Why Alternative Fuel Vehicles Still Make Sense


There’s no denying that many early alternative fuel adopters made the transition years ago because gasoline and diesel were much more expensive in comparison. Although anyone at the pump knows traditional transportation fuel prices have remained relatively low for a while now, what might be in store for gasoline and diesel costs in the near future? And, more importantly, why are fleets across the U.S. still switching to alternative fuels, such as natural gas or propane autogas?

Regarding the first question, NGT News turned to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Jonathan Cogan, spokesperson for the government agency, said the EIA found that average U.S. retail prices for gasoline and diesel in 2017 rose to $2.42/gal and $2.65/gal, respectively. Furthermore, the EIA forecasts further increases in the coming year and 2019.

“EIA expects the retail price of regular gasoline to average $2.51/gal during the first quarter of 2018, $0.19/gal higher than at the same time last year, primarily reflecting higher crude oil prices,” explained Cogan. “EIA expects that the U.S. monthly retail price of regular gasoline will increase from an average of $2.54/gal in January to a 2018 peak of $2.63/gal in August before falling to $2.47/gal in December 2018. The U.S. regular gasoline retail price, which averaged $2.42/gal in 2017, is forecast to average $2.57/gal in 2018 and $2.58/gal in 2019.”

Similarly, Cogan said, “The diesel fuel retail price averaged $2.65/gal in 2017, which was $0.34/gal higher than the average in 2016. The diesel price is forecast to average $2.95/gal in 2018 and $3.01/gal in 2019, driven higher primarily by higher crude oil prices and growing global diesel demand.”

Granted, despite the expected increases, those prices still aren’t as high as those that helped spur the alternative fuel vehicle revolution years ago.

“The reality is that, in 2017, the difference between natural gas and diesel was not significant,” said Daniel Gage, president of natural gas vehicle (NGV) trade group NGVAmerica.

“I hate to speculate on EIA forecasts, because they are just that – forecasts that often don’t prove true,” claimed Gage, who later acknowledged that “when diesel prices rise higher and higher, owners of larger fleets often look to other, lower-priced alternative fuel options like natural gas.

However, switching to an alternative fuel offers fleets a variety of benefits aside from potentially lower fuel prices alone.

Basin Disposal's (of Washington State) new CNG-powered residential garbage truck

“First, it’s environmentally friendly,” said Gage. Indeed, state and local governments and small and major companies are increasingly setting sustainability goals. Transportation fuels like natural gas and propane autogas help these institutions achieve their targets because the alternative fuels burn much cleaner than conventional fuel and, thus, reduce harmful emissions. In addition, Gage says the use of U.S.-produced alternative fuels “contributes to energy security and reduces our nation’s reliance on petroleum-based fuels,” which are often imported.

NGVs and autogas vehicles also often perform better in colder temperatures and require less maintenance than diesel vehicles. In the case of maintenance savings with natural gas, Gage said, “Its lack of lead means no fouling of spark plugs; crankcase oil is not diluted or contaminated. Its cleaner burning extends intervals between oil changes and tune-ups. It does not react to metal, so it is less corrosive.”

Phil Squair, senior vice president of governmental and public affairs at the National Propane Gas Association (NPGA), added, “There is no question that economic factors are the primary reason consumers switch from one fuel to another.”

That’s why continued support through federal, state and local funding is essential.

For example, Squair said, “State policies play a major role in autogas vehicle adoption.” Gage agreed about the importance of such policies, saying, “States can impact the adoption of natural gas technology primarily through the adoption of incentives and the supported development of refueling infrastructure.”

Myriad states have a long history of providing incentives to help fleets offset the cost of purchasing alternative fuel vehicles and to help fund the build-out of infrastructure. For example, Pennsylvania recently awarded more than $1.1 million to support five projects through its Alternative Fuel Incentive Grants program. Such programs throughout the country have spurred alternative fuel vehicle adoption and a growing network of refueling stations.

Squair noted that NPGA is also “pressing state regulators to adopt propane technologies” when using states’ funding from the Volkswagen diesel-emissions scandal settlement. “Propane is a very economic solution compared with other options, so state energy and other goals can be advanced in this manner,” he said. NGVAmerica has also launched a similar initiative advocating NGV adoption.

On the federal level, NGVAmerica and NPGA recently teamed up to push for the renewal of lapsed alternative fuel tax credits.

“The extension of the alternative fuel tax credit is so important,” stated Squair. “We are working with hundreds of other organizations to pass an extenders bill this Congress.”

