HOUSTON & WESTLAKE, Ohio -- Shell and TravelCenters of America LLC recently finalized an agreement to develop a U.S. nationwide network of liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueling centers for heavy-duty road transport customers. The plan is 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.
The companies will build and open the LNG stations in a phased approach. Pending customary approvals, they anticipate the first of these stations will be operational in approximately one year's time with a priority to develop the main trucking corridors to provide the potential for the first-ever coast-to-coast LNG-fueled commercial transport network.
TravelCenters has completed retrofitting five of its TA and Petro Truck Service facilities to bring them in line with industry standards and regulations for completing truck service repairs on both CNG (compressed natural gas) and LNG trucks. These locations are Petro Ontario, Calif.; TA Harrisburg, Pa. (I-81, Exit 77); TA Baytown, Texas (I-10, Exit 789); TA Dallas South (I-20, Exit 472); TA San Antonio, Texas (I-10, Exit 583).
"All of our LNG lanes, at Ontario and future locations, will be 'super lanes' in that the lanes are equipped with dispensers that allow pumping of LNG, diesel and DEF [diesel exhaust fluid]," said Tom O'Brien, president and CEO of TravelCenters of America. "This ensures that those lanes can be fully utilized while the demand for LNG ramps up over the coming months and years. Additionally, by locating the LNG lanes with the existing fuel lanes, we haven't interrupted truck traffic flow, or reduced available truck parking spaces at these sites."
TravelCenters is taking a prudent approach to the emerging natural gas market, it said, basing site selection and construction of its LNG fueling network on demand, with sites being developed in phases along heavily traveled long-haul transportation corridors. TravelCenters plans to have 10 more fueling sites open by the end of 2014.
"Shell is investing now in the infrastructure that will bring this innovative, cost-competitive and environmentally beneficial fuel to our customers," said Elen Phillips, vice president of Shell Fuels Sales & Marketing Americas. "We are leveraging our strength as an integrated company to produce, liquefy, distribute and commercialize natural gas in transport, and TravelCenters of America is the ideal partner to help us bring this vision to life."
Demand for innovative fuels like LNG from commercial customers is growing due to the wide range of benefits for trucking fleet operators, the companies said, including lower fuel costs and the potential to reduce emissions as well as reduce noise levels in certain engines.
"We see great potential for LNG as a fuel option among our range of quality fuels, due to the sheer abundance and affordability of domestic natural gas in North America," said Phillips.
Shell is also developing LNG stations at Flying J truckstops in Alberta, Canada--the first of which opened this year.
In March, Shell announced it will invest in two small-scale LNG production units that form the basis of two new LNG transport corridors in the Great Lakes and Gulf Coast regions that will provide LNG to marine and heavy-duty road customers. This brings the total to three planned Shell LNG production units dedicated to transport in North America.
TravelCenters of America, Westlake, Ohio, is a leading travel center business in 43 states and Canada with 249 locations under the TA and Petro Stopping Centers brands. It also operates gasoline/convenience stores in Kentucky and Tennessee under the Minit Mart brand name.
Knoxville, Tenn.-based Pilot Flying J has more than 650 retail locations and is the largest operator of travel centers and travel plazas in North America.
Shell Oil Co., Houston, is a leader in the refining, transportation and marketing of fuels, with a network of approximately 6,000 Shell-branded gas stations in the western United States. Another 8,300 Shell-branded stations in the eastern and southern United States are managed by Motiva Enterprises LLC, a joint venture between Shell Oil and Saudi Refining Inc.