Fuel Steam Ahead: The Benefits of Fuel Conversion

By Jim Molis

Mayport C&C Fisheries is saving green by going green. Company leaders expect to save more than $51,000 per year while reducing pollutants all by powering four trucks with compressed natural gas instead of gasoline.

“It will certainly create a positive impact on the cash flow and bottom line each month,” President Atillio Cerqueira said. “Plus, it’s good for the environment so it’s good all around.”

C&C FisheriesThe Atlantic Beach-based seafood processor and distributor also could collect more than $96,000 in federal incentives based upon its investment. All told, Mayport C&C Fisheries is spending more than $83,000 to switch four trucks to CNG, install pumps, and connect to a TECO Peoples Gas natural gas pipeline. Cerqueira estimated that Mayport C&C Fisheries should have its infrastructure in place and its CNG-powered trucks running by January or February.

Cerqueira started exploring the possibility of converting to CNG in late summer, at the suggestion of the CEO of a truck sales and leasing company in Atlanta. Cerqueira then visited seafood companies in Florida, located in Orlando and Gulfport, to see how they used CNG.

In addition to helping the environment, Cerqueira projected that Mayport C&C Fisheries will reap savings in many areas of the business over a year, based upon his research.

Cerqueira expects Mayport C&C Fisheries to benefit from savings in:

  • Fuel ($41,000 for 20,000 gallons) — That’s at an average cost of $1.25 per gallon for CNG, versus a hefty $3.30 for gasoline.
  • Labor ($9,639) — It will take two minutes to fuel a truck instead of 15 minutes.
  • Maintenance ($900) — Each CNG-fueled truck will need two oil changes, at every 20,000 miles, in contrast to eight oil changes per gasoline-fueled truck, at every 5,000 miles.

The maintenance savings also speak to the environmental benefits of switching to CNG. “Because it has such a low carbon footprint, you only have to change your oil every 20,000 to 30,000 miles instead of every 3,000 to 5,000 miles,” Cerqueira said.

Converting to CNG also will improve security. Drivers will not have to fuel up along their routes, thereby mitigating the risk that company credit cards are stolen or misused.

While there are plenty of benefits to this conversion, Cerqueira recommends that other companies consider the service range of their fleets before converting. The CNG-fueled trucks will each have a few gallons of backup gasoline, but the service range will be somewhat limited because each can only travel about 250 miles before refueling back at Mayport C&C Fisheries.

Cerqueira also recommends that companies confirm that a transmission line is within reach of their facility and that their return on the investment would justify building out their infrastructure.

“It does take time to pay back,” Cerqueira said. “It’s a gamble on the future.”

DSCN2316The North Florida Clean Fuels Coalition wants to make it easier for public and private operators of vehicle fleets to use alternative energy such as CNG.

“We’re trying to create the consumption demand to accelerate the construction of the fueling infrastructure, particularly in the form of stations,” explained Jeff Sheffield, executive director of the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization, which oversees the coalition of public and private partners.

Previously known as the North Florida Clean Cities Coalition, the recently renamed coalition drives consumption demand by educating fleet operators on the benefits of alternative energy sources, particularly the bottom-line savings. “From our perspective, the environmental benefit is icing on the cake,” Sheffield affirmed.

The coalition also fuels the construction of infrastructure by creating incentives for fleet operators to use alternative energy. For example, the coalition used federal funding to award a $730,000 grant to St. Johns County so that it could convert 130 public vehicles to CNG. A private CNG provider will build a facility to service the vehicles. The coalition has set aside an additional $1 million in federal funds to support conversions in the next year, Sheffield explained. Conversions are not confined to CNG and could also include alternative energy sources like liquefied natural gas, electricity, propane, or biodiesel.

The appropriateness of each fuel type will vary by fleet operator and need, Sheffield said. For example, LNG is better suited for long-range transportation while propane is more readily available and requires less upfront investment.

Regardless of which source fleet operators convert to, the North Florida Clean Fuels Coalition wants to hear from them so that they can share their stories with others, thereby increasing awareness of the benefits of converting.

“We’re trying to get the word out so that we can connect with public and private companies,” Sheffield explained.

Cerqueira is happy to help. He shared his experience with the coalition after attending its Florida Alternative Fuel Vehicles 2013 Expo at the University of North Florida in October. He also plans to trumpet Mayport C&C Fisheries’s conversion to CNG when it is complete.

“We’re going to be proud to display it on the side of our trucks and show anyone our facility,” he said.

He also will share how it is helping the company — and the environment.


Future of Fuel: Alternative Fuel Conversion

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program has saved more than 4.5 billion gallons of petroleum since its inception in 1993.
Together, almost 100 participating coalitions have reduced petroleum use in transportation, in part by placing more than 660,000 alternative fuel vehicles on the road and developing the supporting fueling infrastructure.

The North Florida Clean Cities Coalition launched in 2009. It recently changed its name to the North Florida Clean Fuels Initiative to better reflect its mission, said Jeff Sheffield, executive director of the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization, which oversees the coalition of public and private partners.
“The primary purpose of the coalition was to create a forum for the public and private sectors to come together to discuss alternative fuels and to connect people with what was going on,” Sheffield explained.

It also encourages public and private operators of vehicle fleets to convert to alternative fuel by educating community members on the features and benefits of such energy sources as biodiesel, electricity, ethanol, hydrogen, natural gas, and propane.

