Chesapeake Energy Corp. CEO Aubrey McClendon didn’t mention Frito Lay by name Tuesday at the Oklahoma State University Energy Conference when he expressed optimism about the trucking industry’s future with natural gas.
Maybe he should have.
“The good news is that it’s a win-win for us, both in terms of our sustainability strategy and reducing our costs,” said Michael O’Connell, senior director of fleet capability at Frito-Lay. “The payback for the extra cost of the natural gas trucks is a year and a half, so it’s a little bit of a no-brainer. We retire approximately 125 tractors a year, and we plan to replace as many of them as we can with natural gas.”
He said it could take six to seven years to convert all of the company’s tractor-trailers.
Oklahoma native T. Boone Pickens has been a vocal advocate of converting the nation’s trucking fleet to run on CNG. It is a key component of his eponymous “Pickens Plan,” which he insists can help the U.S. reduce its dependence on foreign oil.
Clean Energy Fuels, a company founded by Pickens, is working to establish a natural gas highway across the U.S. to bolster efforts to get trucking companies to switch to natural gas over diesel. That effort got a boost last year with a $150 million investment by Chesapeake.
Chesapeake has committed to invest $1 billion in a venture capital fund to boost demand for natural gas in transportation.