Anheuser-Busch’s goal is to reduce emissions and fuel costs, while doing something green(ish) and has announced that it is going to replace all 66 of the heavy duty trucks at its Houston brewery, with 66 new trucks, that instead run on compressed natural gas.
The trucks in its existing fleet are not old or falling apart — they are tough, reliable diesel-powered workhorses that pull 53-foot trailers loaded with 50,000 pounds of beer. Each truck rolls virtually around the clock — putting in an average of 140,000 miles in a single year hauling beer to wholesalers. They move seventeen million barrels of beer each year.
It’s significant that A-B feels comfortable swapping an entire fleet that runs on CNG. The intention of shifting to natgas, says James Sembrot, A-B’s senior transportation director, is to reduce carbon emissions and fuel costs, while doing something green(ish.).
For the past six months Anheuser-Busch InBev has been testing two CNG trucks within the fleet. “We’ve been running the tar out of them, with no issues at all. We’re thrilled,” says Billy Lawder, director of transportation engineering at A-B.
It was Ryder System that initally brought this idea to A-B. Ryder owns those 66 now-antiquated diesel trucks. Nationwide, Ryder owns and leases 160,000 heavy-duty trucks. Five years ago none of Ryder’s trucks ran on CNG. Now it suddenly has 1,000 of them, made by the likes of Freightliner, Volvo and Navistar.
In 2011 it opened its first NGV maintenance facility in California, and will be building out its Houston garage for the A-B fleet. According to Scott Perry, the s.v.p. at Ryder who managed the A-B relationship, the move toward heavy-duty CNG is possible thanks to the efforts of Cummins which last year introduced its 12-liter CNG-powered engine.
The other vital piece of this deal: state subsidies. Texas taxpayers, through a program overseen by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, gives out grants of $45,000 toward the purchase of a new natural gas powered vehicle. For A-B’s 66 new rigs, the grants will total about $3 million.
Texas currently has 100 NGV filling stations, adding 35 just in the past year. Texas is producing ever increasing volumes of natural gas from shale. Not only do NGV’s emit 23% less carbon dioxide than diesel trucks, but also much less carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, and virtually zero particulates.
How many more natural-gas-powered vehicles (NGVs) are in Ryder’s future? A lot, especially when taxpayer money is available. Perry points to forecasts from the likes of the U.S. Energy Information Administration as well as Resources For the Future, concluding that nearly a third of heavy-duty trucks could be NGVs by 2035, up from barely 2% today.
But that’s only going to happen if a bunch of other conditions are met (with or without government subsidies).
– The trucks have to be reliable and plentiful.
– There needs to be sufficient build out of re-fueling and maintenance infrastructure.
– Natural gas has to stay cheaper than oil (on an energy-equivalent basis).
The Houston brewery’s full fleet of CNG trucks should be in place by the end of the year.