Orange County Business Journal

Clean Energy to Build Natural Gas Station for Florida Logistics Company

Chris Casacchia Monday, October 3, 2011

Seal Beach-based Clean Energy Fuels Corp. signed a deal to build and operate a compressed natural-gas truck fueling station for Saddle Creek Transportation Inc.’s headquarters and warehouse in Lakeland, Florida, between Orlando and Tampa.

Saddle Creek provides trucking, warehousing, fulfillment services, contract packing and other logistical support for retailers and other companies.

The deal calls for Clean Energy to operate the station for 10 years.

It’s believed to be the first of its kind in the state for the commercial sector.

Construction is under way and the fueling station is scheduled to open in December.

Saddle Creek expects to have 40 new natural gas trucks in use by the end of the year and another 40 in early 2012, executives said.

Investors shrugged off news of the deal, and sent Clean Energy shares down about 4.5% in midday trading to a market value of about $744 million.

The Saddle Creek contract is the latest in a string of recent Clean Energy deals that aim to bring a low-cost, low-carbon alternative to diesel fuel to a broader market.

The company has secured $300 million in funding since July to back its plan to develop corridors of natural gas fueling stations throughout the country and other projects.

In August it secured $150 million from three Asian investment funds to continue building the network. In addition to construction, funding will be used for marketing, purchasing delivery trucks, and hiring management and maintenance personnel, the company said.

That investment followed another $150 million investment from Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp. in July.

Chesapeake’s investment was for some 150 liquid natural gas fueling stations at Pilot-Flying J Travel Centers across the U.S. The goal is to establish what Clean Energy is calling “America’s Natural Gas Highway.”

When the multi-year project concludes, major transportation arteries in California, Texas and the Midwest are expected to have natural gas stations spread out every 250 miles or so.

Clean Energy has annual revenue of more than $200 million and hopes to clear earnings hurdles by building a network of fueling stations for the largest segment of the market: heavy-duty haulers that consume some $30 billion of fuel annually.

That dwarfs the public sector and waste management industries combined.

Legendary oilman and corporate raider T. Boone Pickens started Clean Energy as a tiny part of his Dallas-based Mesa Petroleum in the late 1980s. He split it off in the late 1990s.