Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Six Tips for a Successful Transition to Natural Gas

From Ryder Exchange:

It's a persistent challenge for food and beverage transportation managers: How to squeeze the last drop of fuel efficiency from each mile traveled, while also avoiding fuel price volatility and complying with changing government regulations. Through its partnership with Ryder, Eagle Distributing found the answer in a well-planned transition to natural gas vehicles.

During a recent Food Logistics webinar entitled, "Natural Gas Fleets: the secret ingredient for stable fuel costs and compliant emissions," Eagle and Ryder executives discussed the steps taken and lessons learned from their fleet conversion from diesel to natural gas.

Natural gas has become a "best of all worlds" business strategy for organizations seeking fuel price stability, increased efficiency, and sustainable stewardship – especially amid increasing governmental regulations. But how can a company long tied to diesel best transition to natural gas?

For Eagle Distributing, which delivers alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to 1,100 accounts weekly along 6,500 miles of local and over-the-road routes throughout Louisiana, the move to a sustainable resource was no surprise. The company began recycling decades ago and continues to see itself as a leader in sustainability.

"We are constantly looking for green initiatives for conserving energy, reusing items, or recycling," says Robert A. "Bobby" Nichols, Chairman of Eagle Distributing of Shreveport. "So compressed natural gas (CNG) was an obvious advantage for us to leverage as a green initiative."

What did Eagle learn from its move to CNG vehicles?
  1. Start small. Eagle began by bringing on four CNG-powered sales vehicles to better understand what the transition would entail. Once employees embraced the move, the company took delivery of more vehicles. Over the next several months, Eagle transitioned out older diesel vehicles and took delivery of 24 natural gas vehicles. Eagle still uses several diesel units for remote markets where natural gas fueling stations are not yet available.

  2. Be part of a bigger effort. It helped that the cities of Shreveport and Bossier, which were involved in natural gas conversions of their own, built four natural gas stations for community use. Eagle eventually partnered with another local company to build their own fueling stations.

  3. Educate those who'll be affected. Eagle's drivers were skeptical at first. They feared loss of power or limited refueling capacity. So Eagle educated its drivers to boost acceptance. Drivers eventually appreciated being at the wheel of state-of-the-art technology that was quieter and cleaner, and whose fuel was domestically sourced. In fact, a large natural gas reserve exists in North Louisiana's Haynesville shale region. Drivers soon saw themselves as environmental stewards using a locally-sourced product.

  4. Look for incentives. Louisiana offers various grants and incentives for converting fleets to natural gas. So do California, Colorado, Texas, Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and New York. These can help offset the costs of acquiring and operating such vehicles. Eagle also tapped Ryder's Flex-to-Green program, which allows the company to swap out diesel for natural gas units without penalty when the situation or timing is right.

  5. Calculate the costs. Eagle executives realized upfront costs are offset by environmental benefits in the near term, and any eventual rise in diesel costs in the long term. Moreover, as natural gas fuel tank technology increases the diesel gallon equivalent (DGE) – one configuration can deliver 1,100 miles on a single fill up – more OEMs and truck manufacturers will collaborate to deliver units with even greater range.

  6. Study the factors that make natural gas work. Whether converting all or part of a fleet, make an informed decision. Spec the right vehicle type and application, including expected hours of service, cost of fuel, duty cycle (whether local or over the road), and frequency or availability of refueling stations on the projected route.

Eagle today enjoys decreased exposure to fuel price volatility, a reduced carbon footprint, and a positive halo in the community, especially as its efforts have been profiled by local newspapers and TV stations. Eagle credits a well-planned transition and its various allies who helped ease the move.

"Our partnerships were the most important part of converting to CNG," Trey Rives, Eagle's Operations Manager, told attendees. Added Nichols, "More people in our area are aware of CNG advantages and appreciate Eagle moving that way."

