Fuel supplier Shell appear to have pulled the rug from under trucking operators and truck manufacturers who are looking at Liquefied Natural Gas as an alternative fuel. The company has revealed they are shelving a plan to open a number of LNG refuelling facilities along the Hume Highway.
The main impediment to the development of LNG as a transport fuel has been the dire lack of refuelling facilities in Australia. The plan by Shell to build the eight outlets on the trucking industry’s single busiest artery was seen as an opportunity for operators to try out a real alternative to diesel. LNG is produced in massive volumes within Australia but is only used as a transport fuel in a few small pockets.
In Tasmania a joint development formed by both transport operators and an LNG supplier has opened a number of outlets where the fleets involved can refuel their trucks. The geography of the island has meant the operator was able to identify a small number of sites needed to make the fuel available for most truck trips.
Murray Goulburn run a number of trucks on LNG and have their own fuelling facilities in their own depots. Most of their trucks run depot to depot and can thus refuel on site. The situation is similar for the Mitchell operation in Western Australia. Trucks on a regular run call in to their home depot as they pass to fuel up for the next shift.
The plans of innovative trucking operators look to have been stymied with the issue being caught up in the internal workings of Shell, as they divest themselves of the ownership of their service stations. The initial plan had been part of global policy to promote the use of LNG. New owner of the service stations, Vitol, look unlikely to press ahead with any extension of LNG supply.