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Garbage Truck Industry Ponders Move To LNG

"Waste Management has been the industry leader in advancing technologies that greatly reduce air emissions from heavy-duty trucks ... and their large fleet of natural gas trucks is further evidence of this commitment," Susan Smartt, executive director of the California League of Conservation Voters said.
By Brandon Thurner
Washington DC (UPI) Feb 13, 2006
Citing refuse trucks' dirty image, a new report aims to change perceptions and begin a nationwide overhaul, switching the industry's primary fuel source from diesel to liquid natural gas.

"First and foremost, natural gas is a much cleaner fuel than diesel," said James Cannon, author of the report, "Greening Garbage Trucks: Trends in Alternative Fuels Use, 2002-2005."

"Heavy-duty truck and bus emissions are a primary reason why 170 million Americans are living in areas where the air quality does not meet human health standards set by the EPA and why upper respiratory illnesses are increasing at alarming rates," he said.

The report, released Monday by INFORM, a national environmental research organization, estimates that if each conventional diesel-burning refuse truck in the United States is replaced now with an LNG model, 1 ton of nitrogen oxide is eliminated.

Joanna Underwood, president of INFORM, said the low gas mileage of the refuse truck industry is attributed to the stop-and-go nature of the work. This leads the trucks running under current diesel fuel to earn approximately 2.8 miles per gallon. This would be improved under LNG, she said.

Underwood predicts a shifting economic picture. Right now, diesel trucks are less expensive due to the existing infrastructure in place to both build and refuel fleets. She cites the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which allots $1 billion of incentives to cover alternative fuels.

Such incentives may cover $32,000 or up to 80 percent of the purchase cost of an LNG vehicle in changing over, she added, along with up to $30,000 in federal tax credits to help cover the cost of new fueling station equipment.

Officials at the Diesel Technology Forum, a diesel trade group, questioned the rationale of the switch from diesel to a diesel-less fuel economy for refuse vehicles.

"The suitability and economics as to why you're doing it (switching from diesel to LNG)" comes into play "as diesel is converging with natural gas and should be equal to it in emissions by the year 2010," Allen Schaeffer, executive director of DTF told UPI.

Schaeffer said ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, which is to be 90 percent lower in sulfur than current blends, is to be released Oct. 15. This new version of diesel will decrease the number of sulfur particles from 500 particles per million to 15, making it the cleanest burning fuel to date.

"It's like taking lead out of gasoline," he said.

Eric Rose, spokesman for Waste Management, a top provider of waste and environmental services in North America, affirmed his company's commitment to improving the air quality around, especially its home state of California.

"Last year in California, Waste Management reduced an estimated 247 tons per year of harmful air emissions from our fleet," he said.

WM estimates that the total reduction in air pollution at 21 tons per year of Nitrogen Oxide, which is "the equivalent of taking more than 28,000 passenger cars off of California roadways."

1,390 of WM's 2,742 trucks met the July 1, 2005, deadline for early implementation of the nation's most stringent diesel emission-reduction program. Rose told United Press International his firm achieved this by permanently retiring 181 trucks, deploying 415 trucks that operate on natural gas and retrofitting 794 trucks with "best available control technologies" to reduce emissions.

Susan Smartt, executive director of the California League of Conservation Voters, lauded WM's efforts.

"Waste Management has been the industry leader in advancing technologies that greatly reduce air emissions from heavy-duty trucks ... and their large fleet of natural gas trucks is further evidence of this commitment," she said.

While doing its part in deploying 415 trucks operating on LNG, WM officials acknowledge some of the past obstacles to changing over fleets to this emerging technology.

Rose said WM was working to supply its fleet with LNG. It is working to convert landfill gas to LNG at the Altamont Landfill in northern California. The facility will produce 12,400 gallons per day of LNG for use in heavy-duty trucks, he added.

To ease supply chain concerns, the Altamont Landfill facility will have a 30,000 gallon storage tank along with a new public access fueling station for LNG-powered fleets in the Bay Area, Rose said.

In addition, WM has partnered with CyroEnergy International, Inc, in hopes of lessening clean up of carbon dioxide and methane. Rose said the technology will use a single-stage process to separate carbon dioxide and methane into high-purity product streams, thus lessening clean-up and processing efforts.

Source: United Press International

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