Natural gas fueling infrastructure continues to sprout up around the country, enabling trucking companies to take advantage of the cheaper, cleaner-burning alternative to diesel fuel.
U.S. Oil recently announced that it will build a compressed natural gas station in Fort Wayne, Ind., based on a use commitment by anchor customer Dart Transit, a truckload carrier based in Eagan, Minn. Dart is already utilizing a U.S. Oil CNG station in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
Dart is the 55th largest U.S. motor carrier, according to research by Transport Topics
U.S. Oil, Appleton, Wis., currently has 13 CNG stations, including in nine in Wisconsin.
"We're trying to strategically put together stations in certain cities to connect the dots so fleets can make their runs," Bill Renz, the general manager of U.S. Oil's GAIN Clean Fuels division, said in an interview. Stations eventually will be built in every major market so fleets can "feel comfortable switching more of their fleets to CNG."
Stations are currently being constructed in Gary, Ind.; Indianapolis; Columbus, Ohio; Detroit; Pittsburgh; Chicago and Denver, among others, according to the company's website.
Liquefied natural gas is generally considered more suitable than CNG for long-haul applications because vehicles can carry more volume, while CNG works best for metropolitan applications where fleets travel less than 250 miles per day and can be slowly refueled overnight at their base. But Renz said the GAIN stations have fast-fueling capability and that new 12-liter natural gas engines will enable trucks to travel more than 600 miles on a single fuel load.
Although stations may have compressors that allow fast-filling, the process causes the gas molecules to expand and limits the volume of fuel that can be stored in tanks, according to others involved in the natural gas sector.
Renz said motor carriers still have to use CNG on regular, planned routes where stations are available.
U.S. Oil is focusing on CNG because it is 50 cents to a dollar less expensive than LNG, he said.
"We have no cost to liquefy the natural gas and no cost to transport because we are tying right into the natural gas utility," Renz said.
LNG fuel stations are typically supplied by tanker trucks.
Clean Energy Fuels, another natural gas provider for transport, sells LNG for about $2.85 per diesel gallon equivalent and CNG for about 15 cents less. At the start of 2012, Clean Energy sold CNG for about 50 cents less than LNG.
The national average for a gallon of diesel fuel today is $3.87.
Learn more about how and why freight transportation providers are adopting natural gas for their conveyances in this month's magazine feature story "Transitioning from diesel: Liquefied natural gas seen as viable propulsion fuel for freight sector.