The roadblocks to a Natural Gas revolution

Management Jason Cannon June 25, 2013

Math and “pencil pushers” won’t bring about a revolution in America’s fueling preferences according to Thomas O’Brien, president and CEO TravelCenters of America, who spoke before an audience gathered at the ACT Expo in Washington D.C. Tuesday.

Instead, revolution will come from visionaries who are willing to overcome what O’Brien called three “roadblocks” between themselves and the adaptation of natural gas.

Roadblock No. 1: Natural gas equipment costs more.

Roadblock No. 2: If demand for natural gas goes up, price will go with it.

Roadblock No.3: There’s little to no infrastructure “On cost of investment…everybody has heard ‘do the math’,” O’Brien says. “Nobody really cares anymore. We’ve deemed that the math is close enough.”

O’Brien added there are more than two sides to the natural gas story – a third party has emerged from traditional pro- and anti-change camps.

“I think the majority is the group of us who are convinced that the ultimate answer will not be found just in the math,” he says. “Getting into natural gas today increases operating flexibility in the future. And that future may include a variety of fuel choices.”

“Economic benefit for using natural gas over-the-road will persist over time,” he says, “and has even greater savings potential (over diesel),  even if demand for diesel is replaced with demand for natural gas.”

O’Brien says infrastructure will come with demand, which will be driven by the number of natural gas trucks on the road.

“The pace of adaptation is accelerating,” he says. “In a recent survey, 61 percent of fleet managers say they have natural gas vehicles already in their fleet, with another 11 percent saying they plan to add natural gas trucks. Only 19 percent said had no plans to incorporate natural gas trucks.”

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