Natural gas gaining traction as tank truck fleet fuel
Aug 26, 2011 11:18 AM, By Charles E Wilson
On August 14, the first four truck-tractors in a 42-truck order were delivered to Fair Oaks Farms near Fair Oaks IN. Fueled with methane from the dairy farm, this milk-hauling fleet operation is being described as the largest transport-related renewable compressed natural gas (CNG) project in the United States.
Fair Oaks Farms and their partners expect to have the CNG fleet fully operational by the end of September, at the latest. Partners include Ruan Transportation Management Systems, PacLease, and Clean Energy Fuel Corp. In its September issue, Bulk Transporter will publish an exclusive in-depth profile on Fair Oaks Farms’ CNG fleet operation.
The cutting-edge CNG developments at Fair Oaks Farms came a week after Kenworth Truck Co invited a group of trucking publications--including Bulk Transporter--to attend a heavy-duty natural gas truck ride-and-drive event near Seattle WA. Among the vehicles at the program was a CNG-fueled T440 daycab tractor that is similar to the trucks selected for the Fair Oaks Farms fleet.
The event at the Paccar Technical Center in Mount Vernon WA gave representatives from Kenworth and Westport Power Inc an opportunity to show off the latest in natural gas engines offered with Kenworth trucks and discuss the benefits of natural gas as a fuel for tank truck fleets and other trucking companies.
Kenworth currently offers four natural gas-fueled trucks. Editors had the opportunity to test drive a T800 daycab tandem-axle tractor with a 485-hp Westport HD GX15 (based on Cummins’ 15-liter ISX) engine fueled by liquefied natural gas (LNG) and tandem- and single-axle versions of the T440 with the 320-hp Cummins Westport ISL G running on CNG.
”We believe there is a big future for heavy-duty trucks fueled with natural gas,” said Andy Douglas, Kenworth national sales manager, specialty markets. “Customers are asking for these products, which use existing diesel technology that is robust, tough, and proven.
”Here in the United States, we sit on the world’s largest natural gas reserves. Other countries are using it more in transportation than we are. Oil will continue to face price pressures, while natural gas prices have remained relatively constant.”
About 23,000 vehicles in the United States are fueled by natural gas at this time. That includes approximately 800 tractors that have gone into port drayage operations in California and other states as part of emission-reduction campaigns. In addition to the Fair Oaks Farms project, a number of tank truck fleets have purchased natural gas fueled trucks over the past couple of years. The largest tank fleet order to date was for 200 tractors that will be used in oilfield operations.
Kelly Mills, Westport HD’s Western US sales manager, pointed out that Westport has invested more than $250 million in natural gas fuel systems and has deployed more than 28,000 natural gas engines worldwide. “We see plenty of opportunity for this technology with US truck fleets,” he said.
More than 10,000 of the company’s nine-liter Cummins Westport ISL G engines have been produced. While nominally classified for medium-duty applications hauling less than 80,000 pounds gross combination weight, the engine in offered with a severe-duty exemption for certain local and regional bulk transport applications.
”This engine will handle 80,000 pounds under the right applications,” Mills said. “The operating area needs to be primarily flat terrain, because the engine isn’t available with an engine brake.”
Rated at 250 hp to 320 hp, the Cummins Westport ISL G can be fueled with either CNG or LNG. It is a spark-ignition engine that doesn’t need selective catalytic reduction (SCR) emission treatment technology or a diesel particulate filter (DPF).
The 15-liter Westport HD is available with engine ratings from 400 hp to 475 hp and is designed to be fueled with LNG and run in longhaul applications. With gross combination weight ratings of 80,000 pounds to 140,000 pounds, this is the ideal natural gas engine for longhaul tank fleets, according to Mills.
The Westport HD engine differs from the Cummins Westport ISL G in several ways. Most importantly, the Westport HD uses a fuel mix that includes about 5% diesel. This means the engine must have the SCR treatment system and the DPF required for fully diesel fueled engines, but the natural gas still delivers significant costs savings and reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 21% to 27% over equivalent diesel engines.
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