Fleet operators continue to look for cleaner and less expensive fueling alternatives to gasoline, while some small industries are studying the options of using liquefied natural gas (LNG) or propane, depending on the specific application.

Omya, a Swiss-based quarry operator in Vermont that grinds, mills and purifies marble to make calcium carbonate, is in the process of switching from diesel to natural gas for its drying furnaces.

At the recent World LNG Fuels conference in Houston, Omya officials said they have embarked on a $7-10 million project to install eight 15,000-gallon LNG storage tanks to use in the marble processing plant. They also plan to use natural gas in a fleet of 20 heavy-duty rock-hauling trucks that would be converted to operate on LNG.

Facilities like Omya’s consume as much of 60 million gallons of fuel daily in the United States, so the potential market for LNG, along with the related transportation fuel needs, is a “very large,” said Zeus Development chief Bob Nimocks, who hosted the recent World LNG conference.

In embarking on the switch to LNG at its Florence, VT, facility, Omya officials calculated that natural gas “is the optimal fuel source for our needs and will replace our current use of No. 2 fuel oil,” said a spokesperson.

St. Louis-based Laclede Group said Thursday it has joined with a unit of Siemens Industry Inc. to launch Spire, a fueling system for compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles that is to be introduced later this year at a commercial/public fueling facility at Missouri’s Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. The partners are betting that “natural gas will play a big role in our transportation future,” said Laclede Senior Vice President Mike Spotanski.

Meanwhile, international delivery firm DHL is pursuing two separate liquefied propane gas initiatives, which involve new and retrofitted vehicles to supplement an 80-van fleet of electric vehicles (EV) in the New York City area. DHL has determined that EVs work best in urban environments, while alternative fuels, such as propane and natural gas, are better in the less-populated areas that it serves. Last year DHL deployed 100 new Ford E-250 vans with Roush CleanTech upfits for dedicated propane autogas operation.

Also making the switch is Ohio-based Kenan Advantage Group (KAG), a large North American truck hauler, which is deploying 25 LNG-fueled Peterbilt 386 tractors to haul other vehicle fuels in the Phoenix area, including gasoline and diesel, to convenience store-fueling station locations. With 15-liter, high-pressure direct injection engines that have 120-gallon tanks KAG’s trucks are fueling up in West Phoenix at one of Clean Energy Fuel Corp.’s stations, part of a “natural gas highway” it now is implementing.

For transit agencies, Laclede is looking at savings of 30%, or $12,000/year, on fuel costs per bus as natural gas continues to be significantly lower priced on a per-gallon basis compared to gasoline and diesel. Siemens’ Clark Wiedetz, alternative/renewable energy director, said his company is looking for “new ways to support city and county infrastructure in helping drive more use of CNG in commercial-size vehicles.”

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