LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - ENN Group Co Ltd, one of China's largest private companies, is quietly rolling out plans to establish a network of natural gas fuelling stations for trucks along U.S. highways.
With plans to build 50 stations this year alone, ENN joins a small but formidable group of players -- including Clean Energy Fuels Corp (NasdaqGS: CLNE - news) and Royal Dutch Shell Plc (Xetra: A0ET6Q - news) -- in an aggressive push to develop an infrastructure for heavy-duty trucks fuelled by cheap and abundant natural gas. Clean Energy is backed by T. Boone Pickens and Chesapeake Energy Corp.
The move is yet another example of China's ambition to grab a piece of the U.S. shale gas boom. Just last month, Sinopec Group said it would pay $1 billion for some of Chesapeake's oil and gas properties in the Mississippi Lime shale.
The natural gas bounty is also expected to help wean the U.S. transport industry off its dependence on diesel fuel made from imported crude oil, and the trucking industry is in a big push to use more of the domestically produced fuel.
The potential savings are huge: shippers can save around $2 a gallon by switching to natural gas from diesel.
Nearly half of the garbage trucks sold in the United States last year run on natural gas. They are able to refuel at dedicated stations at their home bases. To convince the far larger market for long-haul trucking to run on natural gas, truckers need to know they can refuel along their highway routes.
Enter ENN, led by billionaire energy tycoon Wang Yusuo. The company has already built natural gas stations in China, which is farther along in its adoption of natural gas trucks.