RNG is decarbonizing trucking today
Trucking companies and shippers who hire trucking companies are making bold commitments to reduce their carbon footprint, such as becoming carbon zero by 2030. Once the commitments are made, the hard work begins. Hard work, because getting to net zero or better requires more than operational improvements. New business practices and cost-effective alternative technologies are needed to go beyond the cleanest diesel platform. Renewable natural gas (RNG) has become the primary pathway for clean air, low carbon trucking. There are three compelling reasons why RNG is helping sustainable companies decarbonize their transportation today.
RNG is the lowest carbon transportation fuel available
GNR is derived from organic materials found in green waste, food waste, landfills, sewage treatment and livestock manure. This organic waste naturally decomposes into methane. Methane escaping into the atmosphere is a potent, short-lived climate pollutant and a greenhouse gas. Rather than being released into the atmosphere, methane can be captured and converted into a direct fuel alternative to conventional natural gas.
When used for vehicle refueling, RNG reduces carbon twice: first, by capturing methane that would escape into the atmosphere; and second by replacing high-carbon diesel fuel, another short-lived climate pollutant (i.e. black carbon). The California Air Resources Board monitors the lifecycle carbon emissions of cradle-to-grave fuels. The graph below shows the carbon intensity of traditional fossil fuels and low-carbon alternative fuels. RNG produced from dairy manure has carbon emissions that are up to 300% cleaner than diesel fuel. RNG has the potential to be carbon-negative, which is a game-changer. Replacing just 25% of a fleet’s diesel trucks with negative carbon-intensive RNG from dairy manure can reduce a fleet’s carbon emissions by 100%.
RNG is already widely used throughout North America today. RNG is not a transition fuel, as an increased supply of RNG is rapidly coming to market. A study by the American Gas Foundation found that RNG supplies can reach between 10 and 35 billion gallons of fuel per year. RNG is a destination fuel that can power clean CNG trucks today and hydrogen or electric trucks when these technologies mature.
RNG trucks improve the air we breathe
Many parts of the United States have noxious air, and diesel trucks play an outsized role in local air pollution. The greater Southern California area, California’s Central Valley, Houston, Dallas, Salt Lake City, and other metropolitan areas share this air pollution problem. Air pollution contributes to respiratory, cardio and other diseases. Studies have linked local air pollution to susceptibility to COVID-19, Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. Diesel trucks emit large amounts of local air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and diesel particulates. Diesel particulate matter is classified as a toxic air contaminant and is composed of carcinogenic compounds. GNR-powered trucks have 90% lower NOx emissions than a new diesel truck and over 98% lower NOx emissions than most diesel trucks in use today. GNR-powered trucks emit no carcinogenic diesel particulate emissions.
Much attention is paid to alternative technologies that do not emit through an exhaust pipe. However, there is more to this story than what happens at the tailpipe. GNR trucks are so clean that emissions of local air pollutants are about the same as a battery electric truck charged by the electric grid, as the grid is often powered by natural gas, coal and renewable energy. other fossil sources.
RNG trucks save money
GNR fuel costs less than diesel fuel. Fuel savings are especially amplified today with soaring diesel prices. RNG prices are also less volatile than petroleum fuel prices. RNG trucks have a maintenance advantage due to a simpler emissions control system. RNG trucks have a passive catalytic converter emissions control system, similar to a car. The catalytic converter requires no maintenance, unlike a diesel truck with a complex diesel particulate filter and selective catalytic reduction, essentially a traveling chemistry package. The diesel emissions control system becomes less efficient and requires greater and more expensive maintenance as the truck ages. The higher purchase cost of an RNG truck is quickly offset by fuel savings and lower maintenance and upkeep than a diesel truck.
GNR trucks are very economical compared to other emerging clean technologies. The cost of these emerging technologies is 200% to 300% higher than that of GNR trucks. These emerging technologies have much more expensive recharging or refueling infrastructure costs than GNR refueling. A GNR truck at half or one-third the cost of other technologies has better carbon emissions reduction and equivalent air quality benefits.
Leaders Act Today
Climate pollution and air pollution are problems that exist today, not far in the future. While it should be noted that companies are setting ambitious goals to achieve net zero carbon emissions in the future, RNG trucks offer the opportunity to achieve net zero immediately. RNG truck technology has been proven and perfected over the past 14 years. RNG engines are mass produced by Cummins. RNG trucks are mass-produced by Freightliner, Peterbilt, Kenworth, Volvo and Mack. RNG refueling infrastructure is available across North America and growing rapidly. Clean Energy alone has more than 560 refueling points at customer sites and points of sale.
Companies like Amazon, UPS, Waste Management, SAIA, Estes, and TTSI deploy thousands of RNG trucks today. What do these leading companies know about sustainability? RNG is the low carbon fuel available today and offers an affordable, proven and scalable alternative to diesel.
Learn more about transitioning your fleet to clean and sustainable RNG here.
FREIGHTWAVES’ Top 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes UPS (#2).