Fair Oaks Dairy, an Indiana-based milk producer, has switched their milk hauling fleet of 42 trucks to compressed natural gas and is working on producing their own biomethane form dairy cattle waste. The truck fleet transports 53 loads of milk per day, with the shift in fuel projected to reduce emissions equivalent to 1.5 million diesel gallons of fuel per year. While the biomethane production will never completely fuel the trucks alone, the combined two-fuel mix of natural gas and biomethane provides an impressive model for sustainable farming practices that reduce operating costs, cushion the volatility of oil price impacts, and reduce carbon emissions. Fair Oaks has effectively closed a loop in fuel production and consumption, with considerable benefits.
The dairy is working with Clean Energy, a company founded by T. Boone Pickens, that is focused on delivering clean transportation solutions based on natural gas. Clean Energy is aggressively expanding their natural gas fueling operations across the United States, with 238 locations that fuel more than 22,700 vehicles. They’ve started operations by focusing on fleet vehicles such as transit, trucking, garbage, taxi and municipal fleets, and have similarly closed many loops in the natural gas and biomethane markets as processors, distributors and vehicle converters.
In addition to biomethane expertise in agriculture, the company is involved in creating gas from landfills in Texas and Michigan, it owns liquid natural gas (LNG) production plants in Texas and California, it designs and installs fueling stations, and has a subsidiary that converts taxis, vans and trucks to natural gas.
I met representatives of the company at the recent Esri International User Conference, where their focus on sustainable fuel expansion meshed nicely with their use of GIS for expansion of their enterprise. The GIS toolset provides a great complement to natural gas fleet conversion in the fleet context, as it adds the means to plan optimal fueling locations and the most efficient routing.