Priming the Pump
TA President and CEO Tom O’Brien talks about introducing LNG lanes
Earlier this year, TA and Shell announced an agreement to install LNG dispensers at 100 key TA and Petro locations across the country. Road King spoke with TA president and CEO Tom O’Brien about the reasons for adding these lanes and how it will happen.
Q Why is there so much excitement about natural gas lately?
A Our country imported about 40 percent of the petroleum it consumed in 2012, and transportation in the U.S. consumes the largest piece of that petroleum. A significant increase in the use of alternative fuels will reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Liquid natural gas has the ability to transform the transportation industry; to meaningfully expand the U.S. economy; and to contribute significantly to environmental responsibility and energy independence.
Q Is there really a demand in the trucking industry for LNG?
A The use of natural gas vehicles is happening today and the pace is accelerating. In a recent survey of fleet managers, 61 percent said they already had alternative fuel vehicles in their fleets, and another 11 percent planned to add them in the next two years.
Many large trucking fleets are actively testing or converting their fleets. Some studies have predicted adoption rates of 15 percent of new Class 8 heavy-duty truck purchases over the next three to five years, and as high as 25 percent by 2020. That means we could have well over half a million Class 8 trucks running over the road on natural gas in seven years. Some predict that natural gas vehicles could ultimately reach 40 percent of the heavy-duty truck market.
Q Back when biodiesel was considered the “next big thing,” interested drivers couldn’t find it. Will LNG be readily available for OTR trucks?
A Creating the infrastructure to offer a new fuel is a significant undertaking. If you look at just trucking-oriented fueling locations, there are about 6,300 truckstops in America for a total of more than 29,000 diesel-fueling lanes. A closer look shows that only about 1,800 of those locations are within a quarter mile of an interstate, which is where the majority of goods carried by Class 8 trucks travel. Considering that a Class 8 truck running LNG has a range of approximately 350 miles, we believe we can create a viable nationwide, over-the-road retail LNG dispensing network with about 100 fueling locations dispersed along these highly traveled interstate corridors.
Q How and when will TA and Petro locations introduce LNG?
A We will open our first LNG sites in early 2014, and will prioritize the development of locations based on truck traffic and heavily traveled interstate corridors until we have the first coast-to-coast LNG fueling network.
Given the 350-mile range for tractors on an LNG fill, we will place LNG fueling points at locations about 250 miles apart. Our business is to help our customers operate efficiently, so we are in the process of determining those locations now, taking a number of factors into account.
LNG will be an extension of our fuel offering. We will continue to offer diesel and diesel exhaust fluid as well, to meet all of our customer’s fueling needs. We are fortunate to have the physical space and expertise to offer LNG as one of their viable choices.