Natural Gas Powers Greener Garbage Trucks

​Blue Diamond Disposal wants to help clear New Jersey's air.

The Mount Arlington-based garbage and recycling collection company celebrated the introduction of natural gas-powered trucks into its fleet, as well as the opening of its natural gas refueling station, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on company grounds Thursday morning. The ceremony drew more than 100 guests, including dignitaries from municipal governments and state and national agencies.

Since June, Blue Diamond has acquired 14 dump trucks -- with three more on the way -- that run on tanks of compressed natural gas, an odorless mixture of methane and other hydrocarbons that produces fewer harmful emissions than diesel fuel. The company's fleet totals 100 trucks at its two sites, in Mount Arlington and Woodbine in Cape May County.

"We're looking to get off foreign oil dependency," said John Shortino Jr., president of Blue Diamond.

Blue Diamond, founded in 1999 by Shortino, Dan Plaxe and Peter Barba, has grown from humble beginnings into a major player in the waste collection industry in New Jersey, servicing more than 200,000 households and commercial sites throughout the state. The company has contracts with six Sussex County municipalities for waste pick-up and provides individual service to many more customers in other county municipalities.

Consistently high gasoline prices -- and pressure to comply with Environmental Protection Agency standards -- led Blue Diamond to pursue a natural gas option, Shortino said. In 2010, Blue Diamond's management team met with members of the Clean Energy Fuels Corp. and New Jersey Natural Gas to assess the potential cost benefits of using compressed natural gas. Clean Energy Fuels provided Blue Diamond with a test natural gas vehicle, which operators found produced fewer emissions and required lower maintenance and repair costs. The success of the pilot program, coupled with natural gas's abundance and its low cost compared to gasoline, led the company to pursue natural gas, Shortino said.

Blue Diamond applied for and received a $500,000 federal Department of Energy grant, administered by the nonprofit New Jersey Clean Cities Coalition, to help defray the cost of purchasing natural gas-powered vehicles. After assessing the infrastructure requirements for a large-scale natural gas refueling station, Blue Diamond awarded Clean Energy Fuels the contract to build the station, which is the first of its kind in Morris County. New Jersey Natural Gas provided a four-inch natural gas service line from its main distribution line to deliver the gas to the station.

The use of compressed natural gas can cut fuel costs by 30 to 50 percent, explained William Wells, a consultant with New Jersey Natural Gas. At the same time, converting from diesel to natural gas results in a 20 to 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and natural gas vehicles produce no solid airborne particulate waste, he said.

Natural gas accounts for about a quarter of the energy used in the U.S., but only one-tenth of one percent of that is used for transportation fuel, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. About 98 percent of natural gas used in the country is produced in North America, either by being drawn from wells or extracted during the production of crude oil. Meanwhile, about 60 percent of the oil consumed in the U.S. is obtained from foreign sources.

John Solomon, president of the state Board of Public Utilities and keynote speaker at Thursday's ceremony, applauded Blue Diamond's efforts in making environmentally conscious changes.

"It's time we avail ourselves of our domestic natural resources and not be dependent on anyone else for energy," Solomon said. "Blue Diamond is living the example of what the future holds for the state and hopefully the country."

Blue Diamond plans to convert half of its Morris County-based fleet to natural gas by mid-2012, with the long-term goal of converting the entire fleet to the alternative fuel.​

This article was first published by New Jersey Herald.


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