UPS Makes Big Commitment To Using Renewable Natural Gas

(3BL/Just Means) UPS recently announced its agreement to purchase renewable natural gas (RNG) for its delivery vehicle fleet from Clean Energy Fuels Corp. UPS has a goal of driving one billion miles using its alternative fuel and advanced technology fleet by the end of 2017. That’s a commitment that will make it the largest user of RNG in the shipping industry. 

RNG is also known as biomethane, and it can be derived from sources such as organic waste in landfills, wastewater treatment and agriculture. The UPS is already using RNG in the UK to operate natural gas tractors through a partnership with Mercedes Benz. The UPS is the first package delivery company to introduce alternative fuel tractors into its fleet. 

UPS will use RNG in its Class 8 heavy-duty trucks and delivery vehicles that are part of its alternative fuel feet. The demand for RNG in heavy-duty class 8 trucks in the U.S. has been low although RNG has been available for several years. UPS hopes that through its initiative the demand will increase. 

T. Boone Pickens co-founded Clean Energy Fuels which is the exclusive producer of Redeem, the first RNG available in commercial amounts. UPS fueling stations in three California cities (Sacramento, Fresno and Los Angeles) will use Redeem RNG for fueling tractors and delivery vehicles starting in May. The three stations will provide an estimated 1.5 million gallons equivalent of RNG to almost 400 UPS vehicles in California. 

UPS operates one of the largest private alternative fuel and advanced technology fleets in the shipping industry with over 2,700  alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles. That includes all-electric, hybrid electric, hydraulic hybrid, compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, liquid propane gas, biomethane and light-weight fuel-saving composite body vehicles. 

The huge potential of renewable natural gas in the U.S.

RNG has the potential to provide approximately 40 billion gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE) per year, according to a whitepaper by the National Petroleum Council. The American Gas Foundation estimates that the U.S. has a sizeable biomass stock available for RNG, including about 721 million tons of livestock manure, 1,783 billion gallons a year of wastewater, and 3,799 million tons of municipal solid waste in landfills a year. 

There is a big potential for RNG to be used for electricity and transportation in the U.S. as a number of reports and whitepapers reveal. RNG could be used to meet up to 25 percent of the natural gas demand in four Northeast states (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island), as the National Grid states in a report. That is enough to meet the yearly demand of the estimated 2.2 million households using natural gas for heating in the Northeast. 

The methane potential in the U.S. could displace about five percent of current natural gas use in the electric power sector and 56 percent of natural gas use in the transportation sector, according to a 2013 report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The methane sources considered are from landfill material, animal manure, wastewater, and industrial, institutional, and commercial organic waste.

Photo: David Guo