Solid Waste & Recycling

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Compressed Natural Gas

Ten years ago, heavy equipment fleets boasted no more than a few token natural gas vehicles. But technology improvements leading to better engine performance and an abundant and predicable supply of natural gas have brought the environmental...


Ten years ago, heavy equipment fleets boasted no more than a few token natural gas vehicles. But technology improvements leading to better engine performance and an abundant and predicable supply of natural gas have brought the environmental and economic benefits of natural gas vehicles into focus. One of the first to grasp the significance of using compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles for the waste management business in Canada is Emterra Environmental in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

With a fleet of nearly 60 CNG-powered trucks and a private, onsite CNG refuelling station, Emterra will soon earn the distinction of having the largest fleet of CNG waste and recycling trucks operating in a cold-weather climate in the world.

Emterra is building the fleet and infrastructure as a result of winning a contract to collect single-stream recyclables, waste, yard waste and bulky items in the City of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The company has been collecting, processing and marketing recyclables for the city since 2003. In their bid for the bigger job, set to start October 1, Emterra included cleaner-burning, quieter CNG trucks.

“We looked at the benefits that natural gas vehicles offer and compared it with conventional wisdom. Diesel was certainly the tried and true way to go, but we had just invested in a $14.5 million dollar shift from traditional blue boxes to rollout totes to push recycling rates higher. It made sense to opt for trucks that matched our new attitude and that promised a cleaner environment,” says Darryl Drohomerski, Winnipeg’s manager of solid waste services.

“What really impressed us was that switching to a green fleet and installing a natural gas refuelling station was Emterra’s idea as part of their commitment to promoting a healthier environment. We didn’t ask for it and they aren’t receiving a subsidy. They’re self-financing the trucks and the refuelling station,” he adds.

The CNG trucks will incorporate fourth-generation ISL G Cummins Westport natural gas engines that reduce CO2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 20 per cent. According to the Canadian Natural Gas Vehicle Alliance (CNGVA), each truck driving 143,000 km over the five-year contract will reduce GHG emissions by 40.3 tonnes compared to diesel trucks. Multiplying that by the number of trucks in operation means that over the life of the contract, over 2,400 fewer tonnes of GHG will be released into the Winnipeg environment.

“We’re blazing the trail because we see the economic and environmental value of it, and we’re taking CNG to places it hasn’t been before,” says Emterra’s CEO, Emmie Leung, “but it comes with a big challenge. Instead of being inside a building all night, our new CNG trucks will be re-fuelling outside. So we’ll be investing in precautions that ensure the trucks start even on the coldest mornings,” Leung says.

Clean Energy is providing the pipeline-fed, time-fill (i.e., overnight refueling) CNG fueling station that will be located at the Emterra Henry Avenue material recovery facility.

Iain Johnstone, senior business development manager with Clean Energy, says one solution to combat cold weather is to install a gas dryer at the station to eliminate any water that may be in the fuel before it’s compressed and pumped at 3600 pounds per square inch into the truck tanks.

CNGVA President, Alicia Milner, says a lot of people will be watching the Emterra initiative carefully. The CNGVA has had discussions with Natural Resources Canada and Transport Canada about implementing a study at the Emterra operation to document the performance of CNG trucks in winter conditions.

“It’s the kind of third-party, independent information that Canadian fleet managers need to make decisions about green equipment like this,” she says.

Cummins-Westport says that CNG-pow-er-ed engine has come into its time. 

“With fuel costs at half the price of diesel and an engine that emits less pollutants and performs well in the slow, start-stop pattern of waste trucks, it makes sense to look at CNG. Half of the approximately 5,000 cab-over waste trucks built in North America this year will be natural gas,” predicts Jeff Campbell, Cummins-Westport’s director of product marketing.

Emterra’s new fleet comprises Crane Carrier LET2 vehicles with a mix of Heil PT 100 rear-loaders and Heil Rapid Rail automated sideloader bodies.

Emterra Environmental is an Emterra Group company. With 14 MRFs in British Columbia, Manitoba and Ontario, it processes more than 500,000 tonnes of recyclables annually. Emterra Group also includes Emterra Tire Recycling and Canadian Liquids Processing Ltd., both in Ontario.

Written by Barbara McConnell, president of McConnell Weaver Strategic Communication in Toronto, Ontario. Contact Barb at mcweav@kos.net


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