To listen to the recorded webinar, hosted by Food Logistics magazine and sponsored by Ryder, in its entirety, click here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Four Senators Form Energy And Environment Group

Four Republican Senators, Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire), Lamar Alexander (Tennessee), Mark Kirk (Illinois) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), have formed the Energy and Environment Working Group. The group will focus on ways to protect our environment and climate while also bolstering clean energy innovation that helps drive job creation.
"I'm tired of sending hundreds of billions of dollars to buy oil from people who hate us. We must have energy independence. And in the process, I believe it is possible to produce a safe, clean environment, and create new well-paying jobs for Americans of all generations," said Senator Graham.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Clean Energy Fuels Heavy Duty Trucks from Coast to Coast

Clean Energy's nationwide network of truck-friendly CNG and LNG stations fuel fleets from coast-to-coast. We will keep your trucks on the road, making money for your business while you save money on fuel.
A question to the Clean Cities Technical Response Service Team: We have several power plants here in the Coachella Valley and one proposed to the east of us in an old iron mine. We're hearing concerns that using natural gas in gas-fired power plants contributes to climate change. Could you shed some light on this?

Answer: As you know, the goal of Clean Cities is to help reduce U.S. reliance on petroleum in transportation. As the mission of Clean Cities is to reduce petroleum consumption in on-road vehicles, natural gas power plants are outside of our scope of work. That said, we have provided some information and resources below that might be helpful for you.

As you are likely aware, while natural gas emits fewer carbon emissions than gasoline or coal, it does still emit carbon dioxide (CO2), which in turn contributes to climate change. For information on the breakdown of natural gas CO2 emissions compared to coal, diesel, gasoline, and propane, see the U.S Energy Information Administration's (EIA) Frequently Asked Questions page. As you can see, natural gas emits 117 pounds of CO2 per million British thermal units (BTUs) of energy. Natural gas is primarily methane (CH4), which has a higher energy content relative to other fuels. Therefore, it has a relatively lower CO2 to energy content.

In addition, you may be interested in several reports and articles which discuss emissions of natural gas power plants. Please see below for more information:
  • Center for Climate and Energy Solutions (C2ES) report "Leveraging Natural Gas to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions": According to the Executive Summary, this report examines the implications of expanded natural gas use in key sectors of the economy, and recommends policies and actions needed to maximize climate benefits of natural gas in power generation, buildings, manufacturing, and transportation. In particular, you may be interested in the Power Sector section, which states that "for each unit of energy produced, a megawatt-hour (MWh) of natural gas-fired generation contributes around half the amount of CO2 emissions as coal-fired generation and about 68 percent of the amount of CO2 emissions from oil-fired generation".
  • C2ES page "Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regulation of Greenhouse Gas Emissions from New Power Plants": This page discusses EPA's new standard for new coal and natural gas fired power plants, which was issued on August 3, 2015. The new rule for natural gas power plants states that "new natural gas power plants can emit no more than 1,000 pounds (lbs) of carbon dioxide per MWh of electricity produced." Natural gas power plants can reach the standard by implementing efficient generation technology, which is discussed in more detail on that page. The page also discusses the future of natural gas power generation and CO2 emissions.
  • Scientific American article "A Natural Gas Power Plant with Carbon Constraints – and an Expiration Date": This article discusses the process to approval for a natural gas power plant in Massachusetts. As is stated in the article, "although its carbon footprint at the smokestack may be only 50 to 60 percent that of coal, a gas-fired power plant still puts hundreds of pounds of carbon dioxide into the air every hour".
  • National Geographic article "Switch to Natural Gas Won't Reduce Carbon Emissions Much, Study Finds": As the article discusses, a study from 2014 in the journal Environmental Research Letters finds that "between 2013 and 2055 the use of natural gas could reduce cumulative emissions from the electricity sector by no more than 9 percent, a reduction the authors say will have an insignificant impact on climate." The article also discusses how switching to natural gas may discourage the use of carbon-free renewable energy.

We hope this information is helpful! Please let us know if we can provide any additional information.


Abby Brown, ICF International
Supporting the U.S. Department of Energy
and National Renewable Energy Laboratory -
Clean Cities Technical Response Service

How can I improve my gas mileage while driving this winter?

