RNG benefits for fleet vehicles

Renewable natural gas (RNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) are being increasingly used by companies such as UPS for their fleet vehicles. Learn why.

By Gas Technology April 20, 2022
Courtesy: Kinetrex Energy, a Kinder Morgan company

Renewable natural gas (RNG) is a biogas that has been upgraded for use in place of fossil natural gas. The biogas used to produce RNG comes from a variety of sources, including municipal solid waste landfills, digesters at water resource recovery facilities (wastewater treatment plants), livestock farms, food production facilities and organic waste management operations.

RNG has many potential applications and is being used in lieu of fossil fuels and other energy sources. One area where RNG is showing tremendous potential and benefits is with fleet vehicles. Fleet vehicles are a group of vehicles used by a group or organization. Among the most common are delivery vehicles seen on the roads in the form of Amazon, United Parcel Service (UPS) and Federal Express (FedEx). They are among the many companies using RNG to better serve the public and one company based out of Indianapolis is taking advantage of this.

Bringing RNG to fleet vehicles

Kinetrex started in 2013 as a subsidiary of Citizens Energy Group with two small-scale liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals in Indianapolis. They converted the terminals from utility to merchant facilities and made major investments so they could fuel trucks and sell LNG to several markets including transportation.

In the past couple years, Kinetrex, which was acquired by Kinder Morgan in 2021, has put a greater emphasis on helping customers use RNG for vehicle fuel. Their centralized location in the U.S. allows them to distribute their product all over the country and they have gained some major traction over the past several years. The customers using RNG were getting an alternate fuel tax credit of 50 cents per gallon, but that credit recently expired and has not been reauthorized for 2022. While Kinetrex does not receive credits, it does generate D3 renewable identification numbers (RINs) through the production of RNG, which is sold to third parties.

Casey Holsapple, vice president of business development at Kinder Morgan, had been with Kinetrex since 2018 and has been a guiding voice for the company’s future and RNG plays a key role.

“From a fuel perspective, if they were running on LNG already, they are making a concerted push toward RNG and they’re making concerted push to convert as many of their class 8 trucks to RNG,” he said in a video interview with GasTechnology.

This is crucial, Holsapple added, because there aren’t many LNG manufacturers out there right now. RNG has an advantage in this respect because it is flexible and can be distributed more easily.

UPS uses renewable natural gas (RNG) for their fleet vehicles to improve their overall energy efficiency goals. Courtesy: Kinetrex Energy, a Kinder Morgan company

UPS uses renewable natural gas (RNG) for their fleet vehicles to improve their overall energy efficiency goals. Courtesy: Kinetrex Energy, a Kinder Morgan company

“It’s a virtual pathway, so even though we’re making RNG in northern Indiana or at a landfill here in Indianapolis, they can use that RNG anywhere in the country,” Holsapple said.

For a company like UPS, which relies on its ability to deliver packages to people on time, this kind of return on investment (ROI) is vital.

Cummins, another Indiana-based company, manufactures the most popular natural gas engine in the country. Kinetrex has worked with Cummins on improving their technology, Holsapple said, by testing their LNG fueled engines at Cummins’ Columbus facility.

“We actually provide LNG for their test facility so they can use that fuel as they test their LNG fueled engines,” he said. “Between that engine and the modifications or enhancements that have been made to the truck package itself, they’re basically interchangeable with the diesel unit from a performance perspective.”

The future of RNG

Kinetrex has had great success with their current initiatives, but Holsapple sees greater things for the company up ahead.

“We’re just scratching the surface. There are literally hundreds of potential RNG projects out there, and various studies would show that we could likely supply about 15 to 25% of the domestic natural gas market with RNG,” he said.

Kinetrex’s goal of improving the RNG market and exploiting its possibilities has led to a collaborative environment with other companies looking to expand their foothold.

“The industry is growing. It’s a very friendly industry. All the developers work really well together. It is competitive, but at the same time we’re all striving towards a goal of reducing emissions and providing support to our customers and their ESG goals in any way that we can.”

Fleet vehicles are somewhat ubiquitous in the world today and many are beginning to turn to RNG or LNG to power their vehicles. While awareness is growing, the public advertisement is a constant in our daily lives even if it remains somewhat invisible.

That isn’t stopping other companies, Holsapple said, from making their mark.

“Every major utility and company has a greenhouse gas reduction target in mind,” he said. “Many have announced it publicly. We are actively seeking ways to reduce the gap from where they are today and to where they want to be in 10 or 20 years.

Kinder Morgan




United Parcel Service (UPS)