Chesapeake pushes gas conversion kits for trucks

Chesapeake Energy Corp’s aggressive efforts to get more vehicles to use natural gas continued this week as the company announced a conversion kit to allow long-haul trucks to run on the resource.

Chesapeake, which has struggled with a cash shortage because of lagging demand for the natural gas, said it was developing a diesel-natural gas conversion kit that could help truckers save 30 percent on fuel costs.

The product will be developed by Chesapeake subsidiary Peake Fuel Solutions.

“The trucking industry is the backbone of our nation’s economy, and Peake Fuel Solutions’ (diesel-natural gas) technology can help the industry slash its biggest cost — fuel,” Kent Wilkinson, vice president of natural gas ventures for Chesapeake, said in a statement. “DNG will help accelerate the trucking industry’s shift to a more affordable, domestic fuel.”

The conversion kits will allow trucks to run on a mix of diesel and up to 70 percent natural gas, as either liquefied natural gas or compressed natural gas, Chesapeake said.

That will mean truckers will be able to save money by buying natural gas, which costs 50 percent less than diesel on an energy-equivalent basis, the company said.

The kits are expected to cost an average of $35,000, Chesapeake spokesman Bob Jarvis said in an email.

Chesapeake, which is the nation’s second-largest natural gas producer after Exxon Mobil, expects fuel savings to allow truck drivers to make up for the conversion kit costs in 18 months.

The kits are the latest move by Chesapeake to boost natural gas use in vehicles. The company partnered with GE this year to develop and release its CNG in a Box refueling systems. The systems are essentially containers containing compressed natural gas conversion systems that can be connected to natural gas lines and serve refueling pumps.

The company has also voiced support for efforts spearheaded by Clean Energy Fuels to build 150 natural gas refueling stations at truck stops nationwide.

Despite the efforts to promote natural gas use as a substitute for diesel, the fuel still has its detractors.

Compressed natural gas can require more space and heavier tanks for the equivalent amount of energy content, cutting down on the amount of weight a trucker can carry.

While liquefied natural gas options are more comparable with diesel options, in terms of weight and space of fuel and fuel tanks, some critics say LNG options can still cut into load carrying capacity.