Fleet adoption

Many fleets, large and small, still find alternative fuel vehicles attractive.

According to Gage, “Refuse and transit players are dominant in the [NGV] market. But medium- and heavy-duty vehicles and high-fuel-use applications – like smaller shuttle buses, delivery trucks, and light-duty pickups – also are popular natural gas candidates. Since natural gas vehicles can be refueled quickly (just like gas/diesel) or through time fill (slowly overnight, for example), it works for long-haul trucking along refueling corridors and fleets that return to base nightly.”

WIH Resource Group Fleet Fueling Solutions

Check out WIH Resource Group’s “Alternative Fuel Fleet Solutions” by clicking on the image above!

For example, Waste Management, a Houston-based provider of waste management services in North America, continues its major transition to natural gas as part of its sustainability efforts. The company currently operates a fleet of over 6,000 natural-gas-powered trucks, and it recently revealed plans for more compressed natural gas (CNG) refuse trucks slated for a new facility in South Carolina.

In a press release, Tracey Shrader, the area president for Waste Management, said, “We continue to be a leader in our industry by investing in CNG infrastructure and trucks fueled by CNG – a win for our customers, the environment, and Waste Management.”

When announcing a Miami-Dade Transit order for 300 CNG buses early last year, Alice N. Bravo, Miami-Dade County’s department of transportation and public works director, said, “By upgrading our fleet with CNG buses, we’re implementing a cost-effective approach to the reduction of our dependency on petroleum-based fuel and lowering our maintenance costs.”

In October, several United States Postal Service (USPS) contract-carriers inked CNG fuel- supply deals for new heavy-duty trucks. At the time, USPS’ Bridget Rice said, “Our carriers live in the very same communities we serve, and we continue to look for ways to reduce our impact on the environment. Since 2005, we have increased the use of alternative fuels by 141 percent, and we are encouraged that our contract-carriers are using alternative fuels as well.”

As for autogas, there has been “strong growth” of propane-powered bus adoption among school districts across the nation, according to Squair.

For example, Township High School District 211 in Illinois recently announced plans to add 15 autogas buses to its fleet. When explaining the decision, Diana Mikelski, District 211’s director of transportation, called propane “a good fit” and said it had “an overall lower cost, is more environmentally friendly and has increased winter reliability.”

Mikelski added, “Diesel buses have to be plugged in during the winter. Even then, the fuel can gel if it’s too cold. With propane buses, the fuel is not subject to gelling and the buses do not require electricity.”

In Ohio, Laketran recently announced an expansion of its propane-powered partransit bus fleet. General Manager Ben Capelle reported “positive feedback” from drivers and riders on its current autogas vehicles and said the agency is “reducing our fuel expenses by 35 percent and saving on maintenance expenses.”

In December, beverage company Nestle Waters North America announced it was significantly boosting its propane-powered fleet to 600 vehicles with the addition of 400 medium-duty delivery trucks.

We’ve been running propane autogas vehicles since 2014, beginning with five Class 5 vehicles,” explained Bill Ardis, national fleet manager for the company’s ReadyRefresh unit. “Based on the proven emissions reduction compared with our older diesel units, and lower fuel and total cost of ownership, we knew this was the right application for us within the alternative fuel space.”

According to Squair, “Other areas of [autogas] growth include law enforcement and first responder vehicles, as well as commercial lawn mowing.”

Looking ahead

Squair and Gage seem optimistic about autogas and natural gas vehicle adoption, respectively.

For Gage’s part, he said, “Steady growth for NGVs appears likely – for both traditional on-road applications like trucks, trash, and transit – but also for off-road applications for mining and construction vehicles, and high-horsepower applications like rail, and open water/inland waterway marine.

Of course, natural gas and autogas aren’t the only alternative fuel options, either. For example, fleets are also increasingly going electric. Whether it be through a municipal deployment of light-duty electric vehicles in Virginia, a large roll-out of hybrid vans for telecommunications giant Verizon, or an order of electric transit buses slated for Los Angeles, fleet operators consider electric technology another viable, cost-effective alternative to diesel and gasoline.

Despite the best predictions, future prices for conventional fuels are nearly guaranteed to stay volatile. Nevertheless, the future for alternative fuel adoption – and the many benefits associated with a cleaner transportation sector – remains promising.

Source: NGT News & WIH Resource Group All rights reserved

Also check out this great book by Author Tracy Todaro Wallace: “Forget What You Think You Know“, now on Amazon at https://goo.gl/1BBxm6

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ABOUT WIH RESOURCE GROUP, INC. (WRG)

WIH Resource Group is global leader providing of diversified environmental (waste and recycling), financial, expert witness services, transportation / logistics consulting solutions to its Clients throughout North America and internationally.

