TravelCenters of America, Shell Oil to create natural gas fueling stations along highways
By DAN SHINGLER
9:52 am, June 7, 2012
The natural gas car business stands to get some fuel, literally, from a deal struck between Shell Oil Products U.S. and Westlake-based TravelCenters of America to install compressed natural gas filling stations at a minimum of 100 locations.
TravelCenters announced that it had entered into an agreement with Shell to build and operate a network of at least 200 compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations at 100 or more TravelCenters locations on U.S. interstate highways. Thereafter, expansion will be based upon customer demand for the fuel, TravelCenters said.
TravelCenters said it also will train “a significant number” of its approximately 3,000 repair technicians to work on CNG vehicles.
“The locations will be jointly selected by TA and Shell with the intention of creating the infrastructure required to allow natural gas powered trucks to travel across the United States,” TravelCenters said.
The company did not say anything more about where the locations would be, but it has 238 locations, almost all along major interstates across the country. They are especially concentrated in the Midwest and eastern half of the United States, according to the TravelCenters website, which also is where CNG fueling has lagged compared to some areas in the western and southern United States.
Addressing a 'chicken-and-egg problem'
The announcement is welcome news to entrepreneurs and established vehicle makers who have been waiting for CNG fueling stations to arrive in order to drive their vehicle sales. Without the stations, it's difficult to sell CNG trucks and cars, they say — but without significant numbers of CNG vehicles on the road, the installation of filling stations has been slow to take hold.
“That's fabulous!” exclaimed Nancy Keene, chief financial officer of Cleveland-based Dan T. Moore Cos., which is investing in systems it hopes automakers will adopt and use to manufacture CNG-fueled vehicles.
“That's a huge step forward in terms of solving the chicken-and-egg problem,” Ms. Keene said.
Ms. Keene said makers of natural gas vehicles and their suppliers wants to see corridors of fueling stations developed, so that drivers not only can use CNG as a local fuel, but also for long-haul trips, which would make it a more attractive fuel for many trucks.
If enough stations are built, proponents believe, sales of the vehicles will take off because natural gas is less than half the cost of gasoline in terms of the miles that can be driven on each dollar's worth of fuel.
Ms. Keene said sales of CNG-powered vehicles already have benefited in places such as Salt Lake City, which has 37 operating CNG stations, or in Florida, where convenience stores are beginning to sell CNG fuel.
TravelCenters said it still must work out the final details of its agreement with Shell, but that its first CNG stations should be online sometime next year.
Westport is still a big gamble. In my opinion it could be a 10-bagger, or it could be a bust.
I have few a shares which I won't sell under 300, and maybe not even then; but I am well aware that it could fizzle out like a damp sqibb. This is not a stock to bet your retirement pension on!
Meanwhile I am comfortable and might even add a few more shares if the stock dips again, which it might well do.
I think it helps CLNE..more stations means more NAT GAS & LNG vehicles. They are only going to start with 100 stations and it would take many many years to catch up with CLNE. Also this makes CLNE a buyout prospect, as other oil giants will not let Shell have a monopoly..