Officials with the truckstop chain, Travel Centers of America, indicated this week when they plan to open their first liquefied natural gas filling stations in cooperation with Shell, targeting commercial vehicles.
During a conference call with investors, TA CEO Thomas M. O'Brien said he expects they will open during the first half of 2014 with one in Pennsylvania, one or two in Texas and two or three in California.
An LNG retrofit tank on a heavy truck. Photo: Evan Lockridge
Both Travel Centers and Shell expect to ultimately have a nationwide network of 200 LNG filling stations at TA and Petro locations. In July 2012 both announced their intent to work together and later hammered out a final agreement.
When asked to comment on the rollout of its LNG network and the pace of adoption of LNG by trucking customers, O'Brien said, “It’s difficult to build 200 lanes simultaneously. So you've got to start somewhere and that somewhere is….we're taking our cues from our customers and have built-in flexibility to be able to move things around to respond to customer demand.”
O’Brien said when it comes to customer demand for LNG, most of largest fleets in the U.S. are looking at it.
“What varies widely is that rate of adoption... It goes from, 'I don't want to be first,' on the one end of the spectrum, to, 'I want to capture a competitive advantage by being first.' I would say it's a rare large fleet that isn't aware of the potential for natural gas which will basically help reduce fuel costs. That's the theory. But take-up has been somewhat spotty to date. I think that it will accelerate as and when our lanes come online,” he said.
During the same call O’Brien discussed the company’s third quarter performance, in which it reported income decreased approximately $3.2 million, or 16.8%, to $15.8 million, versus net income for the 2012 third quarter of $19.0 million.