Question of the Month: How can I improve my gas mileage while driving this winter?

Answer: Whether taking that long-awaited ski trip or just commuting to work in the frigid weather, there are several things you can do to improve your fuel economy and save money in the wintertime.

Why You Get Worse Gas Mileage When It's Cold

Cold weather and winter driving conditions can reduce your fuel economy significantly. On particularly chilly days, when temperatures drop to 20°F or lower, you can expect to see up to a 12% hit on your fuel economy for short city trips. During very quick trips—traveling only three to four miles—your fuel economy could dip even lower (as much as 22%)!

This reduction in fuel economy is due to several factors. First of all, cold temperatures increase the time it takes your vehicle to warm the cabin, engine, drive-line fluids, and other components up to fuel-efficient operating temperatures. Cold fluids increase the friction on your engine and transmission, which can reduce fuel economy.

Let's take a moment to address one of the main myths about driving in cold weather:

Myth: To warm up your engine and vehicle cabin in the wintertime, you should let the engine run for several minutes before driving.

Truth: Most manufacturers recommend driving off gently after about 30 seconds of idling. In fact, the engine will warm up faster when driving. Idling can use a quarter to half a gallon of fuel per hour, and even more fuel if the engine is cold or accessories like seat heaters are on.

Also keep in mind that winter gasoline blends in cold climates have slightly less energy per gallon than summer blends. This is because refineries alter the chemical makeup of gasoline to allow it to evaporate more easily in low temperatures, ensuring proper engine operation.

Aerodynamic drag is another consideration. In simple terms, cold air is denser than warm air, so when temperatures drop, wind resistance increases slightly. This requires a little more power from your engine to drive at a given speed. The effects of aerodynamic drag on fuel economy are most significant at highway speeds.

Winter Fuel-Saving Tips

The following tips can help you warm your car (and fingers!) more efficiently and improve your fuel economy in the winter:
  • Park in a warmer place like a garage that traps heat to keep the initial temperature of your engine and cabin higher than it would be outside in the elements.
  • Avoid idling to warm up the engine and cabin. See more information above.
  • Avoid using seat warmers more than necessary, as they require additional power.
  • Plug-in electric vehicle (PEV) owners: Pre-heat your vehicle while still plugged in. Since PEVs use battery power to provide heat to the cabin, cabin and seat heaters can drain the vehicle's battery and reduce the overall range. If you need to warm up quickly, warm the vehicle while it's still charging.
  • PEV owners: Use seat heaters instead of the cabin heater when able. Using seat heaters instead of the cabin heater can save energy. Seat heaters use less energy than cabin heaters and can often be more efficient at warming you up quickly in the winter.
  • Read the owner's manual for detailed information on how your vehicle's cabin and seat heaters work and how to use them efficiently.

Do you live in a place where snow and ice isn't an issue? Check out the May Question of the Month for year-round warm weather driving tips.

More Information

For more information on how to improve your fuel economy, please refer to the following FuelEconomy.gov tips:

Clean Cities Technical Response Service Team

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Desert Hot Springs rolls out fleet of nine natural gas vehicles

From USGasVehicles.com:
A ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled in Desert Hot Springs, California, to mark the addition of nine compressed natural gas vehicles to the city's fleet under a grant from the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

The vehicles were purchased through a more than $1 million grant from the Sentinel Mitigation Fund, which is administered by the Southern California Air Quality Management District. The fund was created as part of an agreement to help offset the impact of emissions from the Sentinel Plant in north Palm Springs.

"We are very pleased to be able to participate in local efforts to keep our air clean," Mayor Adam Sanchez said. "And very importantly, this grant allowed us to do so at no cost to the city."

The various vehicles, 21 in total, will be used by the city, Mission Springs Water District, Family Services of the Desert, Food Now and St. Elizabeth's Food Pantry.

Some of the grant funds also paid for upgrades to a compressed natural gas station near the water district headquarters.