GE and Clean Energy team up on massive natural gas initiative

By Jack Roberts on

General Electric (GE) and Clean Energy Fuels have announced a collaboration to expand the infrastructure for natural gas transportation in the United States.

As part of the collaboration, Clean Energy Fuels will initially purchase two ecomagination-qualified MicroLNG plants from GE Oil & Gas. The plug-and-play modular units, which are designed to rapidly liquefy natural gas while minimizing a site’s physical footprint, will support fueling stations along critical transportation corridors that run across the U.S. Further underscoring GE’s commitment to expanding natural gas transportation infrastructure, GE Energy Financial Services is providing up to $200 million in financing for the two GE MicroLNG plants.

The agreement supports Clean Energy’s efforts in developing “America’s Natural Gas Highway,” a fueling network that will enable trucks to operate on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) coast to coast and border to border.
“GE is proud to be partnering with Clean Energy Fuels to develop natural gas infrastructure in the U.S. Clean Energy is an industry leader in pioneering a new way for America to fuel its vehicles and to further gain energy independence,” said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt. “With an abundance of cleaner, more affordable natural gas here in the U.S., this is an important opportunity for GE to join Clean Energy in changing the way America drives. It’s also a critical step in developing a natural gas-for-transportation fuel model that can be easily exported to other countries interested in exactly these kinds of breakthrough projects.”

Clean Energy expects to complete approximately 70 LNG stations by the end of 2012, with more planned for next year to serve the movement of goods along major transportation corridors throughout the U.S. While CNG, or compressed natural gas, is primarily used in cars, buses and smaller trucks, the LNG fueling being rolled out at Clean Energy’s stations is targeted at long-haul, heavy-duty trucks, which will have the advantage of longer driving ranges while not impacting tractor weight and incremental costs. In 2013, four major manufacturers will introduce the Cummins Westport 12-liter LNG engine, which is the optimum size for long-haul Class 8 trucks.

Clean Energy plans to use a standardized design of the new GE MicroLNG plants to build additional MicroLNG plants. These first two MicroLNG plants will produce up to 250,000 gallons per day. The plant is designed to be expanded up to 1 million gallons per day as adoption and demand increases. The LNG produced by the MicroLNG plants will be used primarily at Pilot-Flying J truck stops that serve truckers across the country. The two GE MicroLNG plants are targeted to begin operation in 2015. The two companies are currently assessing the best locations for these first two LNG plants.

“The agreement announced today with GE is one of the most significant milestones in Clean Energy’s history,” said Andrew J. Littlefair, president and CEO of Clean Energy Fuels. “As the long-haul trucking industry begins its transition to natural gas, it will be critical to have a reliable supply of LNG. No other company is as uniquely qualified as GE to help address this need due to its vast experience in energy, technology innovations and financing capabilities. GE partnering with Clean Energy on these two facilities will not only help ensure an adequate LNG supply for our stations, but it is another confirmation that the transition to natural gas as a transportation fuel is gaining momentum.”

GE predicts that the U.S. market will consume 5 to 6 billion gallons of natural gas a year as early as 2017.

“GE is committed to natural gas. From extraction to transport to power generation—we continue to develop solutions that infuse new technologies into the value chain and help improve every step of the natural gas development and deployment life cycle,” said Dan Heintzelman, president and CEO of GE Oil & Gas. “Our ecomagination-qualified MicroLNG plant was born from the same turbomachinery technology that has made GE a success in large LNG compression such as in the world-scale plants in Qatar and Australia. By taking this technology and reengineering it so that it’s modular and highly efficient, we are able to help customers such as Clean Energy deliver this abundant and cleaner fuel source to the market.”
GE’s MicroLNG plant can liquefy natural gas at any point along a gas distribution network, making it ideal for supporting the fueling of vehicles in remote locations by reducing the impact of long distance fuel transport. This MicroLNG technology is part of GE’s expanding technology offerings in the natural gas-for-transportation sector.
The new GE MicroLNG system that will be used by Clean Energy will produce 250,000 gallons of LNG per day, or about 54 million DGEs (diesel gallon equivalents) per year with the built-in capability for further expansion, which is a 67 percent increase over the capacity of the breakthrough MicroLNG plant that GE Oil & Gas first introduced in January of 2012. The new system will help reduce a fleet operator’s fuel costs by more than 25 percent compared to diesel fuel. LNG produced with this MicroLNG system can be used to fuel approximately 28,000 heavy trucks, replacing diesel-powered trucks with equivalent fuel economy. This could enable fleet operators to avoid more than 139,000 metric tons of CO2e emissions per year, equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of approximately 27,000 cars using gasoline or 7,000 trucks using diesel on U.S. roads—assuming an average truck travels approximately 14,000 miles per year.

Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts is executive editor for CCJ and equipment editor for its sister magazine Overdrive. Roberts joined Randall-Reilly in 1995 as associate editor of Equipment World magazine and began covering both heavy-duty and light trucks in 1996. In 2006 he was the founding editor of Total Landscape Care before joining CCJ's staff in 2008.

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