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Navistar to team with T. Boone Pickens in natural gas fueling plan

International WorkStar vocational truck powered by the MaxxForce DT compressed natural gas (CNG) engine. Navistar will expand its product line-up and is partnering with Clean Energy for distribution to truck customers.

Navistar International Corp. will start manufacturing big-rig trucks to burn liquid and compressed natural gas by early next year, and it is partnering with gas magnate T. Boone Pickens’ Clean Energy Fuels Corp. to set up a national system of natural-gas fueling stations.

Natural gas has emerged as a cheap fuel source because new technology is letting energy companies jump into a shale-gas drilling frenzy using hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking” as environmentalists call it. The price of natural gas dropped near a 10-year low Wednesday after ExxonMobil and other energy companies declined to cut their production of the fuel.

“It is a less-expensive fuel for our customers, it allows them to ship and move goods on our trucks at lower cost and it reduces our dependence on foreign oil,” said Navistar spokesman Steve Schrier.

Lisle-based Navistar will use an engine produced by Cummins Engines, of Columbus, Ind., for medium- and heavy-duty trucks that burn natural gas, and will develop a new 13-liter engine for heavy-duty trucks. Navistar already makes natural-gas engines for medium and work trucks.

Clean Energy, based in Seal Beach, Calif., plans to open 70 natural gas fueling stations in 33 states by year’s end, many at the company’s Pilot-Flying J truck stops, and eventually expand to 150 stations. Fueling stations are operating at Pilot-Flying J truck stops in Lake Station, Ind., and Downstate LaSalle.