The Laclede Group Inc., a Missouri-based utility holding company, is partnering with Siemens Industry Inc. to launch Spire, a new comprehensive solution for fleets’ natural gas fueling needs.
The companies say Spire is designed to cover the end-to-end process of developing compressed natural gas (CNG) refueling infrastructure, including financing; station design, construction and operation; facility maintenance and improvements; and other details.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of this announcement is the depth of experience and long histories that both of these firms embody. Siemens is probably the more conspicuous player in the partnership, but Laclede is a powerhouse in its own right.
The company was among the first dozen American businesses that comprised the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1896, and revenues exceed more than $1 billion annually today. Laclede is focused squarely on natural gas sales, marketing and distribution.
Mike Spotanski, Laclede’s senior vice president and chief integration and innovation officer, tells NGT News that the company is also bringing to the table a wealth of natural gas vehicle (NGV) expertise. Laclede began deploying NGVs in its own fleet more than three decades ago, and it opened its first CNG refueling station 15 years ago.
The company still owns and operates that public-access station, which is located in Shrewsbury, outside of St. Louis. It currently pumps a modest amount of CNG – approximately 5,500 gallons a month – but it serves as a critical fueling link for NGVs that are leaving OEMs and upfitters in greater Detroit and heading to points south along I-55.
With Spire, Laclede is drawing from Siemens’ deep pool of talent and ability in the engineering and design/build arenas. Tom Schultz, Laclede’s manager of NGV business development, calls the partnership with Siemens a ‘key element’ of what the Spire solution will be able to deliver to fleets.
The first project to fall under the Spire banner is a public-access CNG refueling station that will be built off I-70 and Cypress Rd. near the Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. At least 150 natural gas vehicles from various fleets – including those of Park Express, a Lambert-St. Louis shuttle and transportation company – will refuel at the facility.
The St. Louis Airport Commission OKed the project last month, and the final approval will come from the city of St. Louis and the St. Louis Board of Aldermen.
Going forward, Laclede does expect Spire to serve fleets located within its natural gas supply territory around St. Louis, but also far outside it. In such cases, Siemens and Laclede will be working with other natural gas utilities and various partners, from CNG equipment providers to corporations, municipalities and other fleets that are looking to take advantage of the fuel-cost savings that CNG offers.
‘We’d like to look at any opportunity,’ Spotanski says. ‘There are solutions for any kind of fleet.’
Photo: A Class 8 truck fueling at Laclede’s CNG station in Shrewsbury, Mo. Courtesy of Laclede Group.