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Clean Energy Eyes Hydrogen For New Transportation Uses

Newport Beach-based Clean Energy Fuels Corp., a provider of renewable natural gas made from organic waste for the transportation industry, is looking further into a different type of fuel—hydrogen—as it hits the 25-year mark for operations.

“In our 25 years we’ve never seen this amount of interest and excitement within the (clean energy fuels) industry, and the industry’s really evolved and grown,” said Senior Vice President for sales Chad Lindholm on April 14.

He added: “Renewable gas is here right now and can provide emission reductions, as well as overall economic savings.”

The company (Nasdaq: CLNE) was formed in 1997 by famed Texas oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens and current President and CEO Andrew Littlefair.

Lindholm said the founders always foresaw the stature the company has now—it’s Orange County’s largest public company in the renewable energy sector, valued around $1.6 billion—but “they thought it would happen a lot sooner.”

“We are finally at what we consider an inflection point with significant upside,” he says.

Clean Energy allows thousands of vehicles, from airport shuttles to city buses to waste and heavy-duty trucks, to reduce their amount of climate-harming greenhouse gas. The company operates a large network of fueling stations across the U.S. and Canada.

Multi-Fuel Future

Lindholm foresees a “whole array of technologies” like RNG, hydrogen and electricity powering vehicles in the future, with each having applications they are better suited for.

“We strongly believe it will be a multi-fuel future for various fleets and various vehicle applications,” he says. “Electric is generally proven and good in a light-duty consumer vehicle application.”

Renewable natural gas on the other hand is made for heavier vehicles including trucks and buses.

Another technology is hydrogen, which is being used for city bus services among other areas.

“That’s an area that we have been involved in,” according to Lindholm.

Clean Energy will “continue to look at various projects where it makes sense for us to support operators that are in demonstrations projects for hydrogen. The transit space is really where that technology is today,” Lindholm said.

“If and when that technology is viable as well as economic, we’ll be in a position certainly to support it,” according to Lindholm.

He added: “We’re looking into it. We’re actively participating in demonstration projects.”

Foothill Transit

Clean Energy said in October it had won a contract to design, construct, and maintain a hydrogen station and supply liquid hydrogen fuel for environmentally friendly bus service Foothill Transit of West Covina.

“Being awarded our first hydrogen station and supply contract for Foothill Transit is very important to Clean Energy because it demonstrates our ability to move to different alternative fuels as our customers expand to other technologies,” CEO Littlefair said at the time.

The company on April 13 said it continues to meet the growing demand for renewable natural gas with new fueling contracts, infrastructure expansions, and RNG production projects.

According to an update report, the contracts include LA County Metro, San Diego’s regional transportation network and Santa Monica’s municipal buses.

The agreements also stretch across the country and into Canada.

First-quarter earnings for the company are scheduled to be released on May 5.

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Kevin Costelloe
Kevin Costelloe
Tech reporter at Orange County Business Journal
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