Natural gas is inexpensive, seemingly plentiful and much cleaner-burning when used as an alternative to diesel fuel in transportation fleets, so it makes sense that Waste Management is converting its entire North American fleet to run on compressed natural gas. The company announced this week it has added 25 new CNG waste collection trucks to its fleet in Ottawa. About 80 per cent of all new trucks purchased by the company now run on compressed natural gas. To accommodate this fleet conversion, Waste Management has been increasing the number of fuelling stations it has to support the fleet. Currently it operates 17 of these stations across North America, but that number is expected to expand to 50 by the end of this year. Overall, the company has more than 1,400 CNG trucks in its fleet, including 100 added to its fleet in Vancouver last year. While this represents only 3.5 per cent of the entire fleet, conversion is happening at a healthy clip. It should be noted that Waste Management is also using route optimization software to reduce driving time and all trucks are programmed to turn off automatically after five minutes of idling. These are all solid initiatives that will help reduce emissions, but also reduce company costs.
From a greenhouse-gas perspective, the emission reductions aren’t massive — up to 25 per cent reduction — but the real gains here are in the reduction of smog-causing pollutants. Nitrogen oxides and diesel particulate matter are reduced by 90 per cent. Over time, it leaves open the possibility of using renewable natural gas, sourced from landfill gas and municipal wastewater biogas, to displace its fossil fuel cousin. The city of Surrey, B.C., is already heading in this direction. It now requires that natural gas-powered trucks be used for its municipal waste collection, a service being performed by BFI Canada, which has purchased 75 trucks that run on CNG. At the same time, it is launching an organics collection program for Surrey’s 470,000 residents and businesses that will see the household waste converted into biogas that will be cleaned, conditioned and used in BFI trucks. Surrey hopes the new biogas facility will begin operation in 2014.
Toronto was supposed to head in this direction as well, but from what I understand the plan has unraveled under the administration of Mayor Rob Ford.