Motor fuel retailers are cautiously betting that the filling station of the future will offer a broader range of options than what is available to today’s gas-and-go drivers.
The change is coming with the integration of tens of thousands of alternative-fuel vehicles into the global motor fleet, including those powered by natural gas, hydrogen, biofuels and electricity.
In the United States, truck stop chain TravelCenters of America LLC revved the alternative fuels market this summer when it said it would soon offer liquefied natural gas (LNG) at the same islands where owners of gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles have long held sway.
The LNG fueling lanes will be installed at roughly 100 TA and Petro Stopping Centers along interstate highways under a memorandum of understanding reached earlier this year between TA and Shell Oil Products U.S.
On a conference call with investors last week, Tom O’Brien, TA’s president and CEO, said the terms of the agreement allowing Shell to sell its LNG fuels at TravelCenters and Petro centers were progressing.
“The market for natural gas as a fuel for long-haul trucks is still in its infancy, but we’re excited to be discussing this arrangement on an exclusive basis with Shell, one of the largest energy companies in the world, to join our efforts to create the infrastructure necessary to provide our customers with this alternative fuel choice,” he said.
Elen Phillips, Shell’s North American vice president of fuel sales and marketing, said the use of LNG as a transportation fuel “gives truck fleet operators a new strong advantage because it’s abundant and affordable and a viable alternative to diesel.”
“Where it makes sense and where there is customer demand, we will innovate to deliver LNG as an additional fuel offer to our customers across America,” Phillips said. The oil giant launched a similar program in 2011 to install LNG pumps at Flying J truck stops in Alberta.