Natural gas producers and big trucks are joining forces to make New England manufacturers and other big customers more competitive by providing a “virtual pipeline” of compressed natural gas, according to a recent Boston Globe article.

Thanks in part to the hydraulic fracturing technique that has unlocked the valuable resource from the ground, the New England region has abundant supplies of natural gas. Accordingly, the price of natural gas has plummeted in comparison to fuel oil and propane.

That low cost has drawn interest from many potential industrial, commercial and institutional customers. But quite often, these large factories and facilities are in rural areas without access to natural gas pipelines.

Enter companies such as Innovative natural Gas, NG Advantage and Xpress Natural Gas, which have established processing plants to compress natural gas and pump it into containers that are trucked to areas where pipelines don’t reach.

“It’s very important for rural parts of the region to have service like this because you start to lose jobs and close factories very quickly if you’re competing with companies on pipelines,” said NG Advantage co-founder Tom Evslin in an interview with the Boston Globe.

The “virtual pipeline” is made possible through new tractor-trailer technology that incorporates four 40-foot carbon-fiber tubes to hold enough compressed natural gas to heat three average homes for a year.

Evslin’s company has spent $15.5 million on a 31-truck fleet serving 21 industrial, commercial and institutional customers.

In Keene, N.H., the Cheshire Medical Center made the swap from fuel oil to compressed natural gas to heat its community hospital facilities. With the switch, hospital officials said they expect to cut one-third of the $1.5 million they had been spending each year to heat buildings with fuel oil.