Chinese Firm Plans U.S. Rollout of Natural Gas Fueling Stations

LOS ANGELES -- Chinese firm ENN Group Co Ltd., one of the largest private companies in that country, is planning to launch a network of natural gas fueling stations for trucks along United States highways, according to Reuters. The company plans to build 50 stations in 2013 alone.

After first exploring the idea of extending its reach to the U.S. two years ago, ENN partnered with Utah-based CH4 Energy Corp., which had opened one liquid natural gas (LNG) and compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling station in Salt Lake City with the assistance of federal stimulus funds. The venture in turn created Transfuels LLC, which operates as Blu LNG.

ENN has a majority stake in the new company and controls its board of directors, while CH4 founder Merritt Norton will serve as Blu's chief executive. ENN Vice President Jun Yang serves as chairman of Blu, according to the report.

"We have five stations in operation right now, and within two weeks we [expect to] have another three stations," Norton stated in a recent interview.

Despite the big plans, ENN and Blu have been quiet regarding plans for the network due to the possibility of the news drawing in competition, reported Reuters, which added that a source close to the situation stated that the company is conducting "an experiment" as it tests the market. Another source stated Blu's eventual plan is to build approximately 500 LNG stations in the U.S., but a company spokesman said that the exact number depends on a number of factors.

Blu did not comment on its ownership structure or board of directors, and said it was unable to comment on behalf of ENN.

While Blu does not have a deal with a national truck stop owner at this time, it is working with some regional companies, according to Norton. The company employs between 50 and 100 people.

Recently, ENN signed a global deal with natural gas engine maker Westport Innovations to partner on speeding up the proliferation of natural gas as a transportation fuel. However, Westport is not involved with the planned Blu network.

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