway” network of 150 stations planned for the end of 2013 will now not be completed until the end of this year (F&F, December 28).
Like Blu, Clean Energy now has about two dozen ANGH stations open.
Like Clean Energy, Blu insists on the long-term predominance of LNG, rather than CNG, for long-haul trucking. LNG trucks can be fueled faster than compressed natural gas trucks, Norton notes, and in future, he says, will fuel even faster than diesels. More fuel can be carried on the truck, he says, with less weight and less cost, while advances in LNG station design will make venting “a thing of the past.”
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Source: Fleets & Fuels interview