City Opens New Facility to Power Trash Trucks with Cleaner Fuel

Using Compressed Natural Gas Reduces Pollution By Up to 90 Percent and Helps Meet the Goals In Mayor Faulconer’s Climate Action Plan

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Tuesday, May 2, 2017 - NEWS RELEASE

San Diego – With the goal of making a cleaner San Diego for future generations, Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer and City Councilmember Chris Cate today announced the City has taken a major step toward switching its entire fleet of refuse and recycling collection trucks from diesel fuel to compressed natural gas (CNG) – a cleaner-burning fuel that significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions and saves taxpayer dollars.

“We all know that vehicle emissions are the leading cause of air pollution so the City is leading by example,” Mayor Faulconer said. “By transitioning to compressed natural gas, we’re making our fleet greener and saving money at the same time. This is a win-win for San Diegans and will help us reach our climate action goals.”

Last month, the City completed the second phase of construction on a new CNG fueling station at the Environmental Services Department’s Collection Services facility on Miramar Place. There are now 13 operational fueling posts that can each fill up two CNG vehicles simultaneously.

The City currently has 20 CNG vehicles – which reduce smog-contributing pollutants by up to 90% compared to diesel – operating in its fleet that have already begun to use the new station.

Once fully built out, the station will allow the City to replace its existing fleet of 131 diesel-powered collection vehicles with CNG vehicles by 2022 – one of the goals in Mayor Faulconer’s landmark PDF icon Climate Action Plan – and reduce the amount of diesel fuel consumed by more than one million gallons annually.

In addition to the environmental benefits, compressed natural gas is significantly cheaper than diesel. Based on current fuel prices, this project will save the City between $1 million and $1.5 million annually in fuel costs once the entire fleet is fully converted. Estimates show that by constructing the facility and compressing the needed fuel for the vehicles, the City of San Diego will be paying less than $1 per diesel gallon equivalent of natural gas compared to the average of $2.39 per diesel gallon.

“The City's new compressed natural gas fueling station will truly benefit all San Diegans,” Councilmember Cate said. “The collection trucks that residents see picking up their refuse and recycling bins will now be powered by cleaner fuel.”

The process of fueling at the end of each day is relatively easy. Upon returning to the facility each evening, a sanitation driver will simply hook up their CNG trucks to a fueling hose, ensure the hose has been safely and properly secured, and conduct a final safety check before securing the vehicle for the day. The entire fleet is fueled simultaneously using a series of large compressors that take SDG&E pipeline gas from 35 psi (pounds per square inch) to 3,600 psi. Natural gas is stored on the trucks at this “compressed” state and then reduced to 110 psi when it is injected into the engine. CNG is utilized in combustion engines similar to gasoline which means that these new vehicles will be much quieter while working in San Diego neighborhoods compared to the City’s current diesel trucks.

“There are a number of benefits to using compressed natural gas, which is a plentiful resource in the United States and makes us less reliant on imported fuel,” said Mario Sierra, the City’s Environmental Services Director. “Not only is it cheaper and cleaner than diesel, it will ensure that our collection trucks are much quieter while picking up trash and recyclables in our neighborhoods. The fueling process is also entirely automated – the most effective way to fuel a large fleet of vehicles that return to a central location each night.”

There are two remaining phases to complete the fueling station. Once complete, the facility will have the ability to fill up to 152 vehicles simultaneously. The City also plans to purchase additional CNG vehicles – including 20 more in Mayor Faulconer’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal – as the existing diesel trucks reach the end of their useful lives, ultimately converting the entire fleet by 2022.

The total $5.3 million fueling station project is funded partially by a $250,000 grant from the California Energy Commission and $2 million from the City’s Recycling Enterprise Fund. The remaining costs will be covered by the City’s operating budget, or General Fund.

“The California Energy Commission is pleased to help fund this fueling station and support San Diego’s efforts to convert its solid waste collection fleet to natural gas,” said Energy Commissioner Janea A. Scott. “I applaud San Diego’s efforts to transition from diesel and leave a healthier environment for future generations.”

CONTACT: Craig Gustafson at (619) 453-9880 or cgustafson@sandiego.gov