WHEELING - Noting their company spends "$500,000 per day on diesel" fuel, Chesapeake Energy officials are working to make cheaper natural gas a more viable alternative transportation fuel in the coming years.
This will not just include passenger vehicles, however, as Chesapeake believes more natural gas can be used to power airplanes, trains, recreational boats and construction equipment.
As part of Chesapeake's latest statement to investors, the company that has been plagued by investor concerns over Chief Executive Officer Aubrey McClendon's personal dealings by taking a 2.5 percent stake in local drilling operations continues looking for ways to increase demand for its gas - and reduce its $9.5 billion debt.
Though the price of gasoline has dropped slightly over the past few weeks, Chesapeake officials note that "new natural gas engines currently under development and expected to be released soon" are one of the major factors for the increased use of compressed natural gas for transportation. It also notes that environmental regulations will help promote the gas as a cleaner-burning alternative to gasoline.
Chesapeake, the Upper Ohio Valley's largest active gas driller, and General Electric are also partnering to provide easier access to what they say is a more affordable fuel - compressed natural gas. Also, per an agreement with Chesapeake, GE will provide more than 250 modular "CNG in a Box" stations to establish CNG pumps at existing gasoline stations or other locations.
Chesapeake and GE said Peake Fuel Solutions will bring the technology to market. The technology, according to the companies, allows them to take the natural gas from a pipeline and compress it on-site at an industrial location or refilling station. A CNG vehicle, such as a taxi, bus or small truck, can then refill its tank using a traditional fuel dispenser, much like those used for diesel or gasoline refueling.
The companies note that buses and other fleet vehicles are the largest consumers of CNG, especially in certain California cities. Some school buses in Los Angeles are now using compressed natural gas in place of gasoline, while some of California's garbage truck fleets are now using the natural gas. Also, Atlanta is now running some of its public buses on natural gas.
The "price of oil versus price of natural gas is simply too huge to ignore," Chesapeake notes, referring to oil prices in the range of $85-$90 per barrel compared to units of natural gas in the $2-$2.50 range.
According to Chesapeake, GM, Chrysler, Honda and Ford are in the process of developing more natural gas vehicles. For maritime shipping, ports in New York City, New Orleans, Seattle and Miami are those featuring fleets most likely to adopt more natural gas-powered vehicles.
Chesapeake also notes that recreational watercraft are also an area of potential growth in the use of natural gas. Opportunities also lie with using natural gas to power airplanes and trains, the company believes.
Construction companies could also use the fuel for mining, pumping and other activities. With this in mind, the construction project for Chesapeake's new office complex at Fox Commerce Park near St. Clairsville is ongoing. Someday, the company may be able to power these construction vehicles with its own natural gas.