There’s a new fuel in town. While electric-powered vehicles dominate headlines, vehicles fueled by renewable natural gas (RNG) are quickly becoming viable alternatives, particularly among the full range of commercial vehicles – from fleets to small pickup trucks. Approximately 15.2 million commercial vehicles worldwide are currently fueled by Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). 

William A. Sapon, Clean Energy & Transportation Advisor at Peoples Gas, explains, “Renewable Natural Gas is a niche within a niche for natural gas vehicles (NGVs). We now have the technology to extract natural gas from landfills, among other sources, which is carbon-neutral and chemically identical to conventional natural gas, allowing RNG to be used as a transportation fuel in natural gas vehicles and trucks.”

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RNG is derived from the cleanup of raw biogas, which is a natural byproduct of operating anaerobic digestion facilities in waste sources such as landfills. Biogas consists of anywhere from 50% to 75% methane, with the remainder largely comprised of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other trace elements. The process of cleaning raw biogas involves removing the CO2 and other impurities to generate clean, renewable methane. After minor treatment, the purified gas can be injected directly into the existing natural gas grid and transported anywhere that the grid infrastructure extends.

“Peoples’ strategic partners produce clean energy from waste streams, dramatically reducing greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change. We’re already interconnected to five landfill gas plants that inject renewable natural gas into our pipeline system, with a sixth one coming online by the end of 2019,” Sapon mentioned.

Because of their proximity to the source of RNG, 60 percent of new refuse collection trucks purchased today have natural gas engines that are suitable for 100 percent RNG. But fleets of all kinds and other commercial vehicles are also switching from diesel or gasoline to RNG. When asked why, Sapon explained the benefits of RNG.

“Fleet and other commercial vehicle operators who select natural gas vehicles can also tap into Renewable Identification Number credits (RINs) or Low-Carbon Fuel Standard credits (LCFs). What’s more, increasingly, companies who use RNG enjoy a competitive advantage in their bids for municipal contracts whose RFPs increasingly include environmental considerations,” he added.

“From an operational standpoint, RNG achieves fuel cost savings up to 20-25 percent over the cost of diesel or gasoline. But Peoples can increase those cost savings. We often work with our strategic partnerships to increase savings on fuel for our customers,” remarked Sapon.

“In addition to fuel cost savings, RNG reduces NOx emissions by 90% and CO2 emissions by 40%, compared with gasoline and diesel vehicles,” Sapon explained, according to the U.S. EPA California Air Resources Board and NGV America.

“What’s more,” added Sapon, “the supply of conventional natural gas is plentiful, to say the least. We have more than a 100-year supply of American natural gas from the Marcellus and Utica reserves, alone. Arguably, as we continue to generate waste, RNG will be available.”

“Fleet and other commercial vehicle operators who select natural gas vehicles can also tap into Renewable Identification Number credits (RINs) or Low-Carbon Fuel Standard credits (LCFs). What’s more, increasingly, companies who use RNG enjoy a competitive advantage in their bids for municipal contracts whose RFPs increasingly include environmental considerations,” he added.

The fleet of public transportation and company vehicles in the United States is supported by a large and rapidly growing infrastructure of thousands of compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquid natural gas (LNG) refueling stations.

Peoples is well positioned to play a leading role in this new market space because of its strong competitive advantages. The company has over 130 years’ experience as a natural-gas mid-stream and local distribution business.

Peoples also possesses the largest local natural gas distribution network, providing reliable, low- cost natural gas service to approximately 740,000 customers in western Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Kentucky.

Just as important, Peoples has owned and operated more than 10 private natural gas refueling stations for more than 25 years and has successfully received grant funding through the PA DEP Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant (AFIG) program in 2018 to continue growing its refueling station infrastructure.

Peoples works with strategic partners – landfill owners and those who have the technology to generate RNG from waste – to make RNG readily available to its customers.

Because of its successful history, Peoples has a strong, easily recognizable brand in the market it serves, which continues to grow. Also, Peoples is known as a community partner and is recognized as an energy thought leader.

To emphasize its commitment to natural gas vehicles, Peoples has developed a program that makes it easier for fleet owners to explore using alternative fuels for their vehicles. Fleet owners or managers are encouraged to visit peoples-gas.com/ngv to learn more or to start a conversation about their fleet with Peoples’ experts.