WRG provides solutions to complex challenges to its clients in the areas of environmental, alternative fuel fleet conversion studies, customer satisfaction surveys, fleet management matters, equipment and assets valuations, mergers & acquisitions (M&A), landfill gas management, renewable energy, waste & recycling collections, business process improvement, procurement services assistance, waste management operations, recycling processing, transfer stations, operational performance assessments (OPAs), recycling facilities (MRFs) studies, transportation and other feasibility and related financial analysis.

Formed in 2005, WRG’s Team consists of subject matter experts from the waste, recycling, alternative fuels, and transportation industries from both the public and private sectors.  WRG’s Team of experts have over 150 years of combined experience.

CLICK HERE to learn more about the rest of the Team of subject matter experts at WIH Resource Group.

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WIH Resource Group is a leader in all of the key markets that it serves. WIH Resource Group provides a blend of global reach, local knowledge, innovation and technical excellence in delivering solutions that create, enhance and sustain the world’s built, natural and social environments.  WIH Resource Group serves clients in more than 175 key markets internationally.

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Alternative Fuels In Refuse Collection Vehicles (CNG and LNG) – WIH Resource Group


About the White Paper

The White Paper is developed by WIH Resource Group (WIH) and was created from industry research and analysis of the current use of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) in refuse (municipal solid waste – MSW) collection vehicles by both public sector agencies and private sector service providers throughout the United States.  The waste management industry’s interest in this information is to assess the potential for utilizing CNG fueled refuse collection vehicles in their own organizations or subcontracted solid waste and recycling collection vehicles and operations. 

CNG Garbage Truck

CNG Fueled Refuse Collection Truck

 The surveys and interviews conducted by WIH’s Staff with various cities and other private sector companies that currently utilize and operate CNG fleets, centered on securing industry experience, data and knowledge on the following key items of interest to the waste management industry, both public and private sectors:

  •  CNG Engine reliability;
  • Optimal CNG engine type (manufacturer)
  • Average age of CNG fueled fleets & life expectancy of CNG fueled fleets;
  • Average R&M and operational costs of CNG fueled fleets;
  • Determination of the overall reliability of CNG fueling systems;
  • Assessment of the legal payload impacts, i.e. contrasting standard diesel collection vehicle payloads to that of CNG fueled trucks (CNG fueled vehicles have heavier tare weights due to the need for larger fuel tanks), including transportation routing cost impacts to and from disposal sites;
  • Review of the available grant funding from the State, EPA and Federal agencies to assist in capital costs of fleet acquisition and ongoing operating costs;
  • Assessment of the effects of CNG fuels and fueling in cold winter climates and elevation changes which require full trucks to transport up inclines.

 Summary of Table of Contents

The White Paper is organized into five sections, plus Appendices.  The sections of the White Paper are listed below.

n   Section 1 – Introduction and Project Approach

n   Section 2 – Refuse Collection Vehicles

n   Section 3 – Industry Research and Interviews

n   Section 4 – Natural Gas and Compressed Natural Gas

n   Section 5 – Evaluation of Key Issues and Recommendations

n   Appendices

 White Paper Highlights by Section

 Section One

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WIH Resource Group

In August 2008, a U.S. City’s Public Works Department, Solid Waste Programs Division, retained the services of WIH Resource Group (WIH) to assist their jurisdiction in researching the use of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fuel as an alternative to traditional diesel fuel in its contracted residential refuse and recycling collection vehicles currently operated under contract by private third party solid waste and recycling collections service provider.

 Section Two

In the United States approximately 155,000 refuse trucks operate and burn approximately 1.2 billion gallons of diesel fuel a year, releasing almost 27 billion pounds of the greenhouse gas, CO2. Every gallon of diesel fuel burnt emits more than 22 pounds of CO2. In addition to contributing to global climate change, diesel-fueled trash trucks are one of the most concentrated sources of health-threatening air pollution in virtually all cities. 

 Section Three

CNG is natural gas that has been compressed into a high-pressure container for transportation. Since the 1960s, CNG has become a vehicle fuel alternative to oil-based gasoline and diesel fuel. The International Association for Natural Gas Vehicles estimates that more than one million vehicles worldwide operate on CNG.

