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The maritime shipping industry is on the verge of busting into the age of natural gas, as Royal Dutch Shell Plc (NYSE: RDS-A ) , General Electric Co. (NYSE: GE ) , and Clean Energy Fuels Corp. (NASDAQ: CLNE ) storm the scene with big plans and big investment.
GE is looking at five locations for LNG plants for merchant fleets, while Shell is planning LNG plants for the Great Lakes and Gulf Coast and Clean Energy Fuels Corp. -- launched by T. Boone Pickens -- will start construction on the first LNG fuel station for cargo ships in the U.S. in 2014.
U.S. gas output is at an all-time high, and Shell is convinced that we have arrived at the doorstep of the "age of gas" for the maritime shipping industry, while GE predicts that America will require up to 100 small-scale LNG plants for land and sea shipping by 2025 -- at $50-$150 million each.
For the maritime shipping industry, which relies largely on oil for its fuel, the trend has already begun amid an atmosphere of abundant domestic natural gas supplies and more stringent emissions restrictions that make cleaner natural gas more viable.
"As demonstrated in trucks, buses and other NGVs on land, using natural gas as a transportation fuel can provide significant reductions in emission, compared with diesel. The pricing and availability of natural gas also make it highly competitive from an economic perspective, compared with more traditional marine fuels," according to experts at the American Oil & Gas Reporter.
By 2014, the Pickens Plan predicts that globally we will see a tripling of LNG-powered merchant ships and a 42-fold increase by 2020.
"Within the next five to 10 years, LNG will become the main fuel source for all marine transportation," the Daily Pickens quoted Jersey-based TOTE CEO Anthony Chiarello as saying. TOTE has ordered the biggest container ships to date, slated for delivery in 2015 and 2016.
"It's going to catch on. When those ships are actually plying the seas and people are then able to calculate the emissions impact and the possible cost savings, they can do all that math and say, 'This is really a good decision.'"
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