For Bill Malone, president of Enviro Express, trucking was a way to fulfill his goal of being an entrepreneur.
Back in 1976, he dropped out of college to buy a two-truck refuse operation in Connecticut.

Fast-forward to the mid-'80s, when he found another great business opportunity in the overflowing Northeast landfills. Remember the wandering Mobro 4000 garbage barge that spent months looking for a place to dump its New York garbage before finally giving up and returning to New York?

That crisis led to waste energy plants, which would burn solid waste for energy.

"We saw an opportunity to provide ash hauling and operating municipal transportation throughout Connecticut," says Malone, president of Enviro Express in Bridgeport, Conn. "We've had that job for 24 years."

Waste energy plants depend on hundreds of thousands of tons of municipal solid waste to fuel their boilers so they can produce electricity. Enviro Express hauls trash for governments to the waste energy plants, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and hauls away the ash to a landfill on the Rhode Island-Massachusetts border about 120 miles away.

The fleet is made up of about 40 trucks, and 19 of them are powered by natural gas.
Natural gas is where this entrepreneur saw yet another business opportunity. Not only is he buying natural-gas-powered trucks, but he's also opened the first liquefied natural gas fueling facility east of the Mississippi River. Located near busy Interstate 95, it's open to other transportation customers.

After spending some time in California in 2008 and seeing how natural-gas trucks were being used to clean up the air at the Los Angeles ports, Malone says, "we decided to pursue that as an edge, an advantage, to cut our costs and try to clean up the air." LNG fuel typically costs about $1 per gallon less than the diesel fuel equivalent.

Enviro Express bought 18 T800 LNG trucks from MTC Kenworth in Ridgefield Park, N.J. The 15-liter, 450-horsepower Westport GX engine uses 5% diesel and 95% LNG.

Part of the funding for Enviro Express' $7.2 million project came from the American Reinvestment Act, Malone explains. "For every 55 cents we put up, the federal government put up 45 cents."

Because of the grant, Malone says, the ROI, gained on fuel savings in their own trucks and from selling retail LNG and CNG to others, will be about 40 months.

The fueling station, which has equipment to capture, compress and store natural gas from LNG as it evaporates during storage, will allow other companies, government agencies and transit agencies to deploy more CNG and LNG vehicles.

"We went and bought our own 12,000-gallon cryogenic tanker, so we now have the ability to pick up LNG from four wholesalers. We bring it back to our transfer facility here in Bridgeport, offload it into the station, and the station has the ability to do CNG for retail users like AT&T and Metrocab."

Malone explains that LNG is primarily used for over-the-road Class 8 tractors, and CNG is typically used by garbage trucks and rolloff trucks that don't go long distances or carry as much weight. In fact, Enviro Express just bought a CNG-fueled rolloff and plans to convert the entire fleet to CNG and LNG.

"LNG is a cryogenic, 260 degrees below zero," he says. "So the gas comes out of the well as a vapor, gets liquefied at the pipe, and then it gets transported and stored as a cryogenic. It's like an orange juice concentrate. We warm up the LNG, vaporizing it, to bring it back to a gas to put it into taxicabs, buses and trash trucks (as CNG.") To help prepare Enviro Express for the trucks' operation and maintenance, MTC Kenworth held a three-day training session for the fleet's service technicians and drivers.

The new fueling station and truck purchase were part of a four-year, $29.8 million program involving federal and private funding called the Connecticut Clean Cities Future Fuels Project.

There was also training for the local fire department. "We've had probably 30 fire companies along the routes we travel to and from the landfill come through our plant to familiarize themselves with the safety features and how to react to an LNG spill or fire," Malone says.

When asked what lessons he's learned from the experience, Malone recommended that anyone interested in natural gas have a good relationship with local officials. "It all starts with the local government," he says. "If your mayor and your fire department are open to new ideas, it's a winner. If they're resistant, move to another town."

There's a perception, Malone says, that natural gas in vehicles is dangerous, but he points out that people use natural gas in kitchen stoves every day. "You wouldn't bring gasoline into your kitchen range," he says.

The fueling facility opened in late 2010 and, so far, has exceeded expectations. In fact, it's been so successful, they are building another natural gas fueling station in Newark, N.J., and looking to build one in Pennsylvania.

Malone explains, "We're trying to build a Boston-to-Washington corridor."

From the March 2012 issue of HDT.