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Fuel Storage Cylinders

In the United States more than 1,300 CNG refueling stations are available. The total includes public service stations and private depot-based refueling stations intended to serve fleets.  Several companies provide CNG/LNG refueling infrastructure to fleets on a component or turnkey basis.

Section Four

 The WIH Resource Group project team conducted a series of interviews and meetings with individuals that are subject matter experts (SMEs) from public agencies, private sector solid waste collection companies and CNG industry suppliers of both fuel and engines.

 The average price of natural gas is up to $1.00 less per diesel gallon equivalent (DGE) and refuse truck operators can get fixed-price, multi-year natural gas fueling contracts from CNG and NG fuel suppliers like Clean Energy.

 The use of natural gas as a vehicle fuel helps reduce U.S. dependence on foreign crude oil. In 2005, 64% of the crude oil used in the United States was imported from foreign sources other than Canada. By comparison, in 2005, an estimated 97% of the natural gas used in the United States was supplied from the United States and Canada, making it less vulnerable to foreign supply disruption and price volatility.

 Prior to the interviews, each organization was provided a list of the issues that it would be asked about in its interview. A list of the issues that were discussed during these interviews is provided in Table 1.

Table 1 – Private Sector Companies and Public Agencies Interview Questions

Issue
1. CNG Engine Reliability Compared to Diesel Engines
2. Optimal Engine Manufacturer
3. Average Age of CNG & Life Expectancy
4. Average R&M and operational costs of CNG fueled fleets
5. Overall Reliability of CNG Fueling Systems
6. Legal Payload Impacts – CNG verses Diesel-powered vehicles
7. Grant Funding and Tax incentives
8. Effects of CNG fuels and fueling in cold weather climates and elevation changes

Section Five

CNG Fueled Garbage Truck at the Golden Gate Bridge

The CNG market is more stable than the gasoline market. CNG generally costs 15 to 40 percent less than gasoline or diesel. CNG requires more frequent refueling, however, because it contains only about a quarter of the energy by volume of gasoline. In addition, CNG vehicles cost between $1,500 and $3,500 annually more than their diesel-powered counterparts. This is primarily due to the higher cost of the fuel cylinders. As the popularity and production of CNG fuel refuse collection vehicles continues to increases, CNG vehicle costs are decreasing.

Once new natural gas trucks are in service, their operators stand to save money. Not only has the price of natural gas been significantly lower than that of diesel fuel for many years (approximately $.50 per diesel gallon equivalent (DGE) cheaper), but an excise tax credit available under the Energy Policy Act (2005) has made this fuel an even better bargain. Estimated savings for new 20 compressed natural gas trucks for the City’s Solid Waste Division is contemplating purchasing, may produce fuel savings of more than $157,894 per year over diesel fuel.

 Appendices

Appendix A – Public and Private Sector Interviews

Appendix B – Federal Tax Credit Fact Sheet

Appendix C – Cummins Westport, Inc. ISL-G Engine Specifications

Appendix D – Natural Gas Vehicles in the World 2007

Appendix E – U.S. Natural Gas Distribution Pipeline Network

Appendix F – Alternative Fuel Resources

Appendix G – Cummins Westport Press Release – Tax Credits

Bob Wallace

About The Author:  Bob Wallace, Principal and Vice President of Client Solutions, WIH Resource Group, Inc. (WIH) and Waste Savings, Inc. (WSI), former Boardmember SWANA ~ State of Arizona Chapter (Solid Waste Association of North America), APWA (American Public Works) ~ National Solid Waste Rate Setting Advisory Committee and Member of WASTEC (Waste Equipment Technology Association) NSWMA ~ Phoenix, Arizona USA. (bwallace@wihresourcegroup.com).

Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Fuel Use in Refuse Collection Vehicles Industry White Paper
Available for Purchasing:  Entire 50-plus page report and Appendices:

$299.00 US Funds – Visa and Mastercard Accepted.

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Phone:  480.241.9994 ~ E-mail:  admin@wihrg.com

Source:  WIH Resource Group

Should you have any questions about this news or general questions about our diversified services, please contact Bob Wallace, Principal & VP of Client Solutions at WIH Resource Group and Waste Savings, Inc. at admin@wihrg.com

Feel free to visit our websites for additional information on our services at: http://www.wihrg.com and http://www.wastesavings.net and our daily blog at https://wihresourcegroup.wordpress.com

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EPA Proposes Stricter Ozone Standard – WIH RESOURCE GROUP


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday proposed to lower ground-level ozone standards from those set in March 2008. The tighter so-called “smog” regulations would require power plants to cut their emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and other volatile organic compounds.

