This November Western Milling, a grain and feed manufacturer in Tulare County, California will begin operating its first Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling station. Planning for this station began in February 2019, and only 21 months later it is fueling CNG trucks driving along California’s 99 in the heart of the Central Valley. The station is owned and operated by a Western Milling subsidiary called Kruse Western Renewable Fuels. It is unique in the region as the first example of a food processor opening a natural gas station since Harris Ranch opened one in 1999.
Like that successful project which opened the Central Valley to goods movement fueled by natural gas, Kruse Western Renewable Fuels hopes to serve not just Western Milling’s own growing fleet of 32 CNG trucks, but hundreds more in the coming years along this crucial goods movement corridor. Each year over $7 billion in agricultural products are produced and shipped from Tulare County, making Tulare one of the largest agriculture counties in America.
Sourcing renewable natural gas from their local dairy partners, Kruse Western Renewable Fuels opens first CNG station.
Built in Record-Breaking Time
From the boardroom vote that approved construction to first fueling, the new station was built and commissioned in only four months. This came after Kevin Kruse, CEO and President of Western Milling, approved the ambitious new plan in February 2019 and directed Rene Urquia, Director of Environmental Health and Safety, to spear-head the project. At ACT Expo in May 2019 the Western Milling team began their search for project partners. They analyzed their existing diesel operations to determine what fueling station specifications would be needed. Kevin said, “At Western Milling we understand how critical natural gas conversion is to clean up our air. We partner with our local dairies and built the infrastructure needed for local fleets to convert to natural gas. Our team is talented, diverse, and always eager to accept any challenge they face.” With help from several outside partners including Gladstein, Neandross & Associates (GNA), the Western Milling team chose a design including 3 ANG dispensers, a large and inviting canopy visible from the highway, and approximately 20 trucks fueling equivalent of CNG storage. The station was specifically designed to provide drivers a diesel-like fueling experience of 12-minutes or less.
Western Milling Trucks Already Fueling with Extra Capacity for Public Use
Western Milling already has CNG trucks on the road and plans to have a CNG truck fleet of over 40 trucks by mid-2021, which will equal 75% of the total fleet. The conversion of the fleet has been a gradual process. The first five units were a mix of new and used CNG trucks and proved both the business case as well as the ability of the technology to meet their work requirements. When asked about Western Millings turning point to deploy natural gas, Rene Urquia stated, “The new Cummins ISX12N engine was a deciding factor for converting our fleet to CNG. We were impressed by its performance claims and have found it meets our requirements in real world operations. Our team was cautious and initially skeptical, but the technology has proven to be successful.”
The station will offer a cost competitive diesel alternative for Western Milling, something they want to share with other fleets. Kruse Western Renewable Fuels has already started to sign on third-party fleets to join in the transition to natural gas. Aaron Meyerle, General Manager at Kruse Western Renewable Fuels stated, “We would love to see a wave of fleets transitioning towards natural gas in the Central Valley. It really benefits all aspects of fleet operations. We are providing a cost competitive fueling option for our Western Milling fleet as well as other fleets, reducing our emissions, and supporting our dairy partners by sourcing renewable natural gas from the Central Valley.”
Kruse Western Renewable Fuels has already started to sign on third-party fleets to join in the transition to natural gas.
Millions in Funding from Air Quality Grants
Rene Urquia led Western Milling’s grant efforts, securing millions in funding for their new CNG trucks and the fueling station. At the beginning of the planning process, with the goal to move quickly, Rene knew the company’s strategy to transition to natural gas would need to include grant funding. Through careful operational planning, Rene led the Western Milling team and used its strong relationships within the Central Valley, and their knowledge of funding opportunities to drastically cut project costs. They received up to 75% of the cost of a new Class 8 heavy-duty CNG truck from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District (SJVAPCD) grant programs. Rene also secured considerable funding for the station from SJVAPCD. When asked about the grant funding Rene Urquia said, ”Good relationship management has been critical to the success of our grant applications. These programs and their requirements can be difficult to navigate. Starting early and communicating with the funding agency can smooth out a lot of the bumps these projects run into. We highly recommend any interested fleets reach out to their local Air District to learn about the different funding opportunities they have access too.”
The Sky is the Limit
Western Milling already has its eyes on the horizon, perhaps looking for another CNG station opportunity in the Central Valley. Immediate plans include the continued sourcing of renewable natural gas from their local dairy partners and taking delivery of their next batch of natural gas trucks.
Through the Valley Fleet Support Truck Demo Program, Western Milling is inviting interested fleet operators to test drive their trucks and visit the station. Interested truck and fleet operators can schedule an appointment anytime through the Valley Fleet Support website or reach out by phone (424-389-1879) and email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to learn more.
For information on purchasing CNG from Kruse Western Renewable fuels, please email email@example.com.