A major natural gas company is investing $150 million in a venture that would build 150 liquid natural gas fueling stations for heavy trucks at truck stops nationwide.
Chesapeake Energy, the second-largest U.S. natural gas producer, will pump money into Clean Energy Fuels, starting with $50 million invested on July 11.
Another $50 million will be invested in June 2012 and June 2013. Clean Energy will use the money to build LNG stations at Pilot and Flying J truck stops.
The investment is the first step toward creating a nationwide natural gas infrastructure to support heavy trucks, Chesapeake and Clean Energy said.
The $150 million is the tip of a $1 billion investment Chesapeake plans to make over the next 10 years to increase demand for natural gas as an alternative fuel.
Clean Energy Fuels is already building LNG stations to serve local fleets operated by waste haulers, airport and mass transit lines and regional trucking companies.
The company fuels 22,700 vehicles from 238 locations in North America, and President and CEO Andrew J. Littlefair sees opportunity to expand into trucking.
Diesel prices exceeding $4 a gallon are renewing and raising interest in natural gas, which currently sells for about $1.50 to $2 less than diesel, Clean Energy said.
Economists and energy analysts expect more interest innatural gas in years to come, as increasingly volatile markets lead to spikes in oil and fuel prices.
“Natural gas is our ace in the hole,” energy market analyst and University of Calgary professor Philip K. Verleger, Jr., told truckers at the trucking industry SMC3 conference in June.
“Natural gas will remain below $40 a barrel for years to come,” said Verleger, who has studied oil and other energy commodity markets since the 1970s.
Verleger told SMC3 he expects natural gas to retain its price advantage over diesel for at least a decade.
Contact William B. Cassidy at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wbcassidy_joc