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GE and Clean Energy Fuels Partner to expand LNG refueling infrastructure in US for trucks; new MicroLNG plants

GE’s MicroLNG plant can liquefy natural gas at any point along a gas distribution network. Click to enlarge.

GE and Clean Energy Fuels are collaborating to expand the infrastructure for natural gas transportation in the United States. The agreement supports Clean Energy’s efforts in developing “America’s Natural Gas Highway,” (earlier post)—a fueling network spanning the contiguous US that will enable trucks to operate on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) coast to coast and border to border.

As part of the collaboration, Clean Energy Fuels will initially purchase two MicroLNG plants from GE Oil & Gas. (Earlier post.) 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 major transportation corridors that run across the US. 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 refrigerant cycle in the MicroLNG plants is greatly simplified versus the traditional mixed refrigerant process, due to the use of a simple cycle based on methane expansion or on nitrogen loop.
The first step of the process is the removal of CO2 and saturation water that would freeze in the cryogenic section of the plant and therefore cause problems.
The, after heavy hydrocarbons have been removed, gas re-enters the plate fin exchanger where it is cooled down to a temperature below -166°F (-110°C). For the refrigerant loop, both methane (using the same natural gas coming from the pipeline) and nitrogen-based expansion cycles are available.
The main piece of equipment used in the refrigeration cycle loop is a compander. A high-efficiency expander impeller and compressor wheels are mounted on a common bull gear within the same frame. Standard API 618 or high speed reciprocating compressors plus a separate high efficiency turboexpander can be selected alternatively based on plant size and customer requirements.
Gas is liquefied by lamination through a Joule Thomson valve at a temperature between -256 °F (-160 °C) and -220 °F (-140 °C) depending on storage tank layouts and pressure. The two-phase stream enters a gas boot where the two phases are separated.
The liquid portion is sent to LNG storage while the cold vapor coming from the top is first sent to the plate fin exchanger where the latent cold is recovered. Then it can be recycled back to the purification unit outlet after a compression step or it can be injected back into the pipeline.

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—about 54 million DGEs (diesel gallon equivalents) per year—with the built-in capability for further expansion up to 1 million gallons per day. The 250,000-gallon capacity marks a 67% increase over the capacity of the MicroLNG plant that GE Oil & Gas first introduced in January 2012 (150,000-gallon capacity).

GE also is providing turnkey process/plant construction and consultations on optimal plant location and power partner. The scope of the agreement also includes project installation. It entails not only the liquefaction but also the complete process design from the pre-treatment of the gas to the storage system.

The new system will help reduce a fleet operator’s fuel costs by more than 25% 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 US roads—assuming an average truck travels approximately 14,000 miles per year.

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.

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 US. 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 for long-haul Class 8 trucks.

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. 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.

—Dan Heintzelman, president and CEO of GE Oil & Gas

GE’s MicroLNG plant can liquefy natural gas at any point along a gas distribution network, making it suited 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.



"Clean Energy expects to complete approximately 70 LNG stations by the end of 2012, with more planned... In 2013, four major manufacturers will introduce the Cummins Westport 12-liter LNG engine for long-haul Class 8 trucks."

Use what we got for the long haul, batteries/hybrids for the light.


70 stations at 200 miles spacing covers about 14,000 miles of Interstates.  That's about 1/3 of the total mileage of Interstates covered already this year.

It looks like LNG trucks are going to have no issues with fueling opportunities, unlike CNG cars.

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