Fleet operators are increasingly interested in the cost savings that such alternative fuels can provide, as evidenced by attendance at the local coalition’s annual Florida Alternative Fuel Vehicles Expo at the University of North Florida. About 50 people attended the first expo last year, but this year’s event maxed out with 150 registrants.
“Interest in alternative fuels is through the roof,” Sheffield said.

The local coalition hopes to ride the mounting interest to official designation as a Clean Cities coalition by the DOE. The designation would open opportunities for federal grants and assistance from the DOE, as well as elevate the region’s standing as a progressive user of alternative fuels.
But North Florida’s coalition would first need to complete a rigorous application process to attain the designation. One of the main criteria is to support the displacement of 400,000 to 500,000 gallons of petroleum annually.

The local coalition is not yet sure how much petroleum it has helped to displace because its initial survey generated minimal comments. Thus, the coalition actively seeks information from fleet operators that have converted to alternative fuels so that it can better assess the impact of its efforts.
“We need to know everyone who is doing something,” Sheffield said.

Nationally, Clean Cities is on track to meet its goal of saving 2.5 billion gallons of
petroleum per year by 2020, according to the DOE. The program has employed three strategies for doing so.

  • Replacing petroleum with alternative and renewable fuels.
  • Reducing petroleum consumption through smarter driving practices and fuel economy improvements.
  • Eliminating petroleum use through idle reduction.

The continued expansion of Northeast Florida’s infrastructure for alternative fuels could help the local coalition meet its goals.

In late October, for example, Clean Energy Fuels Corp. announced that it would build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) fuel terminal on the Northside which, when completed in 2015, could produce 300,000 gallons of LNG per day “to support anticipated increases in maritime and rail use and bolster supply for trucking fleets operating throughout the Southeast.” Such access to alternative fuels could speed their adoption.

“We want to make sure there are opportunities for additional partners to use these fueling facilities, if possible,” Sheffield said. “We want to incentivize fleet conversion in the region.


By Jim Molis

Jim Molis is a contributing writer to Advantage Business Magazine


Natural Gas and Transportation
The U.S. Department of Energy describes natural gas as “an odorless, nontoxic, gaseous mixture of hydrocarbons — predominantly methane (CH4).” Here are some additional facts from the DOE:

  • Natural gas accounts for about a quarter of the energy used in the United States.
  • About one-third goes to residential and commercial uses, one-third to industrial uses, and one-third to electric power production.
  • Although natural gas is a clean-burning alternative fuel that has long been used to power natural gas vehicles, only about one-tenth of 1 percent is used for transportation fuel.
  • Two forms of natural gas are used in vehicles: compressed and liquefied. Both are clean-burning, domestically produced, relatively low-priced, and widely available.
  • CNG and LNG are considered alternative fuels under the Energy Policy Act of 1992.
  • Natural gas is sold in units of diesel or gasoline gallon equivalents (DGEs or GGEs) based on the energy content of a gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel.
  • To provide adequate driving range for a vehicle, CNG is stored in cylinders at a pressure of 3,000 to 3,600 pounds per square inch.
  • A CNG-powered vehicle gets about the same fuel economy as a conventional gasoline vehicle on a gasoline gallon equivalent basis. A GGE equals about 5.66 pounds of CNG.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program’s Alternative Fuels Data Center

Clean Cities Program
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program marked its 20th anniversary in 2013.
Here is a brief history of the program and its accomplishments to date:

  • Clean Cities was established in 1993, in response to the Energy Policy Act of 1992.
  • The program is housed within the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Vehicle Technologies Office.
  • In 2011, Clean Cities activities helped to avert more than 5.8 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Over the program’s 20-year history, the number of local Clean Cities coalitions has grown from six in 1993 to almost 100, representing about three quarters of the U.S. population.
  • Nationwide, nearly 13,000 stakeholders in the public and private sectors belong to a local Clean Cities coalition.
  • Through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Clean Cities supported 25 local and regional transportation projects with $300 million in federal funding, which in turn leveraged more than $500 million in investments by public- and private-sector partners.

Source: U.S. Department of Energy

Incentives for Investments in Alternative Energy

The state of Florida offers the following Natural Gas Vehicle (NGV) Rebate for using natural gas for transportation, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program.

“Beginning January 1, 2014, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will offer a rebate for up to 50% of the incremental cost of an original equipment manufacturer NGV or propane vehicle or of the cost of converting a vehicle to run on natural gas or propane, up to $25,000 per vehicle and $250,000 per applicant per fiscal year. To qualify, the dedicated or bi-fuel vehicle must be part of a public or private fleet and must be placed into service on or after July 1, 2013. Of the funds available for these rebates, 40% will be reserved for government applicants; the remaining funds will be allocated to commercial applicants.”

Source: U.S. Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Program’s Alternative Fuels Data Center

Return on Investments

Mayport C&C Fisheries could collect the following through federal incentives by converting part of its fleet of trucks to compressed natural gas power.

50 cents per gallon of natural gas = $10,000 for 20,000 gallons
30% of infrastructure build out= $11,900 for $39,700 to install pumps
$25,000 per new truck purchased = $75,000 for three trucks

Total = $96,900

Source: Mayport C&C Fisheries

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