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Clean Energy Inks Five-Year Renewable NatGas Deal With Santa Monica

Newport Beach, CA-based Clean Energy Fuels Corp. won a five-year contract to supply its renewable natural gas (RNG) product, Redeem, to the City of Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus (BBB) system in Southern California.

Estimated to be worth $3 million annually, the contract calls for Clean Energy to provide Redeem as liquefied natural gas (LNG) to allow the Santa Monica BBB system to continue using RNG, which is rated up to 90% cleaner than diesel.

The new fuel contract will help Santa Monica support deployment eventually of the near-zero, 0.02 nitrogen oxide (NOx) Cummins Westport Innovations engine, which was touted at the recent Alternative Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo (see Daily GPIMay 6).

The natural gas vehicle (NGV) industry is promoting the new near-zero-emission engine advance for heavy-duty vehicles, combined with the use of RNG, or biomethane, as at least as “clean” as electric vehicles, according to a report released at the ACT Expo.

Santa Monica's BBB, which was one of the first transit systems to switch to Redeem, now is bidding to be one of the first to incorporate the new Cummins-Westport 8.9-IS G near-zero 0.02 NOx engine in more than 100 of the buses in its 200-bus fleet over the next three years. BBB first began using Redeem in its NGV fleet in January 2015.

Separately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently reaffirmed its commitment to the federal renewable fuel standard (RFS) program, offering a complex mix of tradable credits allowing bio-based fuels, such as RNG, to compete in the marketplace. EPA has proposed increases in renewable fuel volume requirements across all of the biofuels under the RFS.

According to the EPA, this should increase renewable fuel production and provide "ambitious, yet achievable growth." The RFS program is mandated under section 211 of the Clean Air Act. RNG has been classified the same as cellulosic ethanol for the past two years as a "D-3" fuel, which the new requirement calls for having at least a 60% lifecycle carbon emissions reduction, growing by 82 million gallons, or 35%, by 2017, according to EPA.

Total renewable fuel volumes are projected to grow by nearly 700 million gallons by 2017.

In the NGV engine advancement category, Fiat Powertrain Technologies (FPT) is promoting its new 9-liter CNG engine, Cursor 9, as the "first real 9-liter diesel equivalent" on the market. Unveiled in May at a bus and truck event in Beijing, China, the new engine has 400 horsepower and 2,000 rpm. FPT said the Cursor 9 CNG engine meets the latest Euro emissions standards.

Meanwhile, leading Canadian clean fuel manufacturer, Vancouver, BC-based Westport Innovations on Wednesday closed its previously announced merger with Fuel Systems Solutions Inc. (FSSI), forming a new entity, Westport Fuel Systems Inc. (WFSI). The new company promises a larger mix of products, technology, research/development, customer base, and employee pool, according to Westport's announcement in Vancouver.

Touting the newly merged company's expertise, innovation and product offerings, WFSI CEO David Demers said the new company plans to "capture cost synergies and leverage deep original equipment manufacturer [OEM] relationships." Westport Innovations and New York City-based FSSI announced their intention to merge at the end of last summer (see Daily GPISept. 2, 2015).

As previewed before the ACT Expo (see Daily GPIApril 19), Long Beach, CA provided the starting point for a two-week cross-country CNG rally, "CNG from Sea to Shining Sea," that kicked off Memorial Day as a major road show to promote NGVs. It will end in Washington, DC, next Friday (June 10). Illustrating that CNG can provide nationwide travel, the road trip stopped in Albuquerque, NM, last Wednesday.

The rally stopped at one of three CNG fueling stations in New Mexico's largest city, a Love's Travel Stop. Sponsors include Washington, DC-based NGVAmerica, the American Public Gas Association, Midwest Energy Solutions, and municipal utilities in Tennessee.

With natural gas production in the state's share of both the San Juan and Permian Basins, New Mexico has been adopting natural gas use in transportation as evidenced by its largest gas distribution company, New Mexico Gas Co., opening a CNG production facility in Farmington, NM, and CNG use continues to grow in Albuquerque. "Albuquerque is strategically positioned to support the NGV market for trucking and long-distance travel," said Tommy Sanders, vice president for customer and support services at New Mexico Gas.

In the bus and refuse truck sectors, CNG continues to make inroads with both sectors deploying Cummins Westport NGV engines.

Thomas built buses and a Daimler affiliate Freightliner Custom Chassis Corp. have introduced a CNG version of their "Saf-T-Liner C2" school buses. Thomas calls the new bus the first CNG engine in the industry on the Type C vehicle, and it has begun taking orders.

The Saf-T-Liner C2 CNG bus sports a 6.7-liter, dedicated NGV, spark-ignition Cummins Westport ISB6.7 G engine. And the new bus has been certified by both the California Air Resources Board and the U.S. EPA's 2013 emission requirements.

For the refuse sector, Peterbilt has launched a new Model 520 truck including a natural gas option. The standard Peterbilt 520 has a Paccar MX-11 diesel engine, but now 8.9-liter ISLG or 11.9-liter ISX12 G engines from Cummins Westport are also available.

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