Nav: Home

Bakery switches to propane vans

April 21, 2016

A switch to propane from diesel by a major Midwest bakery fleet showed promising results, including a significant displacement of petroleum, a drop in greenhouse gases and a fuel cost savings of seven cents per mile, according to a study recently completed by the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory.

The work was carried out under the auspices of the DOE's Clean Cities initiative. The program, overseen by the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, began in 1993 with the goal of cutting petroleum use in transportation. It has helped save 7.5 billion gallons of oil so far.

The Alpha Baking Company replaced 22 of its 300 diesel trucks with propane vehicles in 2013. The Chicago-based company, the third largest of its kind in the U.S., employs 1,400 people and distributes goods to restaurants, grocery-store chains and other customers through 16 depots in Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Alpha Baking Company had been searching for an alternative fuel for nearly a decade, and has considered not only propane but natural gas and vegetable oil, said Bob McGuire, vice president and director of logistics for the company.

"It's the right thing to do," said McGuire, describing the company's quest for a fuel alternative. Not only is it beneficial to the environment, but the cost of fuel is too volatile, he said. "It's such a great unknown as to what it's going to be in the future."

Propane proved particularly enticing to the company, because infrastructure costs were lower than for natural gas and it was possible to convert the trucks back to gasoline in the future for resale, if needed.

The 22 propane-operated vehicles, paid for in part with funding from Clean Cities through the Recovery Act, were Class 4 Ford E-450 step vans with a 6.8-liter V-10 spark ignition engine with a Roush dedicated liquid propane injection system. These vehicles replaced model year 2002-2007 diesel Freightliner MT35/MT45 step vans equipped with Cummins 5.9-liter ISB diesel engines.

Analysis from Argonne's Alternative Fuel Life-Cycle Environmental and Economic Transportation (AFLEET) Tool showed that the propane trucks had lower fuel economy than the diesel vans but provided notable petroleum displacement and greenhouse gas emission reductions.

"Total petroleum displacement was about 38,000 diesel gallon equivalent per year and the greenhouse gas emission reduction was roughly 80 tons annually," according to Andy Burnham, an environmental scientist at Argonne. "The findings were very encouraging. Propane trucks work well for the baking industry, and their use led to significant petroleum displacement."

The incremental costs of the propane step vans and the infrastructure needed to support them can be recouped in four to seven years, the study found. In addition, lower fuel prices and a reduction in maintenance costs for propane vans will continue the cost savings long after the capital costs for the vans and fueling stations are recouped.

Fuel economy was 10 miles per gallon for the diesel engines and 8.6 miles per diesel gallon equivalent for the propane vans.

The seven cent per mile cost savings resulted from several factors, including the miles traveled for the propane and diesel vehicles, the vehicles' fuel economy and the relative fuel costs of propane and diesel. For the propane vehicles, the average miles traveled per vehicle was slightly higher, the average fuel economy was lower, and fuel prices were lower. The net result of these three factors is the seven cent per mile fuel cost reduction.

The study found, too, that drivers enjoyed operating the high-powered vehicles, which are quieter - important for morning deliveries.

Propane vehicles are expected to become even more common for this industry in the coming years. The Alpha Baking Company is looking to expand its use to several other depots in its system: McGuire said propane is an excellent fit for vehicles that run 100-200 miles a day.

Other bakeries, including Bimbo Bakeries USA and H&S Bakery, have already begun to deploy their own propane fleets.
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit the Office of Science website.

DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

Related Natural Gas Articles:

Gold-plated crystals set new standard for natural gas detectors
Materials scientists and engineers have developed a sensor that is fast, sensitive and efficient enough to detect specific wavelengths of electromagnetic energy while on the move.
Rice U. refines filters for greener natural gas
Rice University scientists map out the best materials for either carbon dioxide capture or balancing carbon capture with methane selectivity.
Unconventional: The Development of Natural Gas from the Marcellus Shale
Shale gas has changed thinking about fossil energy supplies worldwide, but the development of these resources has been controversial.
Campus natural gas power plants pose no radon risks
When Penn State decided to convert its two power plants from their historic use of coal as a source of energy to natural gas, there was concern about radon emissions.
Russian researchers developed high-pressure natural gas operating turbine-generator
Scientists of Peter the Great St. Petersburg Polytechnic University (SPbPU) developed turbo expander electric generator operating on high-pressure natural gas.
New Marcellus development boom will triple greenhouse gas emissions from PA's natural gas
Natural gas production on Pennsylvania's vast black shale deposit known as the Marcellus Shale will nearly double by 2030 to meet growing demand, tripling Pennsylvania's greenhouse gas emissions from the natural gas sector relative to 2012 levels, according to a report published today by Delaware Riverkeeper Network.
Researcher studies increased predation of sagebrush songbirds in natural gas fields
While such development has encroached on and hindered nesting habitat for three types of sagebrush-obligate birds, predation of these birds has increased because rodent populations in the vicinity of oil and gas wells have increased.
UChicago startup turns renewable energy into natural gas
One of the biggest challenges to wider adoption of wind and solar power is how to store the excess energy they often produce.
New study to characterize methane emissions from natural gas compressor stations
Colorado State University, home to some of the world's top researchers on methane emissions, will lead a Department of Energy-supported project to analyze emissions from a specific part of the natural gas supply chain: compressor stations.
Natural gas hydrate in the foraminifera
Highly saturated natural gas hydrates have been discovered in the fine-grained sediments of Shenhu area, South China Sea.

Related Natural Gas Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Changing The World
What does it take to change the world for the better? This hour, TED speakers explore ideas on activism—what motivates it, why it matters, and how each of us can make a difference. Guests include civil rights activist Ruby Sales, labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, author Jeremy Heimans, "craftivist" Sarah Corbett, and designer and futurist Angela Oguntala.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#521 The Curious Life of Krill
Krill may be one of the most abundant forms of life on our planet... but it turns out we don't know that much about them. For a create that underpins a massive ocean ecosystem and lives in our oceans in massive numbers, they're surprisingly difficult to study. We sit down and shine some light on these underappreciated crustaceans with Stephen Nicol, Adjunct Professor at the University of Tasmania, Scientific Advisor to the Association of Responsible Krill Harvesting Companies, and author of the book "The Curious Life of Krill: A Conservation Story from the Bottom of the World".