Shell Bullish On LNG
STREET SMARTS IS A MONTHLY COLUMN DEVOTED
TO THE ON-HIGHWAY TRUCK MARKETS.
STEVE STURGESS IS AN INDEPENDENT TRUCKING
WRITER AND CONSULTANT BASED IN
CAPISTRANO BEACH, CALIF. HIS BLOG IS AT
This year, Shell will produce more natural gas than oil for the first time in the 50 years it has
been involved in natural gas production.
This astonishing fact underscores
Shell’s commitment to alternative fuels,
especially natural gas as compressed
(CNG) or as a liquid at -256°F (LNG).
To emphasize this commitment, Shell
has embarked on an adventurous program that will see a natural gas infrastructure developing over the next five
to 10 years, said James Burns, Shell’s
LNG manager in the United States.
Burns said that later this year, Shell
will open the first LNG corridor in the
NAFTA region, with LNG fueling stations
in Calgary and Edmonton and a refueling
midway point in Red Deer, Alberta.
This is no demonstration project, said
Burns, but a fully fledged alternative fuel
option for fleets servicing the busiest cities in the western Canadian province.
Shell is looking to LNG as its fuel
of the future — at least to 2050 — for
the commercial transportation sector in
North America because of its greater energy density compared with CNG. That
is important, said Burns, to get the range
needed for medium and heavy trucks.
He also sees the truck transportation
infrastructure as more easily deployed
since fueling points can be set up at
strategic north-south and east-west corridors at truck-traffic nodes around the
nation on the interstate system.
Shell has opted for LNG and the com-
pany is dedicated to assist fleets in the
rollout of the fuel. Where there are those
who want to make the switch, Shell will
be putting in suitable fueling points if none
presently exist to satisfy this demand.
lower cost for the fuel — or more judging from diesel price gyrations of recent
months — over-the-road trucking firms
that do 100,000 miles a year can see
a three-year return on investment. And
that could come down as more of the
expensive tanks are constructed to satisfy a growing volume of LNG over-the-road trucks.
So far the engines of choice appear
to be the ISX-based Cummins Westport,
which uses pilot ignition by diesel fuel with
gas injected into the combustion chamber
for the power stroke or the Cummins ISL
G, which is spark-ignited. These engines
are available in Freightliner, Kenworth
and Peterbilt highway trucks and Autocar
refuse vehicles. Navistar said it is committed to developing a range of natural
gas MaxxForce engines for medium- and
heavy-duty buses and trucks.
The pressure to use natural gas is
driven partly by economics, partly by
environmental concerns and partly by
energy-independence issues. Burns
said the Cummins ISL G actually produced 20% less CO2 than diesel in the
same base engine, using the Canadian
GHGenius model. It also has virtually
no sulfur for even less environmental
impact and is virtually free of engine deposits for a longer engine life.
As for energy independence, Burns
said natural gas is abundant, acceptable
and affordable. Technology changes have
meant the recovery of more natural gas
from shale. In the last five years the
United States has gone from an importer
with 40 terminals around the country to
provide the import capacity to being a net
exporter of natural gas. U.S. gas reserves
have increased 22% (2006 to 2009), he
said, and there’s more to come.
For sure, it’s astonishing that Shell will
produce more natural gas than regular
oil-based fuels this year. But if the crystal
ball of the appropriately named Mr. Burns
is telling the truth, heavy road transport
could see a wholesale shift to the fuel
within 10 years. That’s astounding. dp
4 DIESEL PROGRESS NOR TH AMERICAN EDITION April 2012