Doug Clark helped Omaha's natural gas company become a local leader in selling liquefied and compressed natural gas to commercial customers.
Now Clark plans to help Tenaska Inc. of Omaha become a North American leader in liquefied natural gas (LNG) and compressed natural gas (CNG), an energy segment with potential for significant growth.
With Clark on board as vice president and lead executive, Tenaska today will announce that it is forming a new company, Tenaska NG Fuels LLC.
Clark was president of Metropolitan Utilities District until he joined Tenaska 13 days ago. He also is chairman of Natural Gas Vehicles for America, a trade group that has been advocating natural gas-powered vehicles for years.
Dave Neubauer, president of the new company and of Tenaska BioFuels, said Clark was hired with the intention of forming the new company to meet the rising demand for natural gas as a fuel for high-horsepower engines.
Locomotives, ocean-going vessels, drilling rigs, mining equipment and other heavy-duty motors can save money and reduce pollution by using natural gas, Neubauer said. Tenaska plans to bring its developing and marketing expertise to that growing market.
Clark said MUD's gas liquefication plant near 120th and Fort Streets was designed mainly to supply fuel during MUD's highest-demand winter days. At MUD, he worked to turn the publicly owned utility into a prime supplier of LNG in the region.
Through its new division, Tenaska expects to be a major part of that industry throughout North America. The privately owned company had revenue of $7.2 billion in 2012.
Since it was founded in 1987, Tenaska has developed a range of expertise that the new company can use, Clark said, including raising capital for facilities that can cost as much as $150 million each; building and operating liquefaction plants; supplying natural gas; and marketing to customers.
The sharp increase in natural gas production in North America in recent years is driving the new industry because of the falling price of natural gas, Clark said.
Even with the energy needed to turn natural gas into a liquid by cooling it to minus-260 degrees, it's a money-saving alternative to diesel fuel, he said. “The spread is a compelling spread.”
Emissions from LNG and CNG are as much as 25 percent lower, he said, an advantage as new pollution limits take effect. Compressed natural gas also is becoming a viable replacement for gasoline, a trend the new Tenaska company plans to embrace.
So far the new company has three employees, a number that could grow to 10 or 15 by the end of next year, Clark said. The new company is in the Tenaska BioFuels building at 1045 N. 115th St. and would move along with Tenaska's other Omaha businesses to a new headquarters to open next year near 144th Street and West Dodge Road.
Clark said Tenaska won't build an LNG plant in Omaha because the MUD facility already meets that demand, but many areas of the country need more LNG and CNG capacity.
In North Dakota, energy producers plan to drill 35,000 new natural gas wells next year. Powering drilling rigs with LNG would be an economic and environmental gain, Clark said.
Neubauer said there has been a lot of talk and excitement about the industry's potential but not much action because siting, building and operating the facilities isn't easy.
That's where Tenaska's expertise in engineering, finance and other skills is an advantage, he said.