The new rule changes the cap for ground-level ozone from 0.075 parts per million (ppm) emitted during any eight-hour period to between 0.060 and 0.070 ppm. It would  be gradually implemented between now and 2030. A final rule is expected by Aug. 31.

The EPA had stayed implementation of the 2008 ozone standards while it performed its review. Now it is proposing an accelerated implementation plan for the newly proposed standard. States would recommend areas to be designated as not in attainment of the revised standard in January 2011, with final determinations by the EPA by July 2011. State implementation plans for the new ozone standards would be due to the agency by December 2013. Additionally, states would be required to comply with the primary standard between 2014 and 2031.

The EPA chose to revise the new standards for ozone at 40 C.F.R. Parts 50 and 58 after New York and 13 other states and environmental groups filed several suits challenging the 2008 standards, contending that they were too weak to protect public health. The standards were also challenged by Mississippi and a coalition of industry groups that argued the standards were too strict.

The new standards—a long overdue action—were based on “the best science,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson last week. The decision was made after a review of the science that guided the 2008 decision, including more than 1,700 scientific studies and public comments from the 2008 rulemaking process. Jackson also said that the EPA had reviewed findings of the independent Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, which recommended the proposed standards.

The EPA, which had announced last September that it would revise the standard, said the cost to affected industries of meeting the 0.070 ppm standard would be between $19 billion and $25 billion per year in 2020. Meeting a standard of 0.060 ppm would cost an estimated $52 billion to $90 billion annually in 2020.

But the new standards would save $14 billion to $100 billion in healthcare bills for asthma, lung damage, and other diseases as well as lost work costs, the agency said.

While these standards were intended to protect public health, the EPA also proposed to set a separate “secondary” standard to protect the environment. Ozone is a gas composed of three oxygen atoms. It is not usually emitted directly into the air, but at ground level is created by a chemical reaction between oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight.

The EPA’s announcement drew praise from environmental and health groups, such as the Sierra Club and the American Lung Association. Several states also approved of the proposed rules, while others outright denounced them.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry immediately issued a statement on Thursday, saying that “The EPA’s only consistent target has been the target on the backs of Texas workers and taxpayers.”

“If this proposal is adopted, it will mark the second time in two years the federal government has imposed drastically reduced standards on states,” he said. “We’ve worked hard and invested over $1 billion to reach compliance on the original target without sacrificing Texas jobs or economic momentum.

Perry said that since 2000, Texas clean efforts had helped lower  NOx levels by 46% and overall ozone by 22%. “We’ve done this during a time of economic prosperity unrivaled in the nation,” he added.

The governor’s sentiment was mirrored by industry groups. The Edison Electric Institute, a utilities trade group, said in a statement that industry had already spent $100 billion to reduce NOx emissions.

“We probably won’t know for a couple of years just what utilities and other emissions sources will be required to do in response to a tighter ozone standard,” said John Kinsman, senior director for the environment at the Edison Electric Institute. “States will have to cast a very wide net when targeting sources for emissions cuts, in part because utilities already have made substantial reductions in ozone-related emissions.”

The agency will accept public comments on the proposed standard for 60 days after the proposed rule is published in the Federal Register. The EPA will also hold three public hearings on the proposal: Feb. 2, 2010, in Arlington, Va., and in Houston, Texas; and Feb. 4, 2010, in Sacramento, Calif. 

Sources: EPA, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Edison Electric Institute

About Us:  Bob Wallace, Principal and Vice President of Client Solutions, WIH Resource Group, Inc. (WIH) and Waste Savings, Inc. (WSI), former Boardmember SWANA ~ State of Arizona Chapter (Solid Waste Association of North America), APWA (American Public Works) ~ National Solid Waste Rate Setting Advisory Committee and Member of WASTEC (Waste Equipment Technology Association) NSWMA ~ Phoenix, Arizona USA. (bwallace@wihresourcegroup.com).

Source:  Power News & Magazine & WIH Resource Group

Should you have any questions about this news or general questions about our diversified services, please contact Bob Wallace, Principal & VP of Client Solutions at WIH Resource Group and Waste Savings, Inc. at admin@wihrg.com

Feel free to visit our websites for additional information on our services at: http://www.wihrg.com and http://www.wastesavings.net and our daily blog at https://wihresourcegroup.wordpress.com

WIH Resource Group on Linked In: http://www.linkedin.com/in/wihresourcegroup

Follow Bob Wallace and WIH Resource Group on Twitter: http://twitter.com/wihresource