Natural gas vehicles catching on

With gasoline and diesel prices soaring, truck fleet operators in B.C. are discovering the benefits of converting to natural gas.

Waste Management's Scott Sadler with one of the company's 20 natural gas-powered trucks.

Waste Management's Scott Sadler with one of the company's 20 natural gas-powered trucks.

VICTORIA – With gasoline and diesel prices soaring, truck fleet operators in B.C. are discovering the benefits of converting to natural gas.

Politicians from B.C., Alberta and northwestern U.S. states took a break from their annual economic region meeting Thursday to look at the latest vehicles to switch to natural gas. The vehicles use converted diesel engines, which run on natural gas at half the cost of diesel or gasoline. The particulates of diesel are eliminated along with about a third of the greenhouse gas emissions of conventional fuels.

Among the vehicles on display was a school bus that was driven from Kelowna down to Metro Vancouver on one tank of compressed natural gas. It’s one of 11 converted buses operated by the Central Okanagan school district.

Scott Sadler, B.C. safety manager for Waste Management, says 20 of his company’s Lower Mainland fleet of garbage trucks have been converted, and a fuelling station has been installed by gas company FortisBC in the Waste Management’s Coquitlam yard.

Waste Management is realizing 50 per cent savings, the trucks have similar range to diesel models, and the company looks forward to converting the rest of its 100-truck fleet, Sadler said.

Abbotsford-based Vedder Transport has taken the technology a step further, using liquefied natural gas rather than compressed gas in its fleet of delivery trucks for milk and other food products.

Transportation Minister Blair Lekstrom said his ministry is looking at natural gas as a fuel source for BC Ferries, BC transit buses and other uses. The abundance of shale gas being produced in northeast B.C. and elsewhere around North America means the province needs new markets, and he expects natural gas will eventually become a common fuel for all vehicles.

“I believe liquefied natural gas will be the transportation fuel of the future,” Lekstrom said.

Chilliwack MLA Barry Penner has been an advocate of natural gas vehicles for years. He notes that IMW Industries, a Chilliwack firm that builds and exports natural gas compressors and filling stations around the world, has outgrown its plant in only two years and is building a second one.

Jobs, Tourism and Innovation Minister Pat Bell said on his recent trip to China, he visited an IMW-built natural gas filling station, one of about 50 that have opened in the country.

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