personalized polo shirt New Fred Meyer trucks clear the air
Engines using clean burning fuels such as natural gas (methane) are one such technology. In December, Fred Meyer put into operation six heavy duty trucks that run on liquefied natural gas, or LNG. It has since added 25 more LNG trucks, which accounts for nearly a third of its fleet.
Cincinnati based Kroger, which owns Fred Meyer, has a giant distribution center in Clackamas, into which packed containers arrive, fresh from the fruited plain and the barges of Hanjin. From there, all the SKUs of a modern big box store are reshuffled and sent where they are needed. The apples, rocking chairs, bath towels, stuffed toys and flats of Red Bull are driven to Fred Meyer stores all across Oregon, Idaho and some of Washington.
Steve Wilson of Oregon City was one of the first three drivers volunteering to drive an LNG truck. He loves his daily run down to Corvallis and back. It about a 200 mile loop, well within the range of the modified Freightliner.
was a skeptic at first, until I saw the videos, Wilson says in the big office at the Kroger Distribution Center. Outside in the yard, a tall tank holds thousands of gallons of LNG, which must be chilled to minus 259 degrees Fahrenheit to stay in liquid form.
showed us a guy who put his hand in it, stubbed out a cigarette in it, drank it, and nothing happened, Wilson says. Methane is not combustible as a liquid, only as a gas.
It not clear who the stud on the video was, but the guys who refuel Wilson truck have to wear protective gloves and face protection as they handle the icy nozzle that goes into the Thermos like fuel tank below the driver door.
Clearing the air
If Oregon companies replace older diesel trucks with LNG powered rigs, that would improve our air quality and save lives. Diesel soot, much of it from freight trucks made before clean diesel standards took effect in 2007, kills more than 450 people a year in Oregon.
is the nasty stuff embedded in your lungs, along with the free rider carcinogens that come with it, the benzene rings and polyaromatic hydrocarbons, says Chris Galati, who works in business development at NW Natural, the Portland based natural gas utility.
This dark matter, much of it wafting over from China, also may cause glaciers to thaw quicker by providing a dark coating on the ice that absorbs heat.
Winning over drivers
Wilson figures LNG is good for the environment, but what really sold him were the driving conditions. There was barely any exhaust smell,
just the smell of the engine breaking in. And the reduction in engine noise was a huge boon.
in a diesel, if you have the radio up, you shift gears by the sound and the vibration of the engine. But here I had to turn off the radio and re learn how to shift. The sound and vibration didn increase.
Wilson also was worried about losing power. But on a run to Tillamook carrying a full 9,000 pound load, he was pleased to see it almost matched his old Freightliner DD13 (Detroit Diesel) truck, being only 1 mph slower, at 22 mph, going up the biggest hill.
was so quiet we were hearing sounds we never heard before, like the compressor for the air brakes. And you can talk to someone out the window without yelling.
He also likes the safety aspect. Without the large stack behind his cab, he can see better while reversing or turning at a Fred Meyer store.
Saving money on fuel costs appears to be the biggest rationale for companies switching to natural gas powered trucks, Galati says. price of diesel or gasoline is a primary driver of market adoption, while things like environmental benefits are considered but do not drive the decision.
CNG vs. LNG
Trucking companies also might want to consider compressed natural gas, or CNG. of the fleet customers I deal with on a day to day basis would benefit more from CNG, Galati says. molecule is so simple, you just take some of the sulphur and water out, compress it and you got fuel. Pakistan and Iran are huge into CNG because you don need a refinery.
One advantage of LNG is in its bulk. It more energy dense, so it takes less volume on board a vehicle than CNG to get the same range.
But it requires a great deal of energy and huge capital investment to cool natural gas into liquid form. on the liquefaction facility, the energy penalty can be as low as 8 percent and as high as 30 percent, Galati says.
As a cryogenic or super cold fuel, LNG will boil off or evaporate into gas form.
when not combusted, has 20 times the greenhouse gas affect that CO2 has, Galati says. it a cleaner burning fuel, it not a good thing to vent.
And cross country trucks would be venting a lot. Venting is not an issue with CNG, giving it an advantage when it comes to reducing carbon emissions. California, as part of its analysis of alternative low carbon vehicle fuels, determined that LNG has no carbon reduction advantages over diesel, Galati notes.
CNG is generally less expensive than LNG on an equivalent energy basis, he says. It requires a compressor, which is easier and less capital intensive to install than liquefaction equipment, and those can be placed where customers want them.
CNG is just as easy to dispense as filling up with gasoline or diesel. LNG fueling requires dike containment, special safety equipment, more training and fueling attendants.
LNG works well for trains and large marine vessels, which consume vast quantities of it quickly, and don need to vent it.
NW Natural operates liquefaction equipment in Portland and in Newport, and has nearly 20 million gallons of LNG storage for emergencies or cold weather. The utility has approximately 100 CNG vehicles in its fleet,
but none that run on LNG.