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Member Profile: Waste Management Moves Closer to 100 Percent Natural Gas Fleet

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December 19, 2017

Waste Management sees opportunity in garbage: the longtime Coalition member is turning waste into transportation fuel and energy across the country. It designs many of its landfills to transform methane into natural gas for electricity or transportation fuels, and that is propelling the recycling and waste collection company’s transition to NGVs.

In 2018, Waste Management plans to invest in the new Cummins Westport 12-liter near-zero-NOx engine, as well as the groundbreaking 8.9-liter model, as it continues to expand its RNG-fueled fleet and RNG production facilities.

“There are 17,000 collection trucks in our fleet, and 6,150 of them are running on natural gas fuels. About one-third of those run on RNG, and the rest on CNG. We’re going to grow both the number of NGVs and the amount of RNG we use,” said Susan Robinson, Waste Management’s federal public affairs director.

“We’re really excited about the huge opportunity to reduce our environmental footprint with RNG-powered NGVs so dramatically over diesel trucks,” she added. 

NGVs help company exceed emissions goals

As it has in the last two years, Waste Management expects to exceed its mobile emission reduction goal in 2018. According to Waste Management’s 2017 Sustainability Report Update, in 2016 the company reduced its million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e) by 26 percent. The fleet dropped to 1.696 MtCO2e in 2016 from 1.733 MtCO2e in 2015. Waste Management attributes this reduction in part to its investment in its CNG fleet and to using more RNG. In 2018, it plans to invest in 500 to 1,000 new NGVs to replace diesel trucks, in line with the company’s goal of acquiring NGVs for 90 percent of its new fleet purchases. For each diesel truck it replaces with an NGV, Waste Management estimates that it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 21 percent.

“We’re excited about helping folks understand the immediate environmental benefits of pairing the ISL G Near Zero engine with RNG as we move full steam ahead with our transition to a natural gas fleet,” said Robinson, who points out that the recycling and waste collection industry is the ideal application for RNG-powered trucks.

Along with its expanded use of RNG and near-zero-NOx natural gas engines, Waste Management plans to increase its RNG production capacity with a new methane-capturing landfill in Kentucky. Currently, three Waste Management landfills convert methane into transportation-grade natural gas fuels. In California, the Altamont Landfill produces as much as 13,000 gallons of renewable LNG a day—Waste Management turns that into CNG, which it uses to power 340 of its own trucks in California. At the Milam Landfill in Illinois and the American Landfill in Ohio, Waste Management turns methane into pipeline-ready natural gas, which helps fuel almost 1,000 of the company’s trucks. Waste Management fuels more than 2,000 trucks with RNG using its own and third-party RNG.

Waste Management also supports its NGVs—and others’ fleets—with 104 natural gas fueling stations, 28 of which are publicly accessible. Because much of its business is with municipal customers, it has invested in public stations in those communities.

Incentives are essential to continued progress

According to Robinson, Waste Management is committed to supporting the natural gas industry and is eager to help other recycling and waste management companies also switch to NGVs. She notes that maintaining incentives to help fleets offset the cost of new NGVs and near-zero-NOx natural gas engines is one of her primary concerns in the new year.

“Incentives and grants, particularly in California, have really helped our ability to transition to natural gas trucks. The industry needs to continue to educate regulators and policy makers on the value of NGVs to make sure funding allocations are set aside,” says Robinson, who is particularly concerned that the upcoming Volkswagen settlement funding programs will favor vehicles other than NGVs.

“For our type of fleet needs—trucks that start and end in the same place, driving many miles daily—there is currently no alternative-fuel vehicle other than an NGV that can provide the services we need,” she said. “Particularly when combining RNG with the Cummins Westport near-zero-NOx natural gas engine, it truly is a near-zero truck. No other vehicle can exceed the benefits of that combination.”

Photo ©Westport Innovations, used by permission

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