Companies with significant exposure to the market for natural gas transportation have obviously received a lot of attention recently following the announcement last week of a co-marketing agreement for LNG transportation between oil major Shell (RDS-A) and Westport (WPRT), a provider of natural gas engine technology.
This makes the release of Pike’s new annual global sales forecasts for natural gas vehicles particularly timely and worth a look.
According to Pike Research, there are currently 12.6 million natrual gas vehicles (NGVs) in the world. These are mainly located in Latin America, the Middle East and Africa. Meanwhile, annual sales of NGVs reached about 1.9 million globally in 2010.
Pike’s research suggests that sales will now grow significantly going forward, reaching 3.2 million by 2016 – a jump of 68%. Most importantly, Pike believes that the key driving force will be fleet owners looking to cut down on their petroleum bills. As a percentage of total global sales, commercial NGVs are expected to rise from 59% today to 65% by 2016.
For the US, Pike sees sales growing even faster. From a fairly low base of 8,400 in 2012, sales are expected to quadruple to 33,000 vehicles by 2016. Moreover, some 90% of the NGVs sold in the US in 2016 are expected to be for commercial use. Clearly, this would be a significant market for a company like Westport.
The market for NGVs in the US is currently limited, particularly in terms of personal transportation, by the large costs associated with building natural gas stations. The following numbers from AutoObserver highlight the issue:
“As of Sept. 1, there were 901 CNG stations and 45 liquefied natural gas (LNG) stations in the U.S., compared to about 2,600 propane stations, more than 2,400 E85 stations and almost 3,200 publicly accessible electric-vehicle charging stations, according to the U.S. Energy Department’s Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center (AFDC). There are about 125,000 conventional gas stations in the U.S”.
However, the task of providing an LNG station network for commercial trucking fleets is not quite so onerous since it can be effectively focused on the main trucking corridors. This provides Pike with more optimism on their commercial NGV forecasts for the US.
All of this is certainly supportive for Westport of course. And this is particularly true in the light of the company’s recent agreement with Shell. You can read a fuller discussion and assessment of the implications of this agreement here, with a further update here.
Disclosure: I have no positions in the stocks discussed.