Switching from diesel to CNG or LNG fueled engines

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Courtesy of Waste Advantage Magazine

Gas engine fact: there are more than 28,000 engines in service in the refuse industry worldwide. Over the past several years, more and more American refuse companies have been considering the change from diesel to either CNG (compressed natural gas) or LNG (liquefied natural gas) fueled engines in their collection fleets. This article will discuss some components to consider before transitioning to alternative fuel-based vehicles.

Driving Change
There are three key components that can drive change to alternate-fueled vehicles.

#1: Environmental Leadership
Natural gas has a simple chemical makeup: one molecule of carbon and four molecules of hydrogen (CH4). That’s what makes it burn so cleanly. Other fuels such as diesel are more chemically complex. This means that to meet 2010 EPA emissions requirements, diesel engines need sophisticated vehicle emissions control devices. However, natural gas fueled vehicles do not require complex after-treatment because of the inherently “clean” nature of the fuel. Increasingly, natural gas is being regarded as a cleaner and more environmentally responsible fuel choice.

#2: Economic Benefits
Today, gaseous fuels such as natural gas are available at a significantly lower cost than diesel fuel. Also, the option to lock in low fuel prices for several years can be an attractive option for many businesses that deal with multi-year contracts. Converting a fleet from diesel to natural gas can provide a huge economic advantage for the hauler. The more trucks a hauler runs and the more fuel they burn, the larger the advantage.

There are some arguments on the other side of the fence as well. Natural gas engines may be slightly less efficient (10 to 15 percent) than an equivalent diesel engine and maintenance costs may be a little higher. Overall, in the right situation, the total cost of ownership (TCO) of a vehicle powered by a natural gas engine is lower than a diesel equivalent.

#3: Federal Energy Policy
The U.S. consumes approximately 21 million barrels of oil a day and most of the supply comes from outside of this country. That is a large amount of U.S. dollars that leave the U.S. economy. On the other hand, the U.S. is the world’s largest producer of natural gas. We have the ability to supply our own fuel needs for many years and keep the money in our economy.

America will decrease its dependency on foreign oil and the accompanying pricing volatility that is associated with the oil market. Within North America we are fortunate to have large untapped natural gas resources—2.6 trillion CF at last estimate—enough to supply our needs for more than 100 years. We also have the ability to capture landfill gas for use in vehicle fuel (biomethane or renewable natural gas [RNG]). Which in effect, turns waste into “green” energy will be nothing but positive for the U.S. We are embracing the opportunity to use our own natural resources in a manner that is both cost effective and more environmentally conscious.

CNG Benefits
Natural gas pricing is significantly lower than diesel. In addition, there are federal and state funding programs offered to haulers to assist in offsetting incremental costs for the transition. The federal government currently provides subsidies of approximately fifty cents a DGE (diesel gallon equivalent) to all fleets using natural gas as a vehicle fuel source. Some states also provide incentives by way of grants to help compensate for the additional costs associated with the purchase of natural gas vehicles.

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