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TA: Five U.S. LNG fueling centers to open first half of 2014

The companies expect to build a nationwide network of LNG fueling centers for heavy-duty road transport customers. (The Trucker file photo)

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TravelCenters of America LLC (TA) and Shell are on track to open the first five liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueling centers in the U.S. in the first half of 2014 as a part of an agreement made this past spring, TA CEO Thomas O’Brien said last week.

One site will be located in Pennsylvania and, depending on customer demand, one or two will be in Texas and two or three will be located in California, O’Brien said during a conference call with investors held after the company disclosed earnings for the third quarter, according to the OPIS Newsletter, an analysis on refined fuel products pricing.

The companies expect to build a nationwide network of LNG fueling centers for heavy-duty road transport customers, “but it’s difficult to build 200 lanes simultaneously,” he said. “We’re taking cues from our customers and have built in flexibility to move things around in response to customer demand,” O’Brien added.

As of last spring, the companies’ plan was to build at least two LNG fueling lanes and a storage facility at up to 100 existing TA and Petro Stopping Centers’ branded full-service travel centers along the U.S. interstate highway system.

O’Brien characterized U.S. transportation sector adoption of LNG as “spotty to date.” Most of the largest trucking fleets in the U.S. are looking at natural gas as an alternative fuel, he said, but there’s a broad spectrum when it comes to fleets’ readiness to convert.

“It goes from I don’t want to be first, to I want to capture competitive advantage by being first,” according to O’Brien.

Take-up of LNG by the trucking industry “will accelerate as, and when, our lanes come on line,” he stated.

Shell and TA have left themselves an out on the plan to help develop the first- ever coast-to-coast LNG-fueled commercial transport network.

“There are milestones embedded in the agreement which, if not met, give (under some conditions) us and/or Shell a ‘wind-down right,’” O’Brien said. “But plans today would have us besting all of those milestones